Chief William Statement, 1879
“I am an Indian Chief and my people are threatened by starvation.
The white men have taken all the land and all the fish.
A vast country was ours. It is all gone.
The noise of the threshing machine and the wagon has frightened the deer and the beaver.
We have nothing to eat. We cannot live on the air, and we must die.
My people are sick. My young men are angry.
All the Indians from Canoe Creek to the headwaters of the Fraser say ‘William is an old woman, he sleeps and starves in silence.’
I am old and feeble and my authority diminishes every day. I am sorely puzzled.
I do not know what to say next week when the chiefs are assembled in council.
A war with the white man will end in our destruction, but death in war is not so bad as death by starvation.
The land on which my people lived for five hundred years was taken by a white man; he has piles of wheat and herds of cattle.
We have nothing – not an acre.
Another white man has enclosed the graves in which the ashes of our fathers rest, and we may live to see their bones turned over by his plough!
Any white man can take three hundred and twenty acres of our land and the Indian dare not touch an acre.
Her Majesty sent me a coat, two ploughs and some turnip seed.
The coat will not keep away the hunger; the ploughs are idle and the seed is useless because we have no land.
All our people are willing to work because they know they must work like the white man or die.
They work for the white man.
Mr. Bates was a good friend. He would not have a white man if he could get an Indian.
My young men can plough and mow and cut corn with a cradle.
Now, what I want to say is this – THERE WILL BE TROUBLE, SURE.
The whites have taken all the salmon and all the land and my people will not starve in peace.
Good friends to the Indian say that ‘her Majesty loves her Indian subjects and will do justice.’
Justice is no use for a dead Indian.
They say ‘Mr. Sproat is coming to give you land.’
We hear he is a very good man, but he has no horse.
He was at Hope last June and he has not yet arrived here.
Her Majesty ought to give him a horse and let justice come fast to the starving Indians.
Land, land, a little of our own land, that is all we ask from her Majesty.
If we had the deer and the salmon we could live by hunting and fishing.
We have nothing now and here comes the cold and the snow.
Maybe the white man thinks we can live on snow.
We can make fires to make people warm – that is what we can do.
Wood will burn. We are not stones.
WILLIAM, Chief of the Williams Lake Indians (Williams Lake Indian Band)”
Memorial to Sir Wilfred Laurier, 1910
Memorial to Sir Wilfred Laurier, Premier of the Dominion of Canada from the Chiefs of the Shuswap, Okanagan and Couteau Tribes of British Columbia presented at Kamloops, BC:
August 25, 1910
“Dear Sir and Father,
We take this opportunity of your visiting Kamloops to speak a few words to you. We welcome you here, and we are glad we have met you in our country. We want you to be interested in us, and to understand more fully the conditions under which we live.
We expect much of you as the head of this great Canadian Nation, and feel confident you will see that we receive fair and honorable treatment. Our confidence in you has increased since we noted of late the attitude of your government towards the Indian rights movement of this country and we hope with your help our wrongs may at last be righted.
We speak to you more freely because you are a member of the white race with whom we first became acquainted, and which we call in our tongue “real whites” to the latter (viz., the fur-traders of the Northwest and Hudson’s Bay companies. As the great majority of the companies employees were French speaking, the term latterly became applied by us as a designation for the whole French race.)
The “real whites” we found were good people. We could depend on their word, and we trusted and respected them. They did not interfere with us nor attempt to break up our tribal organizations, laws, and customs. They did not try to force their ideas of things to us to our harm. Nor did they stop us from catching fish, hunting and so on. They never tried to steal or appropriate our country and treated our chiefs as men. They were the first to find us in this country. We never asked them to come here, nevertheless we treated them kindly and hospitably and helped them all we could.
They had made themselves (as it were) our guests. We treated them as such, and then waited to see what they would do.
As we found they did us no harm our friendship with them became lasting. Because of this we have a ‘warm heart to the French at the present day.’ We expect good from Canada.
