Stó:lô Traditional Culture:

A Short Ethnography of the Stó:lô People

Brian Thom

Stó:lô Curriculum Consortium

September 1996

Preface - Writing an Ethnography about Stó:lô Culture

An "ethnography" of a "traditional culture" is a kind of writing anthropologists do to describe in some systematic detail, the way of life, experiences and beliefs of people. This style of descriptive ethnography is an idealized construction. It is a painting of life and culture from a particular period of time made with the broadest, generalized strokes. No one person's life is exactly like what is presented here. An ethnography like this one does not discuss the changes and variety of culture and practices that has occurred in a society. It paints a static, "synchronic" picture of what life may have been like at some time before the massive changes brought by contact with European (Xwelítem) cultures. Stó:lô culture was not a static and unchanging entity before these more recent times. Over the past many thousands of years people's collective lives and experiences have shaped Stó:lô traditional culture, as described here, and the lives and culture of Stó:lô people today.

Writing an ethnography like this one, the author must acknowledge his or her many biases. I have tried to describe what Stó:lô culture was like over two hundred years ago. Much of this information comes from work I have done with Stó:lô Elders and knowledgable "youngers" who know and remember things their parents and grandparents have passed down. Several of these people, including Frank Malloway, Edna Malloway, Rosaline George, Tilly and Alan Guiterrez, Ralph George, Herb Joe, Stan Green, Anabel Stewart, and Sonny McHalsie have taught me a great deal about Stó:lô traditional culture. Although traditions continue to be remembered and practiced today, some things have changed. A great deal of what is written here is taken from the writings of other anthropologists who have worked with Stó:lô Elders and could remember the teachings of their grandparents who lived in or nearer to the time I have tried to describe. (1)

Of course, any writing also involves the personal biases of the author. I wrote this short ethnography while working as an anthropologist for the Stó:lô Nation. I am not Stó:lô , and have learned about Stó:lô culture mainly through my professional work in the past five years. There are certainly many, aspects of Stó:lô culture I have not described here, either because of my own personal biases and interests or because of the distance between myself and the culture that I have written about. It has been with my best hopes and intentions that this ethnography will provide a wide audience with a glimpse of understanding about Stó:lô culture and traditions, and a new respect for traditional Stó:lô ways of life.

Stó:lô Territory and Language

S'ólh témexw te íkw'elo. Xólhmet te mekw'stám it kwelát.

[This is our world. We need to look after it]

In Halq'eméylem, the traditional language spoken by the Stó:lô, the word "Stó:lô" means "river". It also means "river people". Stó:lô traditional territory includes the entire watershed of the lower Fraser River below Sawmill Creek in the Fraser Canyon. It extends west to the Strait of Georgia, east to the top of the Coquihalla River, north to the headwaters of the Pitt and Harrison lakes, and south to include the Chilliwack River watershed. Stó:lô people call this territory S'ólh témexw: "our land" or "our world."

The Stó:lô and their ancestors are the First People of the lower Fraser River region. Stó:lô oral traditions state they have lived in sólh téméxw since the beginning of the world. Archaeological evidence suggests Stó:lô culture originated here some 10,000 years ago - ever since humans have inhabited this part of the world. Although Stó:lô culture has deep roots in sólh téméxw, it has not remained static and unchanged. Their rich and complex culture developed over a long period of time, with a special relationship to the land, resources and neighboring cultures. Stó:lô cultural traditions continue to change and are practiced today. (2)

Figure 1: Map of Contemporary Indian Bands in Stó:lô Traditional Territory

Halq'eméylem translates literally as "the language of Leq'ámél (Nicomen)." (3) Halq'eméylem consists of three dialects,"Upriver", "Downriver" and "Island". Each dialect has different sounds and a few different words. The Upriver dialect (pronounced Halq'eméylem) is spoken by the Stó:lô people living upriver from Sumas. The Downriver dialect (pronounced Hun'qumi'num') is spoken by the Stó:lô people living downriver from Matsqui. The Island dialect (Hul'q'umín'um') is spoken by the Nanoose, Nanaimo, Chemainus, Cowichan, and the Malahat peoples of Vancouver Island. (4)

Stó:lô culture is part of the larger group of cultures often referred to as "Central Coast Salish". Central Coast Salish people speak several different languages, but are closely connected through marriage ties, shared stories, beliefs, customs, and traditions. There are ten different languages spoken among the Central Coast Salish cultures, all of which belong to the Central Coast branch of the Salishan language family. (5) The Central Coast Salish languages other than Halq'eméylem (Halkomelem) include Éy7á7juuthem (Comox Salish), Shashishalhem (Sechelt), Snichim (Squamish), Pentlatch (now extinct), Lk'wín / Senoen / Xwlemichosen (three dialects' names for Northern Straits Salish), Dxwlšucid (Lushootseed), Tuwa'duxqucd (Twana), Lhéchelesem (Nooksack), and Nxws'ay'm'u'cn(Klallam). (6)

In addition to the ten Central Coast Salish languages, there are 13 other languages in the Salishan language family. These languages are identified as members of the Salishan Family because they provide evidence that they are derived from a common source, "Proto-Salish." The lower Fraser River is roughly the center of the whole Salishan territory. Some linguists believe that the this area was the original Salishan homeland, where Proto-Salish was spoken. Given the thousands of years it takes for 33 separate languages to develop from one "Proto-Salish" on the Fraser River, we can say the Stó:lô do indeed have very deep roots in the history and culture of this area. (7)

Figure 2: Map of languages spoken in the Central Coast Salish and Surrounding Areas

With this diversity of languages in a relatively small area, many people became bi- or multi-lingual. A trade language developed during at the turn of the 19th century called "Chinook Jargon." Despite of the challenges of linguistic diversity, Stó:lô people had relations with their neighbors throughout the Coast and Interior Salish areas.

People often refer to the different Stó:lô "tribes." These "tribes" are groups of villages which have been given a common name. The people in these named village groups speak the same micro-dialect of Halq'eméylem and have common histories, stories, names, environment and economic activities. However, the term "tribe" has certain historical negative connotations, and when used technically, implies features of social organization that do not apply to the Stó:lô. Although Stó:lô people themselves have used the term "tribe" to refer to these named groups of villages, the term is best avoided so not to cause confusion. (8)

Most of the present-day "Indian Bands" represent several traditional villages, somewhat like the named village groups. In some cases these traditional villages were made into Indian Reserves but in many cases people left these villages or were moved out by Xwelítem officials. In several cases, smallpox hit the populations of villages so hard killing entire populations, that the few survivors moved to the homes of their relatives and so no "Indian Band" was made for their former village or village group.

Table 1. Named Stó:lô Village Groups and Current Indian Bands. (9)

Recent Stó:lô population estimates prior to the first known smallpox epidemic in the late 1800s range from 7,000 to 28,000 people. The population hit its lowest point in 1929 with approximately 1,300 people. By 1995, the population had rebounded to about 6,000. The effects of this massive fluctuation in population are still being felt in Stó:lô society today. These epidemics were likely the most grave and serious set of events in the history of the Stó:lô people. (10)

Food and Stó:lô Culture

The lives of the Stó:lô have been centered around the Fraser River, and the wealth of food it provides. The most important fish is the salmon. It is the staple of Stó:lô subsistence, economy and culture. Other fish, animals, birds, and plants ballanced their diet.

Stó:lô people have a special relationship - a spiritual connection - to food and resources. Stó:lô traditions tell of their ancient relatives who were transformed into important food resources by the powerful beings who lived during that age. One of these stories was told by Xáxts'elten of Q'éyts'í around 1935: (11)

[My] forefather Thálhecten accomplished wonderful deeds at Pitt Lake. Swanaset [a powerful being who transformed things] gave him a wife, by whom he had two offspring, a son and a daughter. These children never ate any food, but, in spite of their father's admonitions, passed all their days in the water and slept at night on the shore. At last, grieved by their conduct, he called together his people and proclaimed: `My friends, you known that my daughter spends all her days in the water. I have decided that she shall remain there for ever, for the benefit of the generations to come.' He then led her to the water's edge and said `My daughter, you are enamoured of the water. For the benefit of the generations to come I shall now change you into a sturgeon. Thus the sturgeon was created in Pitt Lake, the first fish that ever ruffled its waters. Because it is Thálhecten's daughter transformed, it never dies, even when it spawns, unless man kills it. Subsequently it spread to other places, but nowhere dies it possess so fine a flavour as in its original home, Pitt Lake.

Xáxts'elten of Q'éyts'í and his descendants could trace their ancestry back into the distant past to when their ancestor was transformed into the sturgeon. This ancestral relationship to the natural environment is profoundly different from how many Xwelítem think about food and the world around them. Because of these ancestral relationships Stó:lô people generally feel a great degree of respect towards living things and the natural world.

Figure 3. "Lost in the Fraser", Stan Greene print 1982.

Stó:lô people have their own "cosmology" or way of understanding the origins of fish, animals and plants, and reasons for how things came to be in the natural world. These understandings provide explanations for why the natural world is the way it is. They set the parameters for how people should behave. The following story told by William Sepass from Skowkale explains why the sockeye salmon are found in certain areas, where the oolachan fish originated, provides teachings about how men should behave to their wives, and many other teaching about the world: (12)

Once the only salmon that came up the Fraser River was the steelhead. Beaver and some companions made a weir in the Chilliwack River to catch them. When the others had set their bag nets there was no room for Beaver's, so he dug a trench at one end. They caught many salmon and ate them on the spot, taking none home to their wives.

The women sent a boy down to the weir to see what their husbands were doing. He pretended to be chasing butterflies, but unseen, he tied two bunches of salmon eggs round his legs like short leggings and went home. When the women asked him what the men were doing he said "They have caught a lot of salmon and are eating them. See, I have brought you some of the eggs that were hung up to dry." Then the women were very angry. They pounded up cedar-bark and made from it belts, and head-bands for themselves. Then they lashed together two canoes, dressed themselves up, put quantities of down on their heads, and with two women paddling, went off to find their husbands.

