Tmicw (Lands and Waters)
We have been stewards of Secwepemcúlecw- our territory – since time immemorial. We have a responsibility to honour the vision and hard work of our ancestors while ensuring a bright future for our children as well as those who reside in our territory.
As the Secwépemc Chiefs expressed it in 1910 in the Memorial to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, “Our land is the same as our life.” Reserve Commissioner Gilbert Malcolm Sproat came to the same conclusion, writing in a letter to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Ottawa, “I do not exaggerate in saying that some of these Indians die if they lose their land: they take it so much to heart.
The 1910 Memorial to Sir Wilfrid Laurier is a historic document that demonstrates historical assertion of Aboriginal title, rights, and sovereignty in the early twentieth century.
- It reflects our continued and consistent traditional land ownership concepts as the hosts in Secwepemc lands, and the reciprocity the host/guest relationship entails.
- It underscores the Aboriginal concepts of land ownership and tenure, Aboriginal political authority, and sovereign relations with the Crown and government.
“Our land is the same as our life.”
Secwepemc Chiefs in the 1910 Memorial to Sir Wilfrid Laurier
We have no boundaries in relation to meaning of language and the land and what that all means to us. Through tradition, culture. Land is our culture. We have a lot of teachings that have come from the land and as a young person I was raised by my grandparents and as a result of that the land and the territory was my university. So that’s basically learning, hunting, fishing, different food gathering, boundaries of our territories and common land use areas, and areas of ceremony and a lot of the Elders, there isn’t a place in the past that we go to today that our ancestors haven’t been already so we follow the path of our ancestors and our people.
Steve Basil, St’uxwtéws and Tsk’wéylecw
Our Secwepemc way of life was a far cry from random “foraging” on the land. Ethnoecological research shows that Secwepemc people managed and stewarded plant and animal populations.
As Secwepemc, we look upon animals as relatives (“all my relations”) rather than mere commodities for sustenance. When harvesting an animal, we see the animal “offering or abandoning their life.” This results from proper respect through physical, spiritual, mental and emotional preparation before any harvesting activities. We give recognition and acknowledgment to the animal relative through offerings, prayer, and due care and full utilization of the animal’s body.
The importance of wildlife within our culture connects to the many prominent roles animals and birds play in our traditional teachings, dances and ceremonies. As in caring for one’s family, we carefully manage the homes, food and habitats of our animal relatives to ensure the health and longevity of each other’s families to maintain respectful relationship with each other.
The concept of All My Relations comes from the heart. When you’re Secwepemc, All My Relations is something that the creator has given to us. A spiritual move. All My Relations means our relations with everything on Mother Earth. We believe that the creator has given us spirits, at the same time given the trees, the wildlife, everything on Mother Earth also has life. All My Relations means that we are connected and we should be looking after each other. Now we’re starting to move in that direction, and recognizing what All My Relations really means. Does not mean just family and interaction and community. It means everything in our world today.
Rick LeBourdais, Pelltíq’t re Pésellkwes
Secwepemc hunting is carried out by individuals or within our family groups and emphasizes and reinforces reciprocity and sharing. It is a social activity and a kinship obligation as much as an economic necessity. We rely upon our territory to provide sustenance for our people.
It is important for us to identify our animal relatives and pass knowledge on to future generations regarding their patterns of behaviour and their appropriate uses. This is how we pass on the importance of stewardship and management of wildlife, and the concept of all my relations. This is how we will revitalize and sustain wildlife in Secwepemcúlecw to be.
We’ve always taken care of the land in our territories and it is one of the biggest responsibilities we have as Secwepemc individuals, a Secwepemc Nation, is taking care of our land, our people because without land we don’t have anything. We need the water, we need the air, we need the fish, the animals, for sustenance, and being there on the land is huge for all of us. As a Nation, we need to be out on the land as much as we can with our youth, with our Elders, learning, teaching, passing everything on, because it’s getting lost. We need to bring it all back and we need to teach as many people as we can. Not only hunting, fishing. Language, culture, the activities on the land, berry picking, harvesting, medicines. It’s all there. It’s just getting everyone out on the land and teaching again.
George Lampreau, Simpcw
It’s the greatest thing you can do. You look at teaching, and to have the ability to teach your own children and your grandchildren what it’s like to be out in the Mother Earth. To go out camping. To enjoy what is out there. What nature has given us, and the creator has given us to enjoy. To go out there and learn how to hunt. Learn how to fish. Learn which berries. Learn the medicine ways, medicine plants. All of that. To learn to respect what’s out there I think is the biggest thing. To be able to teach our younger generations, that’s coming in line. People are starting to do that now. I think the key thing when you’re looking at teaching our young people is, the biggest point is respect. You treat other people the way you would like to be treated. You treat the environment the way you’d like to be treated. You treat the environment well and everything around it. You treat other people, not only just your relations, but other people from other communities. You treat them well, they will treat you well. It’s a relationship that will grow, and it’s coming back to life now.
Rick LeBourdais, Pelltíq’t re Pésellkwes