When they first came amongst us there were only Indians here. They found the people of each tribe supreme in their own territory, and having tribal boundaries known and recognized by all. The country of each tribe was just the same as a very large farm or ranch (belonging to all the people of the tribe) from which they gathered their food and clothing, and so on, fish which they got in plenty for food, grass and vegetation on which their horses grazed and the game lived. And much of which furnished materials for manufacture, stone which furnished pipes, utensils and tools and so on, trees which furnished firewood, materials for houses and utensils, plants, roots, seeds, nuts and berries which grew abundantly and were gathered in their season just same as the crops on a ranch; minerals, shells, and so on, which were used for ornament and for plants, and so on,.
All the necessaries of life were obtained in abundance from the lands of each tribe, and all the people had equal rights of access to everything they required. You will see the ranch of each tribe was the same as its life, and without it the people could not have lived.
Just 52 years ago the other whites came to this country. They found us the same as the first or “real whites” had found us, only we had larger bands of horses, some cattle and in many places we cultivated the land. They found us happy, healthy, strong and numerous. Each tribe was still living in its own “house” or in other words on its own “ranch”. No one interfered with our rights or disputed our possession of our own “houses” and “ranches”, vis., our homes and lives.
We were friendly and helped these whites also, for had we not learned the first whites had done us no harm? Only when some of them killed us we revenged on them. Then we thought there are some bad ones among them, but surely on the whole they must be good. Besides they are the queen’s people. And we had already heard great things about the queen from the “real whites.” We expected her subjects would do us no harm, but rather improve us by giving us knowledge, and enabling us to do some of the wonderful things they could do.
At first they looked only for gold. We knew the latter was our property, but as we did not use it much, not need to live by, we did not object to their searching for it. They told us, “your country is rich and you will be made wealthy by our coming. We wish just to pass over your lands in quest of gold.”
Soon they saw the country was good and some made up their mind to settle it. They took up pieces of land here and there. They told us they wanted only the use of these pieces land for a few years and then would hand them back to us in an improved condition; meanwhile they would give us some of the products they raised for the loan of our land.
Thus they commenced to enter our “houses,” or live on our “ranches”. With us when a person enters our house he becomes our guest and we must treat him hospitably as long as he shows no hostile intentions. At the same time we expect him to return to us equal treatment for what he receives.
Some of our Chiefs said, “These people wish to be partners with us in our country. We must, therefore, be the same as brothers to them and live as one family. We will share equally in everything-half and half-in land, water and timber, and so on. What is ours will be theirs and what is theirs will be ours. We will help each other to be great and good.”
The whites made a government in Victoria – or maybe the queen made it. We heard it stated both ways. Their chiefs dwelt there. At this time they did not deny the Indian tribes owned the whole country and everything in it. They told us we did. We were hopeful.
We trusted the whites and waited patiently for their chiefs to declare their intentions toward us and our lands. We knew what had been done in the neighboring states, and we remembered what we heard about the queen being so good to the Indians and that her laws carried out by her chiefs were always just and better than the American laws.
Presently chiefs (government officials) commenced to visit us and had talks with some of our chiefs. They told us to have no fear, the queen’s laws would prevail in this country, and everything would be well for the Indians.
They said a very large reservation would be staked off for us (southern interior tribes) and the tribal lands outside of this reservation the government would buy from us for white settlement. They let us think this would be done soon. Until this reserve was set apart and our lands settled for they assured us we would have perfect freedom of traveling and camping and the same liberties as from time immemorial to hunt, fish, graze and gather our food supplies where we desired; also that all trails, land, water, timber and so on would be as free to access as formerly.
Our chiefs were agreeable to these propositions, so we waited for treaties to be made, and everything settled.
We had never known white chiefs to break their word so we trusted. In the meanwhile white settlement progressed. Our chiefs held us in check. They said, “Do nothing against the whites. Something we did not understand retards them from keeping their promise. They will do the square thing by us in the end.”
What have we received for our good faith, friendliness and patience? Gradually as the whites of this country became more and more powerful and we less and less powerful, they little by little changed their policy towards us and commenced to put restrictions on us. Their governments have taken every advantage of our friendliness, weakness and ignorance to impose on us in every way. They treat us as subjects without any agreement to that effect and force their laws on us without our consent, and irrespective of whether they are good for us or not.
They say they have authority over us. They have broken down our old laws and customs (no matter how good) by which we regulated ourselves. They laugh at our chiefs and brush them aside. Minor affairs amongst ourselves which do not affect them in the least and which we can easily settle better then they can, they drag into their courts. They enforce their own laws one way for the rich white man one way for the poor white and yet another for the Indian.
They knocked down (the same as) the posts of all the Indian tribes. They say there are no lines except what they make. They took possession of all the Indian country and claim it as their own. Just the same as taking the “house” or “ranch” and, therefore, the life of every Indian tribe into their possession. They have never consulted us in any of these matters, nor made any agreement, “nor” signed “any” papers with us. They have stolen our lands and everything on them’ and continue to use ‘same’ for their ‘own’ purposes. They treat us as less than children and allow us ‘no say’ in anything.
They say the Indians know nothing and own nothing, yet their power and wealth has come from our belongings. The queen’s law which we believe guaranteed us our rights, the British Columbia government has trampled underfoot. This is how our guests have treated us-the brothers we received hospitably in our house.
After a time when they saw that our patience might get exhausted and that we might cause trouble if we thought all the land was to be occupied by whites, they set aside many small reservations for us here and there over the country. This was their proposal not ours. We never accepted these reservations as settlement for anything nor did we sign any papers or make any treaties about same. They thought we would be satisfied with this, but we never have been satisfied and never will be until we get our rights. We thought the setting apart of these reservations was the start of some scheme they had evolved for our benefit and that they would now continue until they had more than fulfilled their promises but although we have waited long we have been disappointed.
We have always felt the injustice done to us but we did not know how to obtain redress. We knew it was useless to go to war. What could we do? Even your government at Ottawa into whose charge we have been handed by the B.C. government, gave us no enlightenment. We had no powerful friends. The Indian agents and the Indian office at Victoria appeared to neglect us.
Some offers of help in the way of agricultural implements, schools, medical attendance, aid to the aged, and so on, from the Indian department were at first refused by many of our chiefs or were never petitioned for. For a time we thought the Ottawa and Victoria governments were the same as one and these things would be charged against us and rated as payment for our land, and so on. Thus we got along the best way we could and asked for nothing.
For a time we did not feel the stealing of our lands very heavily. As the country was sparsely settled we still had considerable liberty in the way of hunting, fishing, grazing, and so on, over by far the most of it. However, owing to increased settlement in late years this was changed, and we are being more and more restricted to our reservations which in most places are unfit or inadequate to maintain us. Except we can get fair play we can see we will go to the wall and most of us be reduced to beggary or to continuous wage slavery.
We have also learned lately the British Columbia government claims absolute ownership of our reservations which means that we are practically landless. We only have a loan of those reserves in life rent, or at the option of the B.C. government. Thus we find ourselves without any real home in this our own country.
In a petition signed by fourteen of our chiefs and sent to your Indian department, July, 1908, we pointed out the disabilities under which we labor owing to the inadequacy of most of our reservations, some having hardly any good land, others no irrigation water, and so on, our limitations regarding pasture lands for stock owing to fencing of so-called government lands by whites; the severe restrictions put on us lately by the government on hunting and fishing; the depletion of salmon by over fishing of the whites and other matters affecting us.
In many places we are not allowed to camp, travel, gather roots or to obtain wood and water as before. Our people are fined and imprisoned for breaking the game and fish laws and using the same game and fish which we were told would always be ours for food. Gradually we are becoming regarded as trespassers over a large portion of this our country.
