Stsq’ey (Laws and Jurisdiction)

xyemstéten re Secwepemc7úl̓ecw, ell re Secwépemc

“I honour the Secwepemc Territory and the Secwepemc People”

Yirí7 re stsq’ey’s-kucw (our laws and customs) were given to us by Sk’elép (Coyote) as laid out in our ancient oral histories, the stseptékwll. Secwepemc laws govern the Secwepemc Nation building a moral and spiritual foundational of Secwepemc society which is inherently connected to the land and our history. The ancient oral history of Sk’elép and the transformers lay down three fundamental laws for the Secwepemc:  

  1.  Secwepemc law of sovereignty (including the authority to make treaties);
  2. Secwepemc law that defines rights and access to resources and;
  3. Secwepemc laws of social and environmental responsibility (caretakership).

Secwepemc ancestors have handed down these laws inside our ancient oral histories, leaving a legacy of experience and knowledge which show us how to act toward one another and with respect to all living beings. Secwepemc stseptékwll have given Secwepemc the knowledge necessary for living in harmony with Secwepemc law as they demonstrate these laws, reminding generations of social, moral and natural consequences of Secwepemc ancestors and the breaking of these laws. They remind generations of the names, history and places throughout Secwepemcúlecw and connects these to manifestations of these deeds on the land. These laws are the lessons learned from countless generations of Secwepemc ancestors.

With the foundation of Canada, Secwepemc were removed from vast parts of our territories via government policies sanctioning settlers’ pre-emptions claims and subsequent Crown Grants.

You look at where we are in Secwepemcúlecw that we’re one with Secwepemcúlecw and then we look at all of the people and we’re one as a people and we’re not, we’re all fragmented, so we need to bring all of those pieces back together.

Jeanette Jules, Tk’emlúps

All Secwepemc members have access to the lands and resources across all of Secwepemcúlecw and all have responsibility to take care of an area. According to principles of traditional Secwepemc law, membership in the Secwepemc Nation is based on birth, or traditional (custom-based) adoption, descent from Secwepemc ancestors, or marriage with Secwepemc members providing customary access to land and resources in order to provide for the children and Secwepemc spouses.

Our responsibility of taking care of the land has been passed down to us generations to generation. It’s been the responsibilities of the Elders to come forward and teach our young people what it is to be caretakers and mentors of our lands. Over history we have done that. Just as of lately when the new governments have moved, they’ve kind of gone away from that caretaking responsibility. But now this modern day and age, we’re coming back to it. We’re starting to pay more attention to what is out there. If we maintain the present way of life, we won’t have a future life. What we need to do is get together and start looking at, how can we preserve from here on in? Make the move, take care of our lands. 

Rick LeBourdais, Pelltíq’t re Pésellkwes

In Secwépemc culture, a non-member / guest is distinguished from all or any people who are Secwepemc relatives. Strangers without resource rights who come into Secwepemcúlecw are at the mercy of their hosts to feed them and provide them with shelter. As a Secwepemc Elder stated, guests, by having to rely on their hosts and thus being “a nuisance” rather than self-sufficient, are “pitiful.” The tacit law in Secwepemc Nation is that, in order to acknowledge the pity their hosts take on them, guests reciprocate the favours and help extended by their hosts.

 

Wayne Christian, Splatsín

Governance…it’s about our families, because our governance of the territory was done not in a hierarchal sort of top-down approach. It was done based on our family groupings, and our families rule the land and govern the territory and manage the territory, the animals, the fish, everything, through that process. So, when we talk of governance, what we’re really talking about is our families, our kwséltken. When we talk about our relatives, of how we actually work with each other and rebuild our families, because that’s the unit that the federal government and provincial governments have attacked through their legislation, the residential school, the ’60s scoop, all the land-based sort of laws of taking our people off the land. So it’s really important to rebuild the strength of our families and bring that governance back to the territory.

Wayne Christian, Splatsín

Steve Basil, St’uxwtéws and Tsk’wéylecw

We have a big territory, covers a lot of land. I have no boundaries in relation to who I am as a Secwepemc.

Steve Basil, St’uxwtéws and Tsk’wéylecw

Wayne Christian, Splatsín

Our laws, yiri7 re stsq̓ey̓-kt, what that means in our language is “written in the land.” I think that’s what’s really important, is all the landmarks. We talk about water as an example, the setétwe, the river, and péselllkwe, the lake, and séwllkwe, the water. All of those things have great meaning, and I think it’s in the language those laws are embedded of how we look after each other.

I think that’s what really important when we talk about guests coming into our territory and not disrupting our way of life, but treating us as equals and recognizing our jurisdiction and our title to the land and how important that is, because that’s the essence of who we are. We have not ceded, sold, nor surrendered our lands, our resources, or our people. We have not given up our laws or jurisdiction, and that’s what I think the people coming into our territory have to understand, that we’re shifting things with the implementation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. It begins to open up that door to really identify that Canada is a tri-judicial country. You got federal, provincial, and Secwepemc law/ Indigenous law. That’s what has to be stood up more and more.

Wayne Christian, Splatsín

Ryan Day, St’uxwtéws

Rights are for children. Responsibilities are for adults. I.e. right to hunt- responsibility to feed our family. Responsibilities are empowering- exercising the rights that you have been taught as a child. Speak about things in the terms of positives. It’s hard to speak about things that we don’t have. We need to speak about things that we have. When people see the power of what we feel, its inspiring. We don’t have to be eloquent. It will just grow. That’s what gets people excited. It’s empowering. You do not know what you do not know. The average First Nation does not know what it’s like to have a place-based identity. Before I had that, I didn’t know. How do you instill that? The nation that we want includes all those other people- thinking a different way. People who are just starting to form their identity- they are excited, they will volunteer a lot. They get so much energy and can get the momentum going. 

Ryan Day, St’uxwtéws