The wind blew the down from their heads towards the men, who sent out two of their number - two Woodpeckers of different species - to fly up the river and see who was coming. When they reported back, the men debated what they should do. Their leader said "We had better go away to the home of the Salmon and steal their babies." They embarked in a canoe, Beaver, Mouse, the two Woodpeckers, and two [Indian doctors - shxwlá:m] who know how to make fine weather, and they paddled far away to where the sky alternately dips down to earth and rises again, causing the tides. The [shxwlá:m] prayed to the sky to move slowly so that they would have time to pass under it without being caught. They passed under, and approached some houses, the home of the Salmon. As they drew near Beaver jumped overboard, after arranging with the two Woodpeckers to fly after him when he had drawn the attention of the Salmon. He swam to shore, and lay at the edge of the waves, seemingly dead.

The Salmon people came out of their houses and called to one another "Have you ever seen a creature like this before?" None of them recognized him. At last they said "Let us call Coho." Coho walked down to the beach and examined Beaver. "Oh yes," he said, "I know him. It is Beaver. He dug a trench up on the Chilliwack River in which to set his net. Bring me a knife and I will cut him open to see what is inside him." Some one went for a knife, while Beaver lay praying that the Woodpeckers would arrive in time. Just as Coho received the knife the Woodpeckers landed on the beach behind the people, who turned to look at them. "What beautiful creatures," they exclaimed. "Let us catch them." They all tried to catch them, but the Woodpeckers eluded them. While their attention was thus distracted, Beaver and Mouse entered their houses, and while Beaver searched for their richest baby, Mouse ate their bow-strings, the lashing of their weapons, and bored holes in their canoes. Beaver found the baby of Sockeye, the prince of the Salmon, and, tucking it under his arm, fled to the canoe.

Mouse and the Woodpeckers joined him and they fled away to the Fraser River, the Salmon being unable to overtake them because their canoes leaked too badly. They put the head-pad of the baby in the Chilliwack River; that is why sockeye are so plentiful there, and so good to eat. Farther up towards Yale they placed its diaper; sockeye are plentiful there also, but are not so good to eat. The baby itself they set at the bottom of a deep hole in the River near Yale. You can still see it there at low water - a rock that exactly resembles a human being and seems to have long hair on its head.

Meanwhile the Salmon discussed what they should do. Sockeye said "We had better follow them." Humpback announced that he would follow them on the morrow, which meant the next year. So Sockeye and the other salmon went up the Fraser River, and the Humpback followed them a year later.

The women then debated what they would do. They decided to go down to the salt water, but before leaving they threw an old couple, a man and a woman, into two creeks that unite at Vedder Crossing. You can see them there today - two rocks, one in one creek, one in the other. Children used to be warned to keep away from them, for if flies gathered round these rocks they would become sick. When the women reached the salt water they leaped and changed into oolachan. That is why the Chilliwack Indians would not eat oolachan.

Stories such as these continue to be told about the spiritual relationships people have with the natural world.

First Salmon Ceremony

Each spring, when the year's first salmon was caught, families held a special "First Salmon Ceremony." The ceremony honored the salmon. It expressed the belief that salmon have souls (sme:stíyexw), like the souls of people, and thus the Salmon People must be acknowledged and thanked for returning each year. As part of the ceremony, the bones of the first salmon are collected and returned to the river.

Stó:lô Elder, Frank Malloway, describes the origin of the Salmon and the practice of the First Salmon Ceremony as he learned it from Stó:lô Elder Ed Leon. (13)

He said that when the Creator first made [the world], you know he had all kinds of meat around here, bear, deer, elk. When you eat meat you get that heavy feeling you know and you don't want to move too much because meat weighs you down. They used to pray to the Creator to send them food that didn't bog them down. He said that one of the shwxlá:ms [Indian Doctors] had a dream that the Creator was sending something up the river and told him to go down to the river and scoop their dip nets. And it was the salmon. They told them how to respect the salmon. You thank the ones that sent you the salmon, the Salmon People from out in the ocean. You pray to them and thank them for what they sent. The Salmon People sent their children up to you so you'd have something different to eat and gives you better energy. That's the words that he used. Just thank them, take the bones and send them back after you have eaten the first salmon. He said that if you didn't do that, you don't respect the Salmon People. [If you] don't thank them in the proper way they will quit sending their children out to you, because you are just taking it for granted that they are going to feed you. So you have to show respect for the things that people give to you.

Figure 4. "First Salmon Ceremony", photo by Gary Feigan

Stó:lô people consider many of the other animals to have sme:tíyexw, or souls. First Food ceremonies are also often held for the first deer and first sturgeon caught in the year.

Community Life - Fishing, Hunting and Gathering

Stó:lô villages were often located at or near productive places to get food, allowing for immediate access to these resources. To obtain a diversity of resources, families moved from their winter village to temporary summer camps where they would fish, hunt and gather foods to be preserved for winter consumption. These seasonal trips took people to their family fishing on the river, into the mountains for game and food plants, to the saltwater for clams and sea foods, and to wetlands for the many special plants found there. (14)

Figure 5. "Fishing and Gathering in the Summer", painting by Gordon Miller, UBC Museum of Anthropology.

Beyond what each family could gather for themselves, the Stó:lô visited the distant villages of their extended families, who often obtained enough surplus food to share and trade. People traded and shared access to resource locations throughout the area of their family network. This wide network gave individuals access to resources from areas distant from their own food gathering locations. The abundance of food resources centered on the Fraser River created a wealth for Stó:lô people that was virtually incomparable with other non-agricultural societies.

Figure 6: Generalized map of resource locations in traditional Stó:lô territory.

Also unlike many Aboriginal societies, Stó:lô people (and other groups living on the Northwest Coast of North America), have ownership rights to specific locations with abundant food. Although everybody had access to food, not everybody had access to productive locations such as prime salmon fishing spots or certain productive wapato patches. Access to these locations were traced through family ties.

Every person in Stó:lô communities participated to some degree in fishing, hunting, and gathering activities, regardless of their social status, gender or age. People had specific roles and abilities which guided their activities. Women worked on the shore to process, smoke or dry the fish, as men caught them with their nets, traps and weirs. Without this coordination of labour in fishing, the enormous numbers of salmon which appear in the Fraser River in the fall could not be effectively caught and processed. Men were often hunters while women usually collected plant foods. Women accompanied the men on many hunting journeys, gathering local foods and preparing meals while the hunters were in the forest, and cutting up and curing the meat and hide of the animals caught. Men also participated in gathering at times. Young boys were often asked to work in deer drives, chasing the animals into the traps, and both girls and boys helped their mothers and aunts gather plant foods. Elderly people often trained the younger people in the specific knowledge and skills needed to become effective hunters, fishers and gatherers. All people, thus contributed significantly to the food supplies of the communities.

Some people have "expert" knowledge and skills which help them acquire food. This knowledge and skill is usually acquired through special training and developing relationships with the spirit world. This expertise, combined with the ownership of resource locations, contributed to the creation of a hierarchy of social status within Stó:lô society. High class people generally had access to abundant foods, while low class people often had to rely on others for it, or were able to procure just enough for themselves from less productive sites. (15)

Figure 7. "Processing Fish on the Fraser River", pointing by Gordon Miller, U.B.C. Museum of Anthropology.


As salmon first traveled up the lower Fraser River they were usually caught with trawl nets by people in canoes. A trawl net with floats attached on the top edge and sinker stones on the bottom, was lowered between two canoes. The canoes and floats held the net open against the river's current and fish would swim in and be caught. These nets were precious items which took days of labour to construct from stinging nettle fibers or Indian Hemp (Apocynum), the latter of which was received in trade from the Interior. (16)

Figure 8: A trawl net used for catching fish in the Fraser (Stewart, 1977 p. 92).

Further up-river in the Fraser Canyon salmon were caught with dip-nets and harpoons by fisherman poised on platforms or rocks above the river. They tied themselves up to the bank in case they caught a big salmon that pulled them over. These platforms hung over the small bays and eddies in the river where spawning salmon rested as they swam up the Fraser. During spawning season there were so many salmon that dip nets were used to scoop them right out of the silty waters. Leisters, harpoons and gaff-hooks were also used to a lesser degree at these places. (17)

Figure 9: Fishing platforms along the Fraser River from which fishermen dip-netted salmon (RBCM ).

Salmon spawning in the tributaries of the Fraser River were caught in wooden fish weirs. These weirs were set up across streams and rivers, trapping all the salmon that tried to swin to their spawning ground. Men gaffed, speared or harpooned the salmon out of the weir. Operating these weirs efficiently required the effort of many people, so as to not waste any fish.

Figure 10: Salmon weir on small river (Stewart, 1977, p. 103).

Once the salmon were caught, the equally important task of preparing and preserving them had to be done. Women coordinated this labour. They prepared the salmon a number of different ways, depending on the conditions, the fish and the amount of work to be done. Wind-dried (slhíts'es) and smoked salmon (sq'éylo) were the most popular traditional preserved fish. The preparation of fermented salmon roe (kw':la) is a smelly, but highly nutritious dish. (18)

Wind-dried salmon (slhíts'es)

Dry racks - Wind-drying is the main means of preserving fish caught in the Fraser. Large wooden-frame racks are set out on the wind-swept rocks above the river, where fish are hung to dry. The frames have a pitched roof which protects the fish from spoiling from exposure to direct sunlight and rain.

Figure 11. Dry rack in the Fraser Canyon, photo by Gary Feigan.

Cutting and Gutting the Salmon - As the fish are pulled from their nets, they are carefully cut to make them suitable for drying. Freshly caught salmon have their heads cut off, and are then hung upside down for 10 minutes so the blood runs out. If the blood is not drained the fish attracts flies and spoils.

The fish is first cut down the back (not the belly), and along each side of the back bone and ribs. These bones are removed and kept for cooking later. Fish guts are removed through the rear of the fish, leaving most of the belly skin intact. It is laid open and the flesh (not the skin) is scored in 1 cm wide strips to allow for effective drying. The backbone, the scored fish body and fish heads are then hung up to dry on the rack. To hold the fish open while hanging, a small stick is put through the sides of the fish.

