Honouring the past by embracing the present
We are the T’exelcemc, kindred of the Secwepemc Nation.
For over 6500 years, our people have lived in harmony with the land and with each other, all across the Cariboo Region. It was here our ancestors gathered, preserved and built community – from the lonely, loon-echoed woods, to the rushing, salmon-packed rivers.
Though our lives look different than our ancestors’, we are guided by the same passion to connect, build and forge a path forward to a brighter future. Through our strong entrepreneurial spirit, we have created businesses which honour our past culture and strengthen our present economy.
Some of these include
- Traditional goods (arts and crafts like beadwork, leatherwork, basketry)
- Traditional foods (such as bannock, wind-dried salmon, deer meat, canned preserves and sweet berry desserts)
- Ranching, farriering, silviculture and logging
We believe that by sharing and building our culture through a spirit of cooperation and friendship, we will bring back the heart of our ancestors: the passion to preserve the land and live in harmony with all.
The land and how it guides our way of life
Culture and land are inseparable to the T’exelcemc Nation.
Our territory and its bounties, from the soft bark of the Múlc to the golden flowers of the scwicw, all define who we are and how we interact with the land and with each other.
This deep respect for all faces of nature has been passed down to us through oral teachings from our beloved elders. Back to our earliest memories, we have been taught everything is interrelated and sacred, from our family lives at home to the growth of every plant and tree in the forest.
It’s these meaningful relationships which define our lives, our responsibilities and our duties as a community.
The traditional Secwepemc calendar
Our calendar has always been guided by the world around us. The name of each month corresponds to the activity our people carried out during that time of the year, the characteristics of the land, of nature and the weather.
It began with the late fall moon in Pellc7éll7úllcwten, or November.
- November – Pellc7éll7úllcwten – “Entering Winter Homes Moon”
- December – Pellctíteq̓em – “First Real Cold & Cross Over Moon”
- January – Pellkwét̓min – “Sewing & Tanning Moon”
- February – Pesqépts – “Chinook Winds Moon”
- March – Pesxúxem – “Thawing and Melting Moon”
- April – Pelltsek̓úlecwten – “Root Digging & Longer Daylight Moon”
- May – Pellcwéw̓lemten – “Lake Fishing Moon”
- June – Pesxqéltemc – “Go to Higher Levels Moon”
- July – Pestémllik – “Ripening Moon”
- August – Pellt̓éxelcten – “Salmon Coming Up Moon”
- September – Pellctsíkenten – “Cache Food Moon”
- October – Pesllwélsten – “Fall Moon”
Our language, rediscovered
The Secwepemc language, once only a whisper on the wind, is again spoken loud and proud in our homes as we continue the initiative to revive our native tongue.
To spur this language renaissance, we have created a special mentorship program, pairing non-Secwepemc-speakers with fluent-Secwepemc-speakers. This revival is essential to welcoming back the words and tones of our ancestors; our language which communicated the importance of nature and family so much deeper than English allows.
The Secwepemc language carries with it our culture, and we believe that one day the words our parents and grandparents spoke to us as we lay in bed at night, will come back to our ears, our hearts and our lips for good.
Leadership through equality
From our respected elders to our smallest children, protecting and stewarding our culture has always been a community effort. We are an egalitarian culture and seek to hear everyone’s heart and wishes before we make any decision that will affect the community.
Though in the past leadership has been passed down through paternal lines, today we select our chief through an electoral process. It is important to us that this process is inclusive, open and free, enabling a fair vote for all. This ensures no one hand can hold all of the power since protecting, preserving and stewarding our local community is a joint venture.
We’ve seen much change over the last few generations, and with that, we’ve adopted a more modern way of life. Traditionally, male and female roles were distinct, with men gathering and hunting, and women cooking, sewing and keeping house.
Today, we celebrate our blended roles, with men and women both sharing different responsibilities inside and outside the household.
This openness, and adapted way of living breaks down barriers and allows for equality to shine through, in every sense, for every single person. Forward-thinking means being open to new opportunities to learn. This is beautiful to us.
Along with the new, it’s crucial to preserve and respect old traditions. From each activity and ceremony, we honour our roots in order to keep the passion burning bright.
Prayer and ceremonies
Our traditional ceremonies balanced and grounded us, from celebrating the changing of seasons, to marking periods of life and death, along with simply gathering together as a community.
Though each ceremony looks different (dancing and fire-making to political events), every gathering is first led by an opening prayer from a respected elder.
Seeking guidance from our creator is a constant effort. We are always praying for well-being and direction, and it’s our way of paying respect and staying connected to our culture.
Dip Net Fishing
Our traditional method of fishing, dipnetting has been passed down from generation to generation. Today, parents still bring their children to the rivers and streams to pass on this skill.
Read Chief Willie’s book: Dipnetting With Dad
Originally a prairie-influenced dance, the Secwepemc people adapted this to their own culture, adding it to our other seasonal dances. Each dance is a chance for us to celebrate, from new seasons, to answered prayers.
Every household had a sweat lodge at one time in our people’s history. Though there aren’t as many sweat lodges these days, this deeply healing ritual is still practiced regularly by many members in our community.
Traditional arts + crafts
Our most treasured belongings have long been those made by our own hands, and the hands of our ancestors. Today, we continue to craft buckskin clothing, moccasins, vests, coats, birch baskets and cottonwood canoes for our families and our businesses.
For generations, our people have hunted mostly moose and deer. It’s a highly skilled activity that takes many years to master. Young people are welcome to join the older hunters where they’ll learn the intricacies of animal behaviour, habitat, the ideal time to hunt and more.
Honouring the past by embracing the present
The T’exelcemc Nation is committed to the cooperation and inclusion of all to help drive our community forward. By living out all aspects of our culture and language, both traditional and new, we can bring about a brighter future for our people, and for the Nation.
WLFN Cultural Coordinator