Our old people say, “How are we to live. If the government takes our food from us they must give us other food in its place.” Conditions of living have been thrust on us which we did not expect, and which we consider in great measure unnecessary and injurious.
We have no grudge against the white race as a whole nor against the settlers, but we want to have an equal chance with them of making a living. We welcome them to this country. It is not in most cases their fault. They have taken up and improved and paid for their lands in good faith. It is their government which is to blame by heaping injustice on us. But it is also their duty to see their government does right by us and gives us a square deal.
We condemn the whole policy of the B.C. government towards the Indian tribes of this country as utterly unjust, shameful and blundering in every way. We denounce same as being the main cause of the unsatisfactory condition of Indian affairs in this country and the animosity and friction with the whites. So long as what we consider justice is withheld from us, so long will dissatisfaction and unrest exist among us and we will continue to struggle to better ourselves. For the accomplishment of this end we and other Indian tribes of this country are now uniting and we ask the help of yourself and government in this fight for our rights.
We believe it is not the desire nor policy of your government that these conditions should exist. We demanded that our land question be settled and ask that treaties be made between the government and each of our tribes, in the same manner as accomplished with the Indian tribes of the other provinces of Canada and in the neighboring parts of the United States.
We desire that every matter of importance to each tribe be a subject of treaty, so we may have a definite understanding with the government on all questions to date between us and them.
In a declaration made last month and signed by twenty-four of our chiefs (a copy of which has been sent to your Indian department) we have stated our position on these matters.
Now we sincerely hope you will carefully consider everything we have herewith brought before you and that you will recognize the disadvantages we labor under, and the darkness of the outlook for us if these questions are not speedily settled.
Hoping you have had a pleasant sojourn in this country, and wishing you a good journey home, we remain
Yours very sincerely,
The Chiefs of the Shuswap, Okanagan and Couteau or Thompson tribes
– Per their secretary, J.A. Teit
Note: The following year, on May 10, 1911 a similar Memorial was sent to Frank Oliver, Minister of the Interior and signed by chiefs from the Secwepemc, T’silqot’in, St’lat’limc, Okanagan, Carrier, Thompson (N’lkapmc), Tahltan and Sto:lo Nations.
Following is a list of the Secwepemc chiefs or their representative who signed the Frank Oliver Memorial.
Frank Tahmesket, for Chief Samuel, Canim Lake
Baptiste William, Chief Williams Lake
Logshom, Chief Soda Creek
John Inroiesket, Acting Chief, Canoe Creek
Joseph Tseopiken, Chief, Dog Creek
Samson Soghomish, Chief, Alkali Lake
Joseph Istchukwakst, Chief, High Bar
Pierre Kenpesket, Chief of the Kinbasekts, Kootenay
Louis Ghleghlegen, Chief , Kamloops
Basil David, Chief, Bonaparte
Francois Selpaghen, Chief, Shuswap Lake
James Capel, Chief, Clinton
Thomas Petlamitsa, Chief, Deadman’s Creek (Skeetchestn)
Major Cheschetselst, Chief, Leon’s Creek
Antoine Chelahautken, for Chief Etienne, Chase
August James, for Chief Maximin, Halowt
Andre, Chief, North Thompson
Louis Chuieska, Captain, Spallumcheen
In 1987 the Shuswap Chiefs reaffirmed the Laurier Memorial at a Shuswap Chiefs meeting held in Kamloops.
A Brief History of Aboriginal Politics in BC
The Allied Tribes of British Columbia, which included Secwepemc Nation communities, was formed in 1915 at a meeting in Spences Bridge. The Allied Tribes retained a lawyer, and in 1926 they presented their petition to Parliament. The Tribes requested that Parliament get a legal decision from the Privy Council on the land claim, and asked for action on the social and economic problems the Aboriginal communities were facing.
In response, Parliament formed a Joint Committee which ruled the Allied Tribes had not proven their claim. As a band-aid measure to alleviate the social and economic situation, an annual ‘special vote’ of $100,000 was instituted.
