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The late Splatsin elder, Cindy Williams, explained that Splatsin is pronounced ‘sblajeen’, and means riverbanks, which is where the Splatsinac (Splatsin People) lived along both the banks of the Shuswap, Eagle and Salmon Rivers. Splatsin territory is vast, extending from Mica Creek to the north, to Kettle Falls, Washington to the south and from Monte Lake to the west and Nelson to the east.
Before contact with European settlers, there were Splatsin village sites at Sek’maws (Sicamous), Splatsinuwi (Enderby), Swiwaso’s (Mara Lake), Cqlqin (Mabel Lake) and many other locations that provided good resource gathering opportunities. When Europeans first began to arrive in the U.S., the Okanagan people were pushed north, eventually spilling into Secwepemc territory. Today, the large Okanagan Nation Reserve Number 1 extends into the Salmon River watershed and shares a border with Splatsin Reserve Number 1.
Since time immemorial, we, the Splatsinac, have acted as Yucwmenulúcw (caretakers of our land). We managed our land through controlled burning, selective hunting and fishing, cyclical plant harvesting and pruning, and by ensuring that resources were not overused or wasted. Splatsin recognizes that the land, water and all living things are interconnected, and we uphold our responsibility to care for the environment and the biodiversity in our territory.
The Splatsinac were warriors and we fought many battles with other tribes to protect our borders. We also sought peace and in the end shared key fishing areas such as Swa7will (Shuswap Falls) near Lumby, where we controlled the fishing to the north and allowed the Okanagan people to fish above the falls, when salmon could still move upstream prior to the construction of the dam. Although we agreed to share this fishing spot in our territory, Splatsin still holds the title to this area as we have been the continuous occupants of this land for thousands of years.
The Splatsinac hunted deer, elk, moose and caribou in the hills throughout their territory and the meat was dried in camp before our hunters returned to their villages. During the fishing and hunting seasons, it was also important to gather food and medicinal plants and to pick berries. Dugout canoes were often used to travel the rivers and lakes in the territory. Splatsin elder, Casimir Felix said “the waterways were our highways”.
We, the Splatsinac, have a strong connection to the land and we continue to utilize and care for our territory and the resources within it. “Our ancestors appreciated the great value of the environment and through their teachings, we understand the importance of caring for the land and air. We consider ourselves to be stewards of this place and of the living organisms, plants and animals within our territory. The land is not ours to keep, it is ours to use respectfully and wisely so it will remain healthy and rich for generations to come” (Splatsin Comprehensive Community Plan, June 2013).
This story must not be copied or altered in any way without written permission from Chief & Council. Requests for information and stories pertaining to your area can be requested through the Title & Rights Department, which are then researched, written and approved by Chief & Council for a fee.