Secwepemc used the land as widely as possible. The land sustained us and we respected it. Hunters would walk great distances in search of moose and deer. However, for many generations food was often scarce and difficult to obtain. In these lean times, when there was little food, quality of life was often poor.
Whether we were experiencing good times or hard times, we shared things like meat and fish. We also shared much more than meat, we shared knowledge and expertise, and thoughts on how to find the animals that sustained us. When one hunter was successful, we all benefited. Meat was gotten to be shared. It was up to the hunter who got the meat to give to his community. Relatives and widows came first. And all hunters gave meat to the elders.
We cared greatly about our traditional foods. Very little of moose and deer parts were wasted. Everything could be used for a purpose. From eating the meat to tanning the hide to make clothing, and to make drums for celebrations. Some parts of the moose were and still are considered a delicacy. It should be noted that our traditional foods are NOT for sale and selling moose meat should be treated as a serious and major offence.
The Secwepemc believe that all animals must be respected. Respect is the primary value. Without respect the balance between animals, land, and plants could not have been maintained. It is the maintaining of this balance that lets us live off the land year after year. This balance protects the land for all the generations that will come after us.
Our grandparents understood this and had a great deal of respect for the deer and moose. That is why they lived well off the land, and that is how it should be, respect the Moose and all animals. The basic rule was to take only what was needed, in a respectful way. Respect was taught early and became expected behaviour. Good hunters respect game. Currently, people recognize there is a lack of respect in the community. Too many moose are being taken.
When we take back control of our land and resources, we will save the moose. When we take back control we will be ensuring the land and resources will be there for our future generations. When balance is restored the Secwepemc people, the land, the plants, and the animals will benefit.
Jean William – T’exelc Elder