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Secwépemc Landmarks Project Background

Secwépemc (“the spread-out people”), a Nation of 32 Interior Salishan communities that have been divided into 17 bands by the Indian Act, are 12,000 people strong and growing. Before contact with Europeans, the original population is estimated at 25,000 people, drastically reduced to 7,000 due to the 1862 smallpox epidemic. Secwépemc territory spans approximately 180,000 squared kilometres (112,000 squared miles) which includes the headwaters of the two largest river systems in British Columbia; the Columbia and Fraser River valleys, and extends south to the Arrow Lakes. Secwépemc have occupied their territory, Secwepemcúl̓ecw, for over 10,000 years and have never signed away, ceded or sold their land or territory.

The purpose of the Secwépemc Landmarks Project is to create awareness of Secwépemc traditional territory through the installation of approximately 100 trailhead posts, 16 Secwépemc Landmark sculptures,  and 16 connected interpretive panels that feature Secwépemc place names and oral histories from the Secwépemc Lakes Elders Advisory Committee in the Shuswap Lakes region of Secwepemcúl̓ecw.

100 trailhead posts were carved by youth from Chief Atahm School (Adams Lake Band), Shihiya school (Splatsín), four schools in School District No. 83 (Shuswap Middle School, Jackson, Sullivan, and South Canoe Outdoor School), and Secwépemc Child and Family Services, under the instruction of Secwépemc storyteller Kenthen Thomas and Secwépemc carvers Hop You and Vern Clemah. The students’ carvings tell the stsptékwle (oral history) of “Coyote and the Salmon”, which Secwépemc storyteller Kenthen Thomas describes as telling the story of how Sek̓lep (Coyote) brought salmon to the Sxwesméllp (also known as Sxwetsméllp or Salmon Arm) area.

The trailhead posts and Landmarks are a deep reminder of the presence and significance of past, present, and future generations of Secwépemc communities and their relationship to lands and waters in the Pespeséllkwe caretaker area of Secwepemcúl̓ecw.

Mara Lake Site Visit, photo by Ash Simpson, Splatsín Title and Rights.

Malakwa Site Visit.

Sekmáws site visit. Photo by Ash Simpson, Splatsín Title and Rights.

Sekmáws site visit. Photo by Ash Simpson, Splatsín Title and Rights.

Mara Lake site visit, Artist Tania Willard (Neskonlith) with Elders Ethel and Juanita Thomas.. Photo by Ash Simpson, Splatsín Title and Rights.

Initial Project Concept, Tk'wemi'ple7 Shelley Witzky and Jacob Sutra Brett. Photo by Martha Wickett, Salmon Arm Observer.

Splatsín carver Hop You with SMS Youth, Trailhead Post Carving workshop.

The first trailhead post being unveiled by Shuswap Middle School students Darah Thurston and Jeremiah Vergera. Photo by Martha Wickett, Salmon Arm Observer.


The Secwépemc Landmarks project is led by Adams Lake Band, Neskonlith Band, Little Shuswap Lake Band, and Splatsín, with administrative support from the Shuswap Trail Alliance. The Secwépemc Landmarks Project Team would like to acknowledge with heartfelt gratitude the many community members and sponsors who have made this project possible.

The Secwepemctsín place name audio recordings are by the late Neskonlith Elder Dr. Mary Thomas, whose work as a knowledge keeper and environmentalist inspired many about Secwépemc values of knucwentwécw (helping one another) to learn about and protect Secwépemc traditional plants for future generations. The Secwepemctsín language revisions for the place names transcriptions and signage were completed by Lucy William and the Cstelnec Elders through Chief Atahm School (Chase Eastern dialect) and Donna Antoine (Splatsín dialect). 

The Secwépemc Lakes Elders Advisory Committee, made up of Elders from Adams Lake Band, Neskonlith Band, Splatsín, and Little Shuswap Lake Band, guided this project. Each Landmark sculpture represents oral histories connected to each place. The Project Team would like to acknowledge the contributions and guidance of all Elders attending the Secwépemc Lakes Advisory Committee meetings, including: Betty Arnouse, Virginia Wooldridge, Julianna Alexander, Shirley Bird, Gerry Thomas, Lucy William, Donna Antoine, Ethel Thomas, Lily Anthony, Cliff Arnouse, Dalla Powder, Minnie Kenoras, Donna William, Lawrence Michel, Lorraine Arnouse, Mike Arnouse, Pauline Arnouse, Doris Ono, Jimmy Charles, Jane Thomas, Brian Thomas, Bart Thomas, Louis Thomas, Jane Thomas, Phyllis Thomas, John Jules, Leonard Lazima, Bev Thomas, Juanita Thomas, Helen Duteau, Hop You, John Paul Thomas, Charlotte Francois, Linda August, Wilfred Tomma, Rocky Tomma, Jules Arnouse, Alfred Arnouse, Leo Tomma, Norma Manuel and Tkwemiple7 Joyce Kenoras. 

Tk'wemi'ple7 Shelley Witzky (Adams Lake Band) is the in-kind Project Lead for the Secwépemc Landmarks project, and the project concept was designed by Tk'wemi'ple7 Shelley and Sutra Brett. The Project Team is made up of Libby Chisholm, Dorry William, Micky Tomma, and Qwelmínte Secwépemc interns Devin Doss and Mackenzie Creasser. Landmark Artists include Tania Willard, Rod Tomma, Tilkotmes Tomma, the late Mike Peters, Eric Kutschker, David Jacob Harder, Shayne Hunt, Hop You, Tony Antoine, Vern Clemah, Jules Arnouse, Rick, and Kenthen Thomas (storyteller).

Secwépemc Landmarks project sponsors and in-kind donors include: Adams Lake Band, Neskonlith Band, Little Shuswap Lake Band, Splatsín, the Shuswap Trail Alliance, the Province of British Columbia, Shuswap Tourism, the City of Salmon Arm, SASCU, Hard Rock Granite, the Heritage Legacy Fund of British Columbia, AIM Roads, the Salmon Arm Arts Centre, School District No. 83, Switzmalph Cultural Society, Len Lega, and Browne Johnson Land Surveyors. Kukstemc also to staff and students from Shihiya, Chief Atahm, Jackson, Sullivan, SMS, and South Canoe schools for their work on the Secwépemc Landmarks trailhead posts.

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