If caught late in the season, particularly with the spring salmon, the flesh is cut as before, but then sliced in half, making two thin fillets, which makes it dry faster and more evenly.

Figure 12. Cutting salmon for smoking or drying (Stewart, 1977, p. 138).

Drying the fish - The best time to dry the fish is morning, when the dry interior breeze skims over the fish. The wet evening breeze is too moist and may spoil the fish. It takes a few days to fully dry fish. If there is any chance of rain, the fish must be taken down, as moisture will make them go moldy.

Salmon heads - Like the backbone, salmon heads are also dried on the rack. The heads are opened and cleaned, then set out to dry. These heads have a very strong taste when they are dried, and make and excellent soup (xots'oyíqw slhóp').

Dried salmon roe (qéléx) - Salmon roe (fish eggs) are often found inside salmon. Salmon roe are highly nutritious. They were dried along with the rest of the fish, the gelatinous mass of roe being taken out whole and suspended over one of the poles in the dry rack. Such dried roe has to be soaked or boiled before eating.

Storing dried salmon - Once dried, salmon could be taken off the racks and stacked up for storage. Dried fish will stay edible for many months. Traditionally, the dried salmon was place in boxes high-up in trees, far above the morning dew. Some families also built special storage houses which were small, shed-roofed cedar plank caches, which were elevated on poles above the ground. If the salmon had not completely dried on the racks, these storehouses could also be used to further the drying process.

Figure 13. Salmon caches on Fraser River 1868 (Vancouver Public Library, Photo Archives).

Smoked Salmon (sq'éylo)

Smoked salmon is another common way to preserve fish. In the fall, most fish not caught in the Fraser Canyon are smoked. The fish are butchered in the same way as drying, but without the score marks. A tightly-sealed "smokehouse" is constructed from cedar planks and alder-wood is stacked for burning. This wood gives fish the best possible flavour. The cut fish is hung over low-burning fires.

The length of time needed to smoke fish depends on what will be done with it after the smoking is finished. Traditionally, the fish was kept over the fire for a little more than a week. After such a long time, the fish can be stored without risk of it spoiling. Today, people often only smoke the fish for 24 hours and then put it in their freezer. In one method, fish are smoked for four days and then canned. This give the salmon a smoky flavour on the outside and keeps it tender on the inside.

Figure 14. Inside a large smokehouse (Stewart, 1977, p. 140).

Stink Eggs (kw':la) - Fermented salmon roe was another important food item of the Stó:lô. It was nutritious and kept until the end of the winter, but many Elders have recalled not liking its taste. To make kw':la, a hole is dug in the ground about 1 to 1.5 meters wide and aproximately 80 centimeters deep and lined with fresh maple leaves. A sharp stick is used to puncture holes in the leaves. This will let the oil from the salmon roe drain through. Fresh bundles of salmon roe are then put in the hole and covered with a further layer of leaves and earth. The eggs are left in the hole for the winter (about 4-5 months) and when removed have the texture of cheese. Other names for kw':la are "stink eggs", "hum eggs" and "Fraser River bacon".

Figure 15. Stink Eggs buried in a pit (Stewart, 1977, p. 146).

Other Fish

Sturgeon are ancient and massive creatures that can weigh up to 800 kg. They are commonly found in fresh water, but can also be taken seasonally in the salt water, near the mouth of the Fraser River and in Boundary Bay. In the 1930s, William Sepass described to anthropologist Diamond Jenness several different ways sturgeon were caught. (19)

[They were] caught in bag nets drawn by two canoes. At Sumas Lake the Indians had a long weir. They walked along this [the weir], raking the bottom with a hook on the end of a pole. When they hooked a sturgeon, the hook became loose from the pole, but remained attached to a long line. A third method was with set lines, with oolachan or salmon roe for bait. The best time for sturgeon was the spring, when the oolachan was running. Occasionally a man would drift downstream in his canoe, constantly touching the bottom with a long two-pointed spear and raising it again about a foot. Sturgeon were so plentiful that persistently his spear would touch one, then he speared it.

Always throw the sturgeon bones back into water. They change to sturgeon. The man who hunts continually sturgeon... always throws away its xáxa'eluk, a certain part of its insides that he is warned about the animal itself. If he eats it he will go crazy.

Like the salmon, almost none of the sturgeon went to waste. Sturgeon were often boiled in large canoes so their fat could be skimmed off the water with a ladle and eaten with other dried fish. A sturgeon glue was made from their bones. The bladder of the sturgeon could be dried and used as a pouch to store preserved foods.

Figure 16. "Sturgeon Spearing on the Fraser River" sketch by John Keast Lord,1866 (Stewart, 1977).

Eulachons were another significant food fish to the Stó:lô. They were caught in the spring, just before the Fraser River reached its maximum flood peak. These fish seldom traveled upriver farther than Laidlaw (just west of Hope), but were fished by all Stó:lô people. In the past, eulachon runs were so plentiful the river seemed to boil. They were caught with small dip nets by men and women in canoes, and preserved by drying and smoking.

Inter-tidal foods such as clams and mussels were also harvested. Certain high status families owned stretches of beach near the mouth of the Fraser River and along Burrard Inlet where they had access to these valuable resources. Inter-tidal foods were particularly important during the winter, helping supplement the stored salmon and deer meat.

Animals and Birds

Stó:lô hunters focused their catch on deer, elk, black bear, and mountain goat. Other animals, such as hoary marmot (groundhog), beaver, racoon, wildcat, squirrel, and martin, were also taken but in smaller quantities. Hunting techniques varied. Domesticated hunting-dogs, which looked like small wolves, were used to hunt deer and bear. The hunter and his dog tracked the animal and shot it with bow and arrow. Dead fall traps were set so when the animal took the bait away, a log fell on them. Large deer-nets were sometimes used in hunting. The net would be strung across a deer trail. Young boys and dogs would chase the deer along the trail into the net, where it would be caught and killed by the hunter. (20)

Figure 17. Illustration of a dead fall trap (Galloway, 1980, p. 109a).

Men and women made journeys into the mountains for several weeks to kill game. They dried and processed the meat in camp, before returning back to the village. These hunting parties were often led by "expert" hunters called tewì:t, who often gained their expertise through the help of their guardian spirit.

Some people were experts in hunting mountain-goats, others sought out spiritual assistance which enabled them to shout at a deer and make it stop in it's tracks. At the moment when the deer turned to look at what made the shouting sound, the hunter let an arrow fly and killed the animal. After each animal was killed, the hunter often spoke to the animal's spirit, thanking it for the food and hide. (21)

Animals had to be prepared and preserved when caught. Women were responsible for this task. Smoked deer meat (mówech) prepared at hunting camps made it possible to bring much more game home than if the deer were brought back to the village whole. When on a hunting expedition away from the village, women smoked the deer, elk, bear and mountain goat right at the place the hunters caught it. A small rack with shelves about 1.5 to 2 meters tall was constructed for smoking the meat. The rack's walls were lined with fir boughs to keep the smoke in. Meat was cut into two to three centimeter thick slabs and hung over the shelves on the rack. A fire underneath the meat roasted and smoked it. This smoked meat was a lot lighter to carry back to the community than a whole carcass. Sometimes meat was cached in the mountains for hunters to use on their future journeys. The smoked meat was usually served by soaking and boiling in water. (22)

Almost all parts of the animals were used. Hides were made into winter clothing and footwear; antler was made into tools; horn of the mountain-goat was carved into fine bracelets; mountain-goat wool was spun into wool for weaving; and beaver teeth made sharp carving knives and gambling dice.

A variety of birds, such as ducks, geese, eagles, and grouse were also hunted. They were shot with bows and arrows, or caught in nets suspended from tall poles set up in their migration paths. In another method, a plank was set across the sides of two canoes (if only one hunter, a small clay hearth was built in a single canoe). At night a small fire was built on the plank or hearth, which attracted the birds. As they flew up to the light, the hunters netted them. (23)

Figure 18. Central Coast Salish-style duck nets, sketch by T. Waterman,1973.

Seals traveling up the Fraser River were hunted from the shore on rocks and sandbars, and in canoes. Stó:lô hunters either lanced them with harpoons, or stealthfully came upon a roost and clubbed them.


Stó:lô women collected and prepared roots (ie: camus, bracken fern, wapato, tiger lilies), berries (ie: huckleberries, salmon berries, trailing blackberries, salal berries, elderberries, blueberries, cranberries, and saskatoon berries), shoots, nuts and moss. From a young age, girls were taught by their mothers where to find plants and how to prepare them. This was a significant part of a girl's education, and the knowledge of these plants and their uses was often very detailed. (24)

Some particular locations, such as wapato patches at Q'éyts'í, were owned by particular families. Non- and distant relatives were required to ask permission to collect plants at the site. Other sites, such as the great berry-picking areas in the mountains surrounding the Coquihalla River were not owned, but were used collectively by many families.

Fire was used to keep some plant areas productive. At the end of the berry collecting season, a trained specialist set fire to a berry or bracken fern patch. This was done just before the specialist expected a steady rain so that the fire would not burn out of control. All of the brush and trees would burn down and the berries and ferns would be the first to re-grow, un-hindered, next season. The regular burning kept the soils rich and productive.

Figure 19. Wapatos, photo by Nancy Turner, 1995.

Plant foods were gathered at different seasons as they became ready for collecting. Thimbleberry and salmonberry shoots (stháthqiy) are ready in early spring and can be eaten fresh. Most berries ripen in late summer, around the same time that salmon spawn. Others, such as the cranberries which grow in bogs and marshes, become ripe in September. The roots of bracken ferns and the wapato are ready to be dug up in the fall. All of these foods are eaten fresh and as preserves. Locations of other edible roots were marked with a stick when the plant is in bloom, so the bulbs could be dug-up right through the winter if other food ran short. Tree cambium, the living inner bark of a tree, was scraped off of cottonwood and fir trees with an knife and eaten raw in the spring.