To add to the devastating rejection of the Allied Tribes claim, the Joint Committee recommended that raising funds and soliciting of legal help in pressing for ‘land claims’ become a criminal offence. Those recommendations subsequently were incorporated as Section 141 of the Indian Act. The Allied Tribes disbanded as a result.
Despite the prohibition to gather the struggle continued throughout the 1930s and ‘40s. In 1931 the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia, mainly made up of Coastal Tribes, was formed. Due to the constraints the Brotherhood focused on issues such as education, taxation, health care delivery, pensions, enfranchisement and veterans’ affairs, and represented the economic interests of the Coastal fishermen.
In 1944 the North American Indian Brotherhood (NAIB), representing the Interior people, was formed. The NAIB pushed for special rights of Native people arguing that “the Indians of B.C. (and Canada) as the Aboriginal inhabitants of the country, had special rights not shared by other citizens of the Nation.” (Van Dyke and Sanders 1975:15)
In 1951 the Indian Act was revised, and Section 141 was removed, as well as the law prohibiting the Potlatch. In 1969 the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs was formed.
Historically the Secwepemc Chiefs made several presentations to various levels of government, including trips to London, England in 1906, and in 1909. The 1909 delegation to London included representatives from 20 tribes, from around the province, including the Secwepemc.
The Chief’s Statement on Delgamuukw, 1998
The Cariboo Tribal Council (CTC) and the affiliated Secwepemc te Qelmucw (Northern Secwepemc) challenge the governments of Canada and British Columbia to implement the December 11, 1997 Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Delgamuukw.
Delgamuukw confirmed the existence of aboriginal title.
However, the federal and provincial governments continue to conduct “business as usual” and ignore the legally recognized aboriginal title. The Northern Secwepemc are not alone in calling for action as citizens of British Columbia, representatives of industry, and ministry officials have called upon the governments of Canada and British to respond.
The government of Canada and British Columbia must accept Delgamuukw will apply in the treaty negotiations and must undertake the following principles to reach agreement with the Northern Secwepemc that demonstrates fairness, honesty, and respect:
- To achieve certainty by announcing, extinguishment, cede, release and surrender are not issues for negotiation;
- To accept and confirm Delgammukw and enact changes in legislation and policy in accordance with that decision;
- To revise the current consultation process and develop land management plans to include the Northern Secwepemc in decisions within our territory;
- To negotiate interim measures prior to the conclusion of treaty and legislative changes;
- To ensure the capacity building needs are met through the development of partnerships between government, business, ourselves and other First Nations; and
- To enter into good faith negotiations to move towards the completion of modern treaties.
Chief Antoine Archie – Tsq’escen (Canim Lake)
Chief Larry Camille – Xatl’tem/Stwecem’c (Dog Creek/Canoe Creek)
Chief Dorothy Phillips – Xats’ull/Cmetem’ (Soda Creek/Deep Creek)
Chief Nancy Sandy – Tl’exelc (Williams Lake)
The CTC chiefs were given direction by the membership, at the Annual Treaty Society Meeting held at Canim Lake, to release the above statement on Friday, September 25, 1998.
The Chief’s Statement on Crownlands, 1998
Treaties and Self-Government are Inevitable.
The Chiefs of the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw (Northern Secwepemc) state that the basic purpose of negotiations in the treaty process is to reconcile the pre-existence of aboriginal society with the Crown’s claim of sovereignty.
Since contact with the Northern Secwepemc the British Crown (Crown) has alienated lands and resources under the belief that by enacting land legislation this gave them the sole right to grant the lands and resources.
The Crown believed the laws they enacted, which made it illegal for an aboriginal society to gather in order to fight for their lands, settled the matter in their favor. They also believed that denying the Northern Secwepemc’s legitimate claims would ultimately result in silence and acceptance.
Well, “We are all here to stay” and no aboriginal society is going to ever accept the Crown as the only sovereign having the ultimate power to determine our destiny. We hereby affirm our sovereignty and are intent on its revival and recognition.
