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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 Secwépemc Landmarks Project is a Secwépemc-led arts project that supports Secwepemctsín (Secwépemc language) learning and creates awareness of Secwépemc oral histories, language, and laws in Secwepemcúl̓ecw. The project features close to 100 trailhead posts carved by close to 200 youth from Secwépemc Child and Family Services, Chief Atahm School, Shihiya, and School District No. 83 in 2021 and 2022; and 16 Secwépemc Landmark sculptures and interpretive panels that feature Secwépemc oral histories, place names, culture and stories throughout the Shuswap Lakes region of Secwepemcúl'ecw. The trailhead posts and landmarks are a deep reminder of the presence and relationships past, present, and future generations of Secwépemc continue to have to the lands and waters in Secwepemcúl̓ecw.

Trailhead posts were carved by youth 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 Sxwetsméllp (Salmon Arm) area.

Sculpture locations have been blessed by Secwépemc Elders. It is passed down in Secwépemc oral tradition that the land is to be respected and is sacred. Oral tradition teaches us to ask for permission to walk in places on the land and to act respectfully towards plant and animal relatives while we are there. Please act with caution and respect around these monuments and grandmother/grandfather rocks.

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, Skwlāx te Secwepemcúl̓ecw, 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 Lucy William, and 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. Secwepemctsín language revisions for the place names transcriptions and signage were completed by the Cstélnec Elders at Chief Atahm School 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.

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, Kel-c Jules, 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).

The Secwépemc Landmarks project is funded in part by 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, Heritage BC through the Heritage Legacy Fund, as well as through in-kind donors such as AIM Roads, the Salmon Arm Arts Centre, School District No. 83, Switzmalph Cultural Society, Len Lega, and Browne Johnson Land Surveyors. Kukstsémc 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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