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Our Land

Our Land

The Tk‘emlúpsemc, ‘the people of the confluence’, now known as the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc are members of the Interior-Salish Secwepemc (Shuswap) speaking peoples of British Columbia.

The Shuswap or Secwepemc (pronounced suh-Wep-muhc) people occupy a vast territory of the interior of British Columbia. This traditional territory stretches from the Columbia River valley along the Rocky Mountains, west to the Fraser River, and south to the Arrow Lakes. Most Secwepemc people live in the river valleys.

The traditional Secwepemc lived as a self-governing nation grouped into bands. Although the bands were separate and independent, a common language and a similar culture and belief system united them. Before the smallpox epidemic of 1862 there were thirty-two Secwepemc bands with four Secwepemc dialects. Today, there are 17 remaining bands that make up the Secwepemc Nation and three Secwepemc dialects.

Traditionally, the Secwepemc depended on the natural resources of the land. Each band usually spent the winter in its own village of pit houses. During the rest of the year most Secwepemc people lived a nomadic lifestyle. They moved from place to place, as foods became available in different areas. They developed a unique culture that was totally self sufficient.

Two European fur trading posts were established in Kamloops in 1812, utilizing Aboriginal skills to harvest animal populations, such as beaver. By 1826 the effects of trapping on these populations were already noticeable. Population increased in the Kamloops area from the late 1850s with gold miners, followed by ranchers in the 1860s and railway workers in the 1880s.

Chief Louis, born in 1828, was the TteS Chief from 1855 until his death in 1915. Petit Louis or Hli Kleh Kan, was a dominant figure in the development of the Kamloops region and the construction of St. Joseph’s Church. He was recognized as one of the best Chiefs in the Interior. On several occasions he went to Ottawa in an attempt to negotiate for more land for his people and traveled to England to plead the case for the Band to Queen Victoria. His leadership did much to improve conditions for the TIB during white settlement.

The seasonal round shows that the pre-contact Kamloops economy had three sectors: fishing, gathering (roots and berries), and hunting. The relative importance of these has been much discussed in the archaeological and anthropological literature. A reasonable guess for the ratio of the sectors in the diet of the people at the time of first contact with Europeans (hence prior to the reliance on European foodstuffs) is in the region of one third fish (principally salmon), one third roots and berries, one third hunted meat (Kamloops Territory in the 1860‘s p. 12).