The Crown, as a Commonwealth member, believed in the “doctrine of discovery” which meant the first country to “discover” a new land could then claim the right to settle it. The ‘doctrine of discovery’ did not apply here as aboriginal societies had lived here in their traditional territories for thousands of years prior to contact.
The Europeans in coming here found that the lands were not terra nullius (empty of people) so they changed their laws in order that they could legitimately claim the right to settle the land. They could claim sovereignty over lands if they conquered the original inhabitants in war, or if they signed a treaty with them. If a treaty was signed, then the original inhabitants had to be compensated in some manner to finalize the deal.
British Columbia is the only province in Canada that did not settle treaties over the entire province. British Columbia did not recognize aboriginal title and rights after the last Douglas Treaty was signed on Vancouver Island in the 1800’s. The English Crown told Governor James Douglas that England did not have the money to settle land claims and it was the colony’s responsibility to compensate the Indians and to settle the land.
The land was settled, but there is not one legal piece of paper in existence, which legitimizes the current governments’ claim of sovereignty over the land. There was no war to conquer us and there was no treaty or compensation made to the aboriginal societies of this land.
B.C. has, therefore, since the 1800’s been illegally giving out crown grants of fee simple, land and resource use licences, land leases and rights-of-way.
The province has been dishonest to aboriginal societies as well as to their constituents, as they do not have the power to grant what is not theirs to grant. This behavior in western law is known as theft and is punishable by the same law. By law one is required to make restitution by paying a fine or by going to jail to pay for an illegal act committed upon society.
B.C. continues these illegal acts as their laws and policies are the only ones they recognize and believe they have the right to enforce. They will not recognize the aboriginal peoples’ prior title to the land, and are reluctant to change the status quo. British Columbia is not ready for the transition and sharing of power.
At the heart of the matter is the right of one society to rule another; a society that believes their culture and history is supreme.
Today, the way of dealing with ‘aboriginal peoples’ can change. The Supreme Court of Canada in Delgamuukw ruled that aboriginal title does exist in BC and that it arises from the aboriginal peoples’ prior occupation and it has never been extinguished. Delgamuukw goes on to say the province cannot extinguish aboriginal title.
The court also stated that if there is infringement of aboriginal rights, then there must be consultation, consent and compensation. The court concluded that aboriginal societies and the governments should negotiate settlement of land claims rather than go to court.
We, the Northern Secwpemc, do not wish to go to court due to the cost and the fact that someone else decides the end results. The Chiefs believe the province cannot in all honesty and integrity continues to illegally alienate the lands and resources.
It is time for B.C. to end the sale of so-called Crown lands. If it continues the buyer must beware of the illegal title granted.
The province must negotiate in good faith to uphold the honor of the Crown, and must enter into interim measures agreements with aboriginal groups in order to protect the lands and resources, which are the “subject matter” of treaties.
It is time to accept the fact aboriginal societies are here to stay and it is time to settle this historic wrong. If the government continues to alienate the lands and resources, then they must pay us a share of the revenue earned in the extraction of resources from our traditional territories.
This revenue should not be seen as compensation, it is the share that we are entitled to, with or without treaty. This action would be a step in achieving a just and final settlement.
In Conclusion, the Secwepemc te Qelmucw are committed to the BC Treaty Process and are working with British Columbia and Canada in order to develop solutions which will benefit all of BC. If the current inaction of Governments continues the Northern Secwepemc retain the right to exercise other options to protect their interests.
Chief Antoine Archie – Tsq’escen (Canim Lake)
Chief Larry Camille – Xatl’tem/Stwecem’c (Dog Creek/Canoe Creek)
Chief Dorothy Phillips – Xats’ull/Cmetem’ (Soda Creek/Deep Creek)
Chief Nancy Sandy – Tl’exelc (Williams Lake)
Secwepemc Land Use Patterns
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.
Secwepemc Hunting Beliefs
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