Plant foods were major items of trade in and out of the lower Fraser River watershed. Saskatoon-berries and soapberries were traded from the dry Interior and were prized for their flavour. Camus root, wapato and cranberries were traded upriver and beyond from the marshy areas near the mouth of the Fraser River. Trade in plant foods was an important part of Stó:lô economy.

Preserved berries have traditionally been a very important source of nutrition for Stó:lô people in the winter when fresh foods are not readily available. Traditionally, berries were preserved by drying on a thick cedar-bark mat hung above a fire for two or three days. The berries which are most often hung to dry are huckleberries, trailing blackberries, and salal-berries.

Saskatoon-berries and elderberries made excellent berry cakes (sk'ak'áxwe). The berries were pounded into a pulp, sometimes after having first been boiled. Frames or molds for holding the berry-pulp were made of either a shallow cedar stick frame (75 centimeters square) which was covered with maple leaves, or of creased cedar-bark strips folded into a square about 30 centimeters long and 5 centimeters deep. The berries were poured into the frames and set out on cedar planks to dry in the sun. Sometimes they were covered with more maple leaves and hot ashes if rain threatened. The drying berries had to be continually watched to make sure wasps and flies did not get into them. Small, smoky fires could often help with this. Dried berry cakes are eaten after being soaked in hot water.

Stó:lô people made several different kinds of breads (seplí:l). One was made out of a lichen called "beard-moss" (sqwelíp) which hangs off trees high in the mountains. This lichen was collected and then boiled until it turned black. The black, boiled lichen was then set out on a dish in the form of a cake. When dry, the moss was eaten like bread.

The roots of the bracken fern (sá:q), which grows commonly in open prairies and the wooded areas of the Fraser Valley, were made into a flour for another type of bread. They were set out on sticks and roasted for about 10 minutes over an open fire. The roots were then put on a hard surface and pounded while being turned. This pounding loosened the skin and softened the interior. The skin was scraped off and the edible interior was further pounded and ground into a flour. This fern-root flour was then mixed with salmon roe and baked in the ashes of the fire. After cooking, the bread was served fresh.

The Stó:lô have medicinal treatments for all sorts of ailments, from gastro-intestinal sicknesses to spiritual and social disorders. For example, Labrador tea, a plant which grows in bogs, make an excellent medicinal tea. Another made from the wild strawberry plant is used as a treatment for diarrhea. Stinging nettle tea continues is commonly used for colds and aches. Today, Elders continue to be consulted for their knowledge of medicinal plants.

Figure 20: A woman gathering reeds (Langley Centennial Museum).


Stó:lô people had developed a wide range of efficient technologies, a few of which are described here. Central to the technologies of the Stó:lô was the cedar. Cedar wood, bark, roots and boughs provided the materials to make a vast number of material things. William Sepass described how Cedar was changed from a generous man to the cedar tree: (25)

Cedar was a very good man. When Xá:ls [the Transformer] was changing things he said to Cedar "I am going to make you into a tree. People hereafter will use your back for clothing and dwellings, your body for dwellings and canoes, and your limbs for rope." Cedar said "All right."

Woodworkers made many daily utensils such as bowls, spoons, boxes, tools, looms, spindle whorls, fishing and hunting equipment. They also worked wood into larger or more elaborate products such as house planks, carved house posts and grave monuments, ceremonial masks and other important ceremonial gear, fishing weirs, canoes, and caches. Distinctive Central Coast Salish style designs were often carved into these objects following the forms and rules of Central Coast Salish art. (26)

Figure 21. Spindle Whorl from Sarids (RBCM 9864) and Mountain-goat Horn Bracelets (British Museum VAN 221).

The bark and roots of the cedar (and other trees and plants) were made into baskets, mats, clothing, canoe-bailers, cordage, rope, and nets. The bark was peeled off the tree (leaving the living tree standing), then shredded, beaten and soaked to make it workable. Baskets were made in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, while mostly following one of two historically used weaving techniques - coiled cedar root baskets and plaited cedar bark baskets - the former being more common in upriver communities than the latter. (27)

Figure 22. Coiled and plaited baskets.

Different stones bones, antler and shells were worked by either chipping, grinding or pecking. Many different implements including fish knives, spear armaments, arrow heads, cutting blades, bowls, hand mauls, hammer stones, grinding stones, scrapers, choppers, woodworking adzes, wedges, and various ornaments. These stone tools were very efficient and many were designated for the jobs they were designed to perform. (28)

Figure 23. An archaeological assemblage of stone, bone and antler tools, photo by Joyce Johnson, courtesy of U.B.C. Laboratory of


Stó:lô women developed the art of Salish weaving. Large, elaborate blankets were woven on a fixed, stand-up loom. The warp was one length of wool wrapped alternately around the two roll-bars and a removable cross-bar or thread. The weft was woven either by plain twilling, or a combination of twilling and twining. The wool was made from a combination of mountain-goat wool and the hair of an indigenous wooly dog, that was domesticated for this purpose. The sorted and beaten wool was spun on a hand-held spindle and then coloured with vegetable dyes if desired. A skilled weaver would often bring elaborate geometric patterns to her weaving. These blankets were both economically and symbolically valuable. Being wrapped or covered in a blanket showed a person's wealth and prestige. Giving blankets away at a potlatch was considered to be an act of great generosity. (29)

Figure 24. Salish Weaving by Anabel Stewart (RBCM).


Every Stó:lô community was linked by webs of rivers, lakes, streams and sloughs. Canoes carried paddlers and passengers along these waterways. Children learned to navigate in small canoes from an early age. Massive canoes carried entire families, their cargo and sometimes even their houses up and down the rivers and streams in the lower Fraser River watershed. There were three main styles of canoes, each of which were made in several sizes: the Salish style, the Westcoast style, and Shovelnose. (30)

The most common Stó:lô canoe was the shovelnose or tl'elá:y (which refers to "its ability to shovel onto shore so travelers could step ashore"). (31) It was distinguished by its wide, flat bow and stern which projected out over the water. Shovelnose canoes were to 9 meters long with a low, narrow gunwale. They were ideal for poling over the swift currents of the Fraser River and its tributaries. As Stó:lô Elder Frank Malloway explains,

... a shovelnose canoe would just ride on top of the waves. The river wouldn't control you, you control the canoe. It was just like a sled, you would ride over the waves.... When you are coming down the river the canoe would go where you want it to, instead of just getting thrown around by the current. (32)

This style shovelnose canoe has carried many people to their gathering, fishing and hunting locations.

Figure 25. Photo of a tl'elá:y (shovelnose) canoe (RBCM).

The Salish-style canoe xwóqw'eletsem (which means "drags its stern") was constructed from half a hollowed out cedar log. This canoe was typically 8 meters long and 1 meter wide. Its bow was cut into a sharp "v" which extended down the bottom of the vessel, nearly forming a keel. The canoe was low and wide, making it suitable for the sometimes heavy waters of the Fraser River, the open waters of the Straight of Georgia, and the large lakes of the Fraser Valley.

Figure 26: Photo of a xwóqw'eletsem (Salish-style) canoe (RBCM).

Although made by the Stó:lô, the Westcoast cedar dug-out canoe q'exwó:welh, (which can be described as "largest canoe made"), was also acquired through trade with people from Vancouver Island. It was an excellent ocean-going canoe with a high bow and a long body (up to 12 meters), which held lots of freight or passengers.

Figure 27: Photo of a q'exwó:welh (Westcoast) canoe.

Canoes were used for transportation well into the middle of the 20th century. They were commonly taken on journeys up and down the Fraser River, and to places as far away as the head of Harrison Lake, Puget Sound, and the east coast of Vancouver Island. A trip to Vancouver Island from Chilliwack took two days to complete travelling westward and three days eastward.

Houses & Villages

Large, permanent houses marked the villages of the Stó:lô. Long wooden-framed houses commonly known as Salish plank houses or shed-roof houses (s'iltexwáwtxw) stood in rows along the river banks. Underground pithouses (sqémél) were made commonly upriver to bring families through the colder Fraser Valley winters. Temporary, portable shelters were used when people went on shorter fishing, gathering and hunting trips.

Plank houses (s'iltexwáwtxw)

Plank houses were built on a frame of posts which were dug into the ground. The front posts were approximately 5.5 meters tall and the rear posts were 2.5 to 3.0 meters tall. Wooden beams up to 18 meters long were laid horizontally across the posts to complete the frame. By adding more posts and beams, the plank house could be made longer or wider. Split cedar planks were used as siding. These were held horizontally between pairs of poles that were tied fast to the beams. Cedar planks with carved long trough channels were used for the roof. The planks were very valuable and often owned by individual families living in the house.

Plank houses were made in a variety of sizes. The basic unit was a small house, about 18 meters by 6 meters. August Jim described these houses to Wilson Duff: "[t]he high wall was at the front, with a door in the middle or corner. The walls were lined with plank beds; a single fire burned in the center of the dirt floor." Larger houses were made by attaching these small houses end-to-end, or by putting a row of the small houses under one large roof, sharing a common back wall. Large versions of the basic plank house were also built averaging about 23 meters by 8 meters. In 1808, when Simon Fraser traveled through Stó:lô territory, he observed one plank house (which may have been at Matsqui) that was 195 meters long and 18 meters wide. (33)

Figure 28: Illustrations of a Coast Salish shed roof house (Stewart, 1984, p.64).

The interiors were usually open, being temporarily divided by hanging cat-tail mats (wá:th'elh), which could be easily removed. Benches were constructed around the edge of the house for people to sleep on, sections of the bench being separated by these hanging mats. Each section was occupied by an individual family, usually a husband, wife, younger children and sometimes one set of grandparents. If one man was very wealthy and had more than one wife, the co-wives would live in different sections of the house from the husband. Slaves stayed with their masters and mistresses. Families stored their dried food and personal possessions on suspended platforms or hung them from the rafters, and prepared their meals on their own fire-pit.

When the people in the house organized a ceremony, feast or potlatch, the partitions would be removed and guests invited to sit with relatives on the sleeping benches. A platform was often constructed on the outside of the house from which to make speeches or give gifts. Houseposts were sometimes elaborately carved and placed inside. They were commissioned by wealthy people and represented their ancestors, depicting a story connected to their family, or a showed a representation of their connection to the spirit world. (34)

Figure 29: Housepost of warrior Qiyeplénexw from a house at Xwméthkwiyem (BCARS).

