Posted on June 18, 2020

Splatsin Elders Share Knowledge about Local Landmarks

Although the community cannot gather to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day this year, you can connect with your friends and family by celebrating Splatsin culture and traditions. We're excited to share this local knowledge from our Elders.

Prefaces for each landmark are written by Splatsin Volunteer, Gloria Morgan. Quotes are from Splatsin Elders.


“All the areas in Secwepemc Territory were very significant to our nation. The names given were for landmarks, direction, places, to help with mapping, hunting, berry picking, travelling. Also helped with other neighbouring territory boundaries. Including men and women's youth training, where to go and how far.  In early times before the European settler's arrival there was a lot of dangers including human slavery. What needs to be remembered was the difference in lifestyles, the untamed wilderness with no roads only trails. A person really needed to know a lot of names, places, how far from one point to the next to help with their water, food, travel, camping, habitat, livelihood and community safety.” 

- Elder Julianna Alexander nuxnuxskaxa ctse'e7i7el (Woman Fawn)

Sek'maws (Sicamous) is a word in the Secwepemctsin language that means "waist". If you look at the map of the Sek'maws area, you will see that it looks like a person's waist, made by the narrows where Shuswap Lake meets Mara Lake.  Sek'maws is a very important village site and fishing site for the Splatsin people.  Splatsin people were nomadic and made their yearly seasonal rounds, which included living in winter dwellings, called "kekulis". Sek'maws is part of the eastern border of the Splatsin Territory.

"Years ago, my family went past Sek'maws, to the area known as Taft, and we fished, hunted and gathered berries.  There is a large village site by the lake in Sek'maws."

- Elder Gerald Williams

Swa7wilc (Shuswap Falls) means "to become something" and that refers to the transition from Shuswap River to Mabel Lake. The Splatsin shared the rights to fishing at Shuswap Falls near Lumby, where they controlled the fishing to the north and the Okanagan people were able to fish above the falls, when salmon could still move upstream prior to the construction of the dam.

"I have fished and hunted in every part of our territory, including Shuswap Falls. Over the years, all of this has changed so much, and I do my best to protect and preserve our resources."

- Elder Len Edwards (Caribou shepherd)

Quilakwa Mountain, means "poor little mountain" is a very significant landmark for the Splatsin people. It is the site of the last battle that the Splatsin fought, to protect our people and our territory.  

“This is where we had the last war we had with the Kootenays. One of our runners spotted them up on the hill and then snuck down to our field and told our warriors. Our warriors dressed up as women and put their weapons in baskets and pretended they were going on a picking party. And the women pretended to be men and danced and pretended to be celebrating. Our warriors snuck up behind them and killed all but one. They sent the one warrior back to the Kootenays to tell them to never come back or we would massacre them. That’s why people still find arrow heads up on that hill. That was told to me by my grandma and my grandpa Louisa and Harry David.”

- Magca (Moon), Elder Marion Lee

Setetkwa (river), the Shuswap River is one of the most important features in Splatsin territory.  The river has provided transportation, fishing, recreation, and trade routes. Later it provided employment for our people who were the "best log boomers". Splatsin still use the river today. Water is life and the Splatsin ask everyone to respect and protect the Shuswap River. 

“In the 1950s my dad, Willie Thomas, drove a logging truck for the Malpass Logging and Sawmill Company in Enderby. He drove from the Kingfisher logging site to his residence where the logs were dumped into the Shuswap River.  At the time, Spallumcheen (Splatsin) residences had no physical addresses. Today, it is my address 74 Enderby Grindrod Road, Enderby. The next step was by a group of Spallumcheen (Splatsin) men, known as ‘river drivers.’ Their job was to keep the logs together, while they physically rode the logs on Shuswap River to the Malpass Sawmill, which was located near the present site of North Enderby Cedar to be processed into lumber.”

 - Elder Jean M. Brown

St Mary’s Church

St. Mary's Catholic church is located behind the Esso/Tim Horton's. For many years, it was run as a Catholic Church by the Kamloops Diocese. For some years, it was used as an adult upgrading education program.  It has not been used as a church for the past few years.  

“St. Mary’s was built by band members and completed in 1918. It replaced the church that was by the cemetery that was struck by lightening and burnt down.  I don’t think a lot of young people know that. That was part of our history.” 

- Elder Ethel Thomas

Xatewtalc, Eagle Rock, near Armstrong was used by Splatsin as a spiritual place.  Many people have used the area for connecting with nature and seeking guidance through fasting and ceremony. If you look closely, you will see the head of an eagle formed by the rock face.  

“I would like to see our young people continue to practice their culture, especially our traditions that build strong and respectful people."

- Elder-in-training, Mary-Jane (Dominick) Sinclair

Check out our other Indigenous Peoples Day online celebrations: