Before contact with the Europeans in the early 19th century, the Secwepemc occupied all of Secwepemcul’ecw. A network of temporary camps and village sites surrounded permanent winter villages. Through this network the Secwepemc occupied the land through a web of interaction and connection with the land, people and resources of Secwepemcul’ecw.
The seasonal use and location of the temporary camps and village sites was based largely on the availability of resources. This seasonal round involved a wide scale movement on the land between well-established hunting, fishing, plant harvesting, ceremonial and trading sites. Cycles of salmon runs, migration of wildlife, ripening of berries and climate were integral to the traditional knowledge and survival of the Secwepemc. These cycles were well known to the Secwepemc and are recorded on the landscape through place names, stories and legends and passed on through the families by the oral tradition.
The family was the basic unit of a complex social structure and system of governance of the Secwepemc. Families interacted within the tribe, tribes interacted within the nation and nations interacted through regional trade and protocol agreements. Most of the traditional ecological knowledge and land use protocols were passed on at the family level. Heads of families would be delegated decision making authority by the chief of a tribe regarding the resources that they had close ancestral ties to or knowledge of. Access to resources and protocol alliances were gained through inter tribal marriages.
Through this system of land use, the seasonal occupancy patterns of many tribes were linked in a web of interaction that covered vast areas. Through trade networks, protocol agreements, stewardship techniques, adaptive strategies and inter tribal marriages, the Secwepemc enjoyed a life where, for the most part, their needs were met in abundance. The Secwepemc that lived along the Fraser River, especially in the Farwell Canyon area, were especially prosperous due to the salmon trade. Though severely impacted by contact and the colonial experience, the land use patterns described above remain largely intact today.