Pithouses (Sqémél)

Sqémél were used as a permanent winter houses by the Stó:lô, particularly those living upriver from Stave Lake. These were round structures, 6 to 11 meters in diameter, dug between 1 to 3 meters into the ground. Once the wooden frame was built for the roof, they protruded up to 2 meters above of the ground. This frame was made with four large posts set in the ground near the center of the pits, angled outward. Over these posts were placed cross beams and supports, covered with layers of poles, bark, branches, boughs, and soil. At the top of the roof a hole was left which allowed smoke from the central fire to escape. A log ladder led down from the hole. Bed platforms were built around the edge of the pit, with individual families' sleeping sections separated by handing mats.

Figure 30: Exterior of pithouse at Chehalis, photo by T. Little, 1994.

Insulated by the surrounding soil and designed to blend with the landscape, the sqémél provided warmth during the winter and protection from raids. Several nuclear families would live in a sqémél during the winter, sharing the cooking fire. Bob Joe, an Elder from the Chilliwack area, remembered some people finishing the insides of these houses very well, making the roof planks and rafters smooth and sometimes painted. However, even with this work, the sqémél was a small, cramped, and somewhat smokey residence. Stó:lô people stayed in them for a few winter months, but preferred to live in the more spacious and comfortable s'iltexwáwtxw. (35)

Figure 31: Painting of life inside a pithouse, by Gordon Miller, U.B.C. Museum of Anthropology

Summer structures

During the summer, Stó:lô people often left their main village to visit relatives and get food and materials not found near their villages. They brought with them rolled cat-tail mats, poles and sometimes cedar house-planks from which they could make small, temporary shelters. Women wove the cattail mats which were very portable and provided a dry area to sleep under. Poles were set into the ground and the mats rolled out and attached to them. Sometimes planks from the winter plank house were used instead of mats. When people used their house-planks, they transported them by putting them lengthwise across the gunwales of two canoes. This gave them an additional flat surface to tie their cargo to. Unlike the other houses, only one family stayed in these small temporary shelters. (36)

Figure 32: Temporary summer shelters with mat covers (RBCM).


Stó:lô villages dotted the Fraser River and its tributaries, from the village of Mále at the mouth of the river to the village of Lahits at Sawmill Creek in the Fraser Canyon. They were usually situated along the shores of rivers, streams and lakes, often at the junction of two bodies of water. The villages were never built far from abundant food resources. Berries and other plant foods were often available directly behind the village and productive fishing grounds at the front.

Figure 33. Map of villages at Xwméthkwiyem, drawing by M. Kew, 1992.

Villages near the mouth of the river were generally large, comprised of ten or twelve dwellings. Farther upriver, villages were somewhat smaller in size but occurred more frequently. In the Fraser Canyon for example, a village was built on almost every level piece of level land, but consisted of only two or three dwellings.

Figure 34. Map of small villages at Sq'ewqéyl and Yeqwyeqwí:ws in 1858.

Village populations varied greatly over the years. It is difficult to accurately estimate their size prior to the first smallpox epidemic. In 1808, Simon Fraser recorded sighting one village in the Qw'ó:ntl'an area with a population over 200 people, while the villages he saw around what is now Yale contained less than 50 people. Even within a single year the population of an individual village could fluctuate greatly, as people traveled to visit relatives or live in temporary camps at places to get food and resources. (37)

Some villages had wooden fortifications with trenches dug near them. These forts often stood to one side of the village, where people would organize and defend themselves during a raid. There was a fortified house just west of the main Xwméthkwiyem village at the mouth of the Fraser River. It was a single house with a palisade at a spot called Q'élexen "fence". Other villages, such as Shxw'whámél had low, discrete pithouses built away from the main village to which people could retreat in a raid. The frequent raids by the Yéqwelhta or other disgruntled neighbors made village defense important. (38)

Stó:lô Communities

It is a common assumption of Xwelítem society that "communities" are based on people who live in the same place. In Stó:lô society the community is more broadly defined. It is a network of people who are more connected through ties of kinship and marriage than they are through the place they live. As a way to look at the idea of the Stó:lô community, we will describe the family, the household, the local group and the village. These different parts of the Stó:lô community form the important web or relations that define the Stó:lô social world. (39)

Nuclear and Extended Family as Community

The nuclear family (shxwákw'a) was composed of a husband, wife (or sometimes wives), unmarried children, and older parents (grandparents). In Stó:lô society the extended family consisted of one's parents, siblings, grandparents, parent's siblings (aunts and uncles) and their children (first cousins). It was with these people that most of the major economic activities took place. When a family wanted to fish at a weir, the extended family worked together to catch and process the fish. They also commonly participated in conducting ceremonies and feasts. Today, few extended families live in a single household, but they still work together for many of these activities.

The extended family members who owned property together could be called in English a "corporate kin group". This group is a similar to a corporation which is comprised of kin - extended family as distant as third or fourth cousins - who own property in common. These distant relatives often live far apart in separate villages. Some of their property would be productive places to get food like salmon fishing station. Other kinds of commonly owned property include large salmon weirs or massive bird nets which took the combined efforts of a number of families to build, use and maintain. Still further kinds of corporate property include immortal names; ritual activities; ceremonial paraphernalia; and privileges to certain stories, songs, and dances. These things are not material, but are exclusively owned by the corporate kin group. The co-owners would often act together to coordinate food getting at these productive locations.

Household as Community

When the Stó:lô lived in plank houses (s'iltexwáwtxw) and pithouses (skémél), extended family members, such as two or three brothers and their families, lived under one roof. Sometimes more distant relatives or non-relatives would be members of the household, including less wealthy, dependent families and slaves. There might be anywhere up to 25 or 30 people in one household. Membership in a household was fairly fluid. The groups of families could break up and form new households if it got too stressful, crowded or otherwise difficult to live under one roof.

Figure 35: Life in a Coast Salish plank house, painting by Paul Kane (National Gallery of Canada 6923, crIV-550).

Because the household was often made up of several extended family members, it was an important part of one's community. Extended family members often shared food and cooperated for economic activities like obtaining and preparing food. They also worked together to host feasts, gatherings, and spirit dances. The most respected family leader would usually act as the head of the household in matters which concerned them all, but these household heads had little means of enforcing their decisions. The authority of household heads relied a great deal on the respect their family members had for them.

Local Group as Community

Many Stó:lô people can often trace their lineage back to an ancestor who lived in the time of Xexá:ls, the siblings who transformed the world from a largely supernatural place to the way it is today. These ancestral people are often original members of a community. Many were also transformed into important natural resources. George Chehalis and his wife told the following story about the origin of the Máthekwi people: (40)

Their ancestor Sq'elíy:etl (derived from sqelá:w, beaver) had a son whom he dressed completely in beaver skins, just like himself. When Xá:ls came, they fought by standing opposite each other and trying to transform one another. Finally Xá:ls defeated him, Sq'elíy:etl jumped into the water and thrashed about wildly. He and his son were transformed into beavers.

All people who can trace their ancestry back to these ancient relatives are part of the same "local group". The "local group" was a key part of the Stó:lô community in terms of the sharing of resources. They often live in the same house or village, but are not necessarily members of the same immediate family. Members of local groups do not regard themselves as kin, in the sense of being directly related by blood or marriage. However, they do acknowledge that they are descended from a common "legendary" ancestor. Only members of this group have the right to use names and tell stories which are connected to their ancestor.

This group is important in another sense - in that it connects people to the land and resources. The various ancestors spoken of in the stories were turned into many natural features in or around their ancestral village (like a prominent rock, the cedar tree, eulachon, mountain goat, and so on), by the Transformers, Xexá:ls, in the ancient past. People who see themselves as descendants of these ancient ancestors have a special relationship to the land, trees, and animals, because they are their relatives. (41)

Villages as Community

Villages were often composed of two or more households. Village members cooperated in only major economic ventures such as a deer drive or building a salmon weir. Village members sometimes also worked together to host spiritual gatherings and in times of raids and defense. However, larger villages were often very diverse, and not organized under any formal leadership such as a "village chief". Some villages were so diverse that different dialects would be spoken by different households. This was much less the case in smaller villages, where many people from one extended family lived together in the same village. Because of this most people had to marry outside their village, so not to marry a relative. Marriage is not permitted with anyone related closer than a fourth cousin. This necessity for marrying out of one's village created a community of relatives throughout the Central Coast Salish region - throughout s'ólh témexw.

Like households, villages were fluid in their composition. People moved freely between villages where they had relatives. If there was someone in the village that people did not get along with, it was not uncommon for the entire village to move and leave the troublemaker behind. In 1950, Stó:lô Elder August Jim told anthropologist Wilson Duff about why the people from the village Siyét'e moved up-river to the village of Shxw'whámél: (42)

One day the women and children from Siyét'e went to camp 3 or 4 miles north of the village at the food of a mountain to dig roots. The women went out to dig, leaving the children in camp. One woman had left her baby in the care of her small brother. The baby cried and cried despite all the boy's attempts to quieten it, and finally he got angry, made the fire bigger, and pushed the baby into the fire. The other children ran to get the mother, but, when she returned, baby and cradle had been reduced to ashes.

The boy grew up to become a large, strong man, but a trouble-maker. Several times, in fits of anger, he killed people, even visitors from salt-water. The people of Alámex (Agassiz, the whole area) got tired of him and wouldn't speak to him. Finally, in fear of reprisal raids from down-river, and to get away from this man, they decided to move away.

... the Siyét'e people, led by Edward Lorenzetto's great-grandfather, moved up to Shxw'whámél ... The trouble-maker himself moved up-river to Restomore Caves near the mouth of Hunter Creek [just east of Shxw'whámél], and, living there alone, continued his murderous deeds. From a high vantage point, he would watch down the river for the approach of canoes. When one approached, he would enter the water through a tunnel he had dug from the caves, float out under a mat (in imitation of an old mat floating on the river), grasp the bow of the canoe, and overturn it. Then, leaping up on the overturned canoe, he would club the occupants to death as they tried to grasp it for support. This section of the river derives its name wqw'éyles, "watching down-river," from this man.

Stó:lô Social Life

Having described who the Stó:lô are, their economy, technology and concepts of community, I will now turn to Stó:lô social life. I will begin by looking at Stó:lô concepts of kinship (the ideas and terms which define who a person is related to), and personal names (which define who a person is as an individual). I will then describe Stó:lô social inequality. Stó:lô social life was bound by social status, leadership and one's own expertise. High status individuals had very different opportunities than did a captured slave. Feasts, potlatches, exchange and conflict were some of the most important events in a person's social life. Finally I will describe the life-cycle (the usual events which happen in one's life) of an average Stó:lô person living at the turn of the nineteenth century.


When a child was growing up, he or she was taught, in great detail, who their relatives were and where they lived. A person who knew who their family was would often be able to recite their family tree back several generations and as distant as their fourth cousin. When a person married, they also had to learn who their in-laws were. Parents also had very important relationships with the parents of their children's spouse. (43)

It is sometimes difficult to appreciate the importance of family connections in a culture other than one's own. One way to do this is to examine the system of terms used to refer to relatives in that culture's language (commonly called "kinterms" by anthropologists). Below are charts which show the Halq'eméylem terms for blood relatives and in-laws. Some very significant differences from English can be seen:

Figure 36. Halq'eméylem Terms for Blood Relatives (B. Thom 1996).

Figure 37. Halq'eméylem Terms for In-Laws (B. Thom 1996).

At first glance, the terms for blood relatives look like they are used in the same way they are in English. However, there are a few significant differences. The terms for "sibling (brother/sister)" differentiate between older and younger siblings. First cousins are referred to by the same two terms as are used for siblings. Your cousins, in effect, are considered no different than your brothers and sisters. However, when used for "cousin" the term does not depend on whether the first cousin is older or younger than you, but rather whether their parents (your aunt/uncle) are older or younger than your parents. There is no distinction between the terms used to refer to your nephews/nieces and your second cousins. Your grandchildren, your sibling's grandchildren and your cousin's grandchildren are all, likewise, referred to by the same term. The second generation of relatives below you are all your "grandchildren". These kinterms emphasize the importance given to seniority between individuals, and within generations in Stó:lô society. It also highlights the close connections of the extended family. If your cousins are all your brothers and sisters, every person has a very big, close family indeed. (44)

The kinterms for in-laws look very different from those of blood relatives. They also look very different than the English and other European systems. In English, words for in-laws match the terms for blood relatives: they are symmetrical systems. Recall that the Halq'eméylem terms for blood relatives do not distinguish gender, but do distinguish between generations. The Halq'eméylem terms for in-laws group together different generations and differentiate between genders. The terms you use depend on whether you are male or female. A man's parents-in-law and his brother-in-law are called by the same term. His sister-in-law, however, is called by a different term. There is yet another term for a women's sister-in-law. There is also a unique term for people who are married to your in-laws (ie: the husband of your wife's sister), which is different from the word for the people who are married to your siblings. The kinterms for in-laws shows the importance of acknowledging and respecting the family of your spouse in Stó:lô society.

Stó:lô people recognize their skw'élwés, their child's spouse's parents (co-parent in-law), as an important member of their extended family. There is no corresponding term for this person in English. It is co-parents in-law who exchange gifts at a wedding, and who continue to share food and resources throughout their children's lives. This stretches the bounds of the extended family beyond one's blood relatives and in-laws, to include the in-laws of one's children as well.

These kin relationships form the social foundation of Stó:lô society. People use these kinterms to reflect the importance of their relatives. By recognizing relatives as "distantly" related as co-parent in-law, and as closely related as cousin/sibling, people were able to gain connections to many different resources. Leaders had a wide range of family members who they could call upon in preparing for a potlatch, or to help with getting food from very productive places. Common people would be able to choose which leader they lived with (in the house or village) and put their support behind depending on which member of their extended family was "in" or "out". They would do this by emphasizing some of the kin relations while de-emphasizing others. This flexibility in kin relations created a very large "family network" with whom one has social interactions and obligations spiritually, economically and culturally.

Names and Naming

In Stó:lô culture, formal names are given to a person when they approach adulthood. These "Indian names" are held one's family, passed on through the generations. Many are connected with a respected and honorable ancestor. For example, Th'eláchiyatel was the name of one of the four brothers who were the founding families of the Ts'elxwéyeqw. Chief Richard Malloway received that name from his grandfather, who was a family leader during the early and mid 19th century. A few years after Richard Malloway died, the name was given to his grandson, who continues to carry it today. Both the senior and junior Malloway knew of their obligation when carrying such a prestigious name. They had to behave properly, so not to bring shame to the name and all the ancestors who carried it. Names are not always passed along every second generation like the example given here, but this is not an uncommon practice, for the same name cannot be held by two people at the same time. (45)

A name is also connected with a place and to resources. A well-respected person who is given a name in one community may also receive a different name within another community. Having names in various communities allows people to access resources in these areas. A person who is well respected in many communities will have several names. This has been explained by Sonny McHalsie: (46)

An example is my great great-grandfather from Yale. He had a name in Yale, and attached to that name were certain rights, such as where he could fish, where he could go gather berries, and his position in the longhouse. The main emphasis was his access to resources. He also had a name at Semyó:me, and a name across in Duncan. So whenever he went to those places, using his Yale name was useless, especially when he was trying to get access to resources. But having a local name allowed him access to the resources. Those names also had to stay within the locality of their origin. When he moved from Yale to Ruby Creek, he had to host a gathering to pass his name onto his youngest son.

When a person receives a name, their family will host a ceremony to publicly present the name. Family members, friends, and acquaintances are invited to witness the event. At the turn of the last century, local ethnographer Charles Hill-Tout described a traditional naming ceremony. The description he provides varies slightly from those which are practiced today. (47)

Titular names were bestowed upon their bearers only when they had reached and passed the age of puberty. To show the way in which this was generally done let us suppose a nobleman of standing has a son fifteen or sixteen years of age, on whom he desires to bestow one of the family names or titles. He first goes to the chief..., informs him of his desire and secures his acquiescence and promise of assistance. A date is then fixed for the event and invitations are sent to the neighboring tribes. On the day appointed for the ceremony great numbers of guests come in from the friendly villages around, some also coming from distant settlements if the giver of the feast is well known and of distinguished rank. Preparations have been going on for days past to receive and entertain these visitors. Large quantities of food have been brought together by the host and his kinsfolk; the family treasure-chests have been opened and their contents set in order for distribution at the feast. When all is ready the father of the boy who is to receive the name, the boy himself, and his immediate sponsors, friends and kinsfolk all ascend the roof of the house - the pitch of the roofs always being low and convenient for the purpose - and from this vantage point the proceedings take place. These vary a little from tribe to tribe and from district to district. Commonly the ceremony is opened by the father of the boy dancing one of his family dances - to dance meaning also to sing at the same time. This song dance is probably a more or less dramatic representation of some event, fancied or real, in the life or history of his ancestors, perhaps that which gave rise to the name he is going to bestow upon his son. When this is over a distribution of blankets - the measure of wealth of the coast tribes - is made to honor the names and spirits of his family, it being held dishonorable to speak of or even mention an ancestral name publicly without making gifts. The father now calls about him some thirty or forty of the leading noblemen among his guests to act as sponsors or witnesses of the rank his son will acquire by the name he is about to receive. Two elder men, or preferably two aged chiefs, who know his lineage and ancestry, now bring the youth forward and standing one on either side of him the elder of the two proclaims in a loud voice to the assembled audience that it is the wish and intention of the father of the youth to bestow upon him his paternal grandfather's name or title. At this the people express their assent and pleasure by clapping of hand and shouting. The name is then given to the youth after which another distribution of blankets takes place, special care being taken to give at least one each to all the formal witnesses of the ceremony and to the officiating elders. If the father is wealthy he will throw other blankets among the common-folk to be scrambled for. When this part of the ceremony is over the feasting begins.

People continue to spend a great deal of effort listening to their Elders and studying archival records to learn what their family names . Many of the rights and privileges that come with these names are important today. They include access to fishing or gathering locations, the right to tell particular stories, sing particular songs, and use particular carvings in ceremonies.

Social Status

Social status is the amount of respect, esteem, wealth, privilege, and ultimately influence a person has in society. In Stó:lô society there were great differences in social status. Some people were noblefolk, born into families with wealth, good upbringing and community prestige. Other families were commonfolk, who were not wealthy, had less than proper upbringing and often recieved little respect for having "lost their history". Slaves had the lowest status of all people, being the property of their masters and mistresses.

People gained their personal social standing or rank within these classes by their life achievements. Because of this variety in a person's social ranking, it would have been difficult to distinguish between a common person of high rank and a noble person of low rank. (48)

Figure 38. Siyá:m covered with a blanket (BCARS)

Smelá:lh (Upper-class) families had inherited rights and privileges to resources, names, and songs. These people were "worthy" because as children they received "proper" moral training and "advice." Upper-class people knew their family history, which connected them to resource locations, and allowed them to take on privileged names, songs, and dances. The training they received enabled them to have successful relations with the spirit world, which in turn made their lives easier and more fulfilling.

Stítsòs (lower-class) families were considered to have had "forgotten or lost their history." They neither had access to inherited privileges, nor as children were they given the proper moral training and advice needed to be successful. It was difficult for a lower-class person to achieve high status and become a respected leader (siyá:m), although not impossible. If a lower-class person acquired the right spirit power to become successful at hunting or fishing, they might gain enough wealth to hold a potlatch, where claims to higher social status could be made.

Skw'iyéth (slaves) were the property of upper-class people. They were considered wealth, and their labour produced additional wealth for their owners. Slaves performed most of the menial tasks required by their owner's family. Upper-class families acquired slaves by raiding other villages, capturing raiders, or purchasing or trading for them at a potlatch. The wealthiest Stó:lô families sometimes owned as many as a dozen slaves. In most instances slaves were well treated.

Status and Expertise

Some people had personal skills or training which gave them status in the community. A woman who was a skilled weaver would be recognized when her weaving were given away at potlatches. A man who could make canoes would gain wealth and status as people bought or traded his canoes. The skilled, expert hunter (tewít) could provide his extended family with much surplus meat, which also increased his status. People would often gain their expertise through the assistance of a guardian spirit (s'elíya) that would come to them, often in a dream or during a secluded fast. A person's s'elíya provides them with powerful assistance and guidance in the skilled work that they do. Thus, having successful relationships with the spirit world is an important way for a skilled person to achieve high social status. Although being a lazy person (s'ú:met) was never rewarded with high status, achieving status was often less important than the status a person had through the family he or she was born in to.


Leadership was flexible and was determined by the personal strengths of men and women who were the leaders. Skill, knowledge, good up-bringing and respect all contributed to a person becoming a family leader. Each extended family had a "head" or leader, called siyá:m, who looked after most family affairs. It is not a title like "chief," but rather describes the qualities of respect and leadership an individual has. This person was usually the most respected family member. Elder Edmond Lorenzetto described the personal character traits of a siyá:m to Wilson Duff. (49)

A siyá:m was a good man who talked to his people to keep them straight and settle rows. He didn't really boss the people around, that is why they liked him, but all the people would take his advice. He talked to the people, telling them what they should do, when they should go hunting or fishing, and they did it. He had to be a good hunter and fisherman himself to be a leader. He was getting food all the time for his people. There might be more than one siyá:m at a place. They would talk things over. Long ago there was no jealousy in them.

A siyá:m had to exchange gifts with their relatives, be good hosts when receiving visiting relatives from other communities, be knowledgeable about practical, economic and spiritual matters, and be able to resolve family disputes when they arose.

Several family leaders from a village would often meet together informally to plan ceremonial events and resolve disputes which effected the whole community. Sometimes these meetings would include siyá:m from only one village, sometimes from several. However, this group of family leaders had no formal power. They were leaders because they had status and their families respected them. There was no was for their decisions to be enforced. The honor and respect their family members had for them carried their decisions.
Because leadership was based on the skills and personal abilities of individuals, people were sometimes leaders of specific activities. Some of these people played an important role in the spiritual lives of the Stó:lô. Spiritual leaders coordinated the winter dances and trained new initiates to the long house. A shxwlá:m (Indian doctor) used their powers to communicate with the supernatural world, speaking with and seeing the dead, or finding a lost soul of another person. There were also people who were able warriors, providing leadership in times of defense. Before inter-village conflicts ended in the mid-1800s, war leaders (stóméx) brought together the efforts of people from one or more villages in raids and retaliatory raids. These warriors were not usually highly respected for their generosity and kindness, like a siyá:m would be, but were important in times of village crisis. (50)

Figure 39. Dr. Bob, a shxwlá:m from Yeqwyeqwí:ws (BCARS)



All Stó:lô people participated in the day-to-day economic life of fishing, hunting, and gathering. Likewise, every member of society -- regardless of gender or age -- took part in social and ceremonial activities. Children learned the knowledge and skills necessary to become productive members of their extended family. Elderly people devoted a great deal of time and energy towards teaching the young. Virtually everyone had the basic skills to get food and be a sociable person.

However, some Stó:lô people became "experts" in certain fields. A person could become an expert hunter (tewì:t), fisher (sth'óth'eqwi), basket-maker, carver, ritualist (syewíl), shaman (shxwlá:m), healer (lhalhewéleq), undertaker, weaver, canoe-maker, house-builder, story teller, or warriors (stóméx). Such "experts" achieved their position through special training. Some got their expertise through the wisdom gained with age. Most people said they relied on the spiritual help they obtained through their guardian spirit for their expertise.

Figure 40. Selisya, an expert weaver spinning wool with spindle whorl at Xwméthkwiyem. (RBCM).

Men and women were more likely to become an expert in their own area. For example, women often became expert basket-makers and weavers, while men were more often hunters or warriors. Both men and women were story-tellers, shamen and healers. Experts could provide their services in exchange for food or some other kind of property. However, people could not get all their food through practicing their expertise full-time. Expert weavers still gathered berries and expert canoe makers still went fishing.

Family Feasts and Giving Feasts (Potlatching)

The most important social institution of Stó:lô people was the feast. Stó:lô people gathered in their plank-houses and pithouses with family and friends to share food and wealth. Sometimes people hosted their in-laws at small family feasts (tl'e'áxel). Other times the host family threw a big potlatch or stl'éleq ("giving feast") where much food and wealth was given away to the guests, who were witnesses to some important event. Sharing food reinforced the bonds and obligations between extended families and provided a place for expression of social status and spiritual life.

Family Feasts (Tl'e'áxel) - Families often visited their in-laws for a family feast. The visiting family would bring some food that they had an abundance of - perhaps lots of smoked salmon - to the house of their in-laws. The host relatives invited other people from their house or village to share this food. During the feast, the hosts called speakers to "thank" their visiting relatives for bringing food. Witnesses are also called and asked to remember the generosity of their in-laws. The visiting family who brought the food to share could expect their in-laws to return the favour in kind some day. They might get a visit a few months later with their in-laws bringing many smoked clams or some other surplus food. (51)

These regular visits to in-laws gave people the opportunity to share their wealth. Good or wealthy families were expected to be generous in giving gifts in "thanks" for food. The more generous a family was, the more prestige and status they gained in the community. Importantly, these feasts served as a sort of "banking" system. The gifts of food and wealth exchanged between families at these events brought non-local or exotic foods into areas where they were normally unavailable. For example, a family who lived at Stsewéthen near the mouth of the Fraser River might have access to clams. They would bring these clams (fresh or dried) to their relatives living upriver, for example at Chawéthel. The shellfish would be accepted by the host family and some other food or gift, perhaps wind-dried salmon, would be given in return at a later date. This banking was important when there was a shortage of resources in a year, or if a family wanted to call in their debts for holding a giving feast, or potlatch.

Potlatching - (Stl'éleq) - Many societies on the Northwest Coast are famous for their extravagant give-aways. The Stó:lô held these events, called stl'éleq in Halq'eméylem, which has the meaning "to give" implied in word. Host families would invite guests from many communities to take part in the event. Guests were usually relatives and important people from non-related families. The event was often held over several days, with the host family providing food (which was collected from the host family and all the in-laws they had "banked" with) and entertainment for the people attending. Contests and sporting events were organized. People sang and played slehà:l in the evenings. (52)

Figure 41. A big potlatch (BCARS)


Usually there was some kind of "work" to be done, like a naming or marriage. During the work, families would hire a speaker to speak on their behalf. The speaker was usually covered with a blanket across the shoulder to show the respect the family had for him or her. The speaker called witnesses to remember what happened at the event. These witnesses were given a small gift to acknowledge the responsibility they were being given. The speaker then went on to announce the work that was going to be done. Families made claims to names, announced or conducted marriages, honored some deceased ancestor in a funeral or memorial, or made a claim to use some exclusively owned resource (such as a fishing spot or a song). Families who wished to give their work further ceremonial weight organized the sacred masked sxwó:yxwey dance, or syilméxwtses rattle ceremony. (53)

Once the work was done and everybody fed, the hosts would hold a "give-away", where the guests were given all kinds of wealth. These ranged from beautifully carved house-posts, to canoes, baskets, blankets, to quantities of preserved food, right down to the dishes and utensils people ate from. Selfish or stingy families were not as well respected (or as high status) as those who wanted to give everything away. Of course, those who had received beautiful gifts in "thanks" for attending the potlatch, could be expected to, at some point in the future, similarly honour their hosts during their own potlatch.

Potlatches were also a time when disputes could be resolved. Parties who had some disagreement would make their claims in front of the witnesses called. Other speakers could get up and challenge the claims being made. The party with the grievance against them often had to give away much of their wealth (either right then or at a future potlatch) to make up for their mistakes and reaffirm their own status and worth.


Exchanging of food and resources was an integral part of the practices, culture and traditions of the Stó:lô. Exchange operated on both a local and regional level. Locally, much of the exchange operated through family feasts and informal exchange of goods between close relatives. Potlatches and other large events provided an opportunity to exchanze with people who were more distantly related or who lived further away. A great variety of items were exchanged, from rare stones used in making tools to slaves who were brought far from their home villages.

The Fraser River and its many tributaries were, of course, the major artery for trade among the different Stó:lô communities and between Stó:lô people and their neighbours. However, trails were also made and maintained through mountain passes, providing overland routes to neighbouring river valleys. Stó:lô people often traveled to distant places to visit their relatives and exchange goods, or were hosts to people that came up or down the Fraser River to visit them.

Exotic objects found in Stó:lô archaeological sites provides evidence that items were exchanged over a very wide territory. Scientific tests have shown that obsidian (a rare, natural volcanic glass used for stone tool making) found in archaeological sites on the Fraser River was exchanged from as far away as southeastern Oregon. Dentalia and abalone shells reached Stó:lô territory from the west coast of Vancouver Island and native copper was imported in from either northern Vancouver Island or the Interior. Indian hemp, which was important for making strong ropes, was traded with the groups from the dry Interior. Goods passed from one family to another over these very wide exchange networks.

Figure 42. Dentalia shells obtained from the deep waters off the west coast of Vancouver Island, recently excavated in Stó:lô territory by UBC archaeologists (G. Mohs, 1992).


Raids were generally a retaliation for some harm done to a family or individual, or a slave raid on a distant community. Raids were often initiated by men who possessed the spirit power of the hornet or other aggressive animals. Often their own families were afraid of them. As Elder Edmund Lorenzetto explained in 1949, "the leader of a war party was... a cranky person. He don't care, he's on the fight all the time. Most people didn't like him because they couldn't trust him. If he got mad he killed." (54)

The Stó:lô used their intimate knowledge of the natural environment for defensive purposes. For example, villages were sometimes built on narrow twisting sloughs making them inaccessible to the larger ocean canoes. Wet boggy marshlands around Sumas Lake provided natural defense against strangers, and a giant whirlpool in the Fraser River just below Yale is known to this day as "the protector" because of the way coastal raiders were sucked into it.

During the mid 1800's, the Kwakwala speaking people of southern Johnstone Strait (called Yéqwelhta in Halq'eméylem) provided the greatest threat to the Stó:lô. They traveled up the Fraser River in their large ocean canoes on slave raids, capturing women and children from numerous Stó:lô villages, and killing many others in the process. Although raiding ended in the mid-19th century, as late as the 1940's people still bore resentment against decedents of those who had raided their village in the previous century.

Figure 43. Warriors landing on a village, painting by Paul Kane (Stark Foundation wwc54, crIV-515).

Life Cycle - Birth, Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood, Death

The "life cycle" is the normal course of events which people in any culture go through. The specific life histories of individuals varies from person to person, but there are general trends which can be followed for most people in a culture. This kind of description of a life cycle is intended to give an idea of what life is like for people at various stages of their lives. It documents what roles people play at different ages, and some of the differences in roles between men and women at a single age. However, this kind of description misses much of the richness and variety in a person's life. It tends to be very "normal", and often fails to acknowledge so many experiences people have. Thus, the following description should be taken as a kind of "thumb-nail sketch" of the lives of Stó:lô people in the early to middle 1800's. (55)

Birth - Births occurred in the home with the aid of a trained mid-wife. All family members were required to leave the house while the woman was in labour. After their birth, babies were swathed tightly and placed in a cradle. Prior to the early 19th century, boards were frequently used to carefully shape an infant's skull. This cranial deformation did not physically harm a child, and children would grow up with distinctively shaped heads. To mark a birth, high-status families held special ceremonies where sxwó:yxwey dancers performed, meals were shared, and gifts exchanged. All babies were given pet names and presented with proper names later in life.

Childhood - Spiritual "training" stared early in life. Children were awakened before dawn and sent to a spot in a river or creek to take a cold bath. They spent a lot of time with their grandparents, who raised them while their parents were away fishing, gathering, or hunting. They were taught their family history, moral behavior, and given "advice" on becoming a good adult.

Figure 44. Elder Dan Milo taught Stó:lô history and culture to many children

Adolescence - The passage from childhood into adolescence was formally marked with a puberty ceremony. For a boy, this occurred at the first sign that his voice was changing, or after he made his first kill hunting game. A girl was given a ceremony when she had her first menstrual period. Both ceremonies involved seclusion with Elder family members, who provided them with more formal training, and determined which ancestor they most closely resembled in temperament and personality. It was believed that their ancestor's spirit was "working" with the child. The seclusion and training process was followed by a public ceremony where the corporate kin group would recognize the child's changed status. At the puberty ceremony the adolescence usually received the proper name of their ancestor they most resembled.

Throughout adolescence, people continued their training. They were taught the skills required in life, such as fishing, hunting, gathering, tool making, basket weaving, and carving. Towards the end of adolescence, they often went on their "spirit quest." This was a very important event in someone's life, where he or she received a "guardian spirit" which would help them throughout their life.

Adulthood - A person entered adulthood when they received an adult name. A high-status person received several names throughout their life, often being given a different name by relatives who lived in other villages. The lives of adults were rich in their diversity. The spring, summer, and fall were primarily occupied by participating in subsistence activities, while winters were spent engaging in ceremonial life and fulfilling family ritual responsibilities. For example, many people concentrated on the training and nurturing of their spiritual powers during the winter.

Stó:lô marriages occurred at a relatively younger age than in contemporary Canadian society. After preliminary negotiations between families, the boy was sent to the home of a girl of equal status (usually in another village). His arrival was regarded as an official marriage offer. The boy sat outside the girl's home for three days and nights, and was totally ignored by everyone, while the girl's family deliberated on the marriage proposal. If after three days the girl and her family were in agreement, the boy was invited into the house for a meal. If not, the boy was sent home. Marriage ceremonies were celebrated by a large gathering, and involved a cleansing ceremony which often included masked sxwó:yxwey dancers. Parents exchanged gifts at this time, including non-material items like the right to use names or access fishing locations.

Older upper-class people were treated with a great deal of respect, and listened to for their knowledge and wisdom. They also had many responsibilities involved with the raising and teaching of their grandchildren and passing down of information.

Death - When a person died, they were put in the fetal position, wrapped with blankets, and ceremoniously placed in the family grave-box. These tombs were located away from the village and positioned above ground in specially constructed platforms in the trees. If someone died while away from their winter village, their body was wrapped and placed on a temporary platform until the bones could be relocated and placed in the family grave box. Occasionally, prestige items (which would be of use in the spirit world), were included in the grave-box. Only undertakers who had received specific training and the proper spirit power were able to handle corpses.

Figure 45. Grave posts at Spopetes (BCARS)

Large funeral gatherings were held to mourn the deceased. At these ceremonies, some of the deceased's possessions were ritualistically burned by special spiritual leaders, while others were distributed among the guests. At the subsequent feast, gifts were given to witnesses by the mourning family. The name of the deceased was not spoken for several years after their death because of fear that dead may return and bother somebody among. Family members would eventually pass on the name and other inherited privileges of an esteemed ancestor. After death, the soul of the deceased stayed in the land of the living, residing in the corners and shadows of our world. The soul was eventually reincarnated into some future grandchild, who had many of the qualities or characteristics of his or her ancestor. 

Philosophies and Beliefs - Oral Traditions & Spirituality

Oral Traditions

The Stó:lô expressed their understanding of the world through oral narratives. These traditions were key to knowing who a person was and how they fit into the physical, social, and spiritual world. Oral narratives took two distinct forms -- sqwélqwel, "true stories or news," and sxwxwiyám, "stories from the Transformer period." Sqwélqwel were frequently stories about a person's life history. They could also be recollections of recent historical events that they or people they knew would recall. Sxwxwiyám are often referred to as "legends." Sxwxwiyám relate a great number of stories from the mythical past when the world was different, and humans and animals transformed back and forth. These are the stories of the Mink, Beaver, Mouse, Frog, Skunk, Crane, and other characters. During this age the Xexá:ls, the Transformers (referred singularly as Xá:ls), traveled through the land permanently transforming these legendary beings into rocks and animals, creating the world as it exists today. These stories embodied the teachings, history, knowledge and collective wisdom of Stó:lô culture. (56)


Stó:lô people are taught to respect the spirit world and everything on earth. Teachings also emphasize the importance of giving respect to other people's beliefs. Stó:lô spirituality takes many forms. Today, it is most formally expressed in the winter dance ceremony. Many hundreds of Stó:lô people participate in the winter dance, which is held in plank house-style buildings commonly called "smokehouses." (57)

Figure 46. Smokehouse at Sq'ewqéyl, photo by Brian Thom, 1994.

Becoming a winter dancer involves a lifetime commitment and dedication to spiritual beliefs. As such, it is taken very seriously, and not everyone becomes a "dancer." Once committed to leaving their old lives behind, they are under the care and guidance of a spiritual leader for the duration of the winter season. New dancers spend the first few weeks secluded in a "tent" made of blankets, and most of their time praying, fasting, and connecting with the spirit. Because of their seclusion, limitation of activities, and required special training to help deal with their new spiritual existence, they are referred to as "babies." They must be committed to abstaining from alcohol and drugs, and all other "outside" influences and activities. Most of their time is spent close to nature. In particular, much of the daytime is spent in the mountains, beginning with a bath and then meditating, and walking in the woods and along the streams. The rest of the time they stay in the smokehouse, and at times, traveling to other smokehouses to sing, dance, and learn from their Elders. After receiving their song, when the song and spirit are new to them, they require constant guidance and training by more experienced dancers about the proper way to care for and understand "what they have." For the remaining season, new dancers strengthen their spiritual knowledge and understanding by singing, dancing, and learning from their spiritual leaders.

In subsequent winters seasons, when they have more experience with their spirit, dancers will not necessarily need to sing their song every night, but they do return to the smokehouse to further learn about their new life and assist new initiates. The teaching learned in the smokehouse is about helping one another, and helping those who come to the smokehouse to understand more about the spiritual teachings of our Elders and how to put these teachings into everyday living.

Stó:lô Traditional Culture Today and in the Future

This short "ethnography", or account of traditional Stó:lô culture does little to demonstrate the vibrant culture of people today. We may ask, "are Stó:lô people still living as they did 200 years ago?", "have the Stó:lô assimilated into Canadian society?" A visit to an Indian reserve or a look through any local newspaper will answer "no" to both these questions. The culture is neither static nor unchanged. Stó:lô cultural practices continue to shift and change while at the same time Stó:lô traditions provide a strong link with the land and the past. Present-day Stó:lô leaders are providing direction for the future that is based upon their traditional culture. They are trying to re-create healthy communities, to restore cultural values, and to promote the rights and freedoms that Aboriginal people have been guaranteed under the Canadian Constitution. Stó:lô traditional culture continues to provide a way for Stó:lô people to understand and live in the contemporary world. (58)

Suggested Reading:

Pamela Amoss Coast Salish Spirit Dancing: The Survival of an Ancestral Religion. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978).

Geraldine Appleby Tsawwassen Legends. unpublished typescript (Vancouver: U.B.C. Special Collections, 1961).

Homer Barnett The Coast Salish of British Columbia. Studies in Anthropology 4 (Eugene: University of Oregon Press, 1955).

Homer Barnett "The Coast Salish of Canada" American Anthropologist 1939 40:118-141.

Crisca Bierwert Tracery in the Mistlines: A Semiotic Account of Sto:lo Culture. PhD Dissertation, (Seattle: University of Washington 1986).

Franz Boas "The Indian Tribes of the Lower Fraser River", Report of the 64th Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1894, Pp. 454-463.

Franz Boas, Indian Myths and Legends from the North Pacific Coast of America. Translated from Verhandlungen der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte. by Dietrich Bertz, edited by Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy (Victoria: B.C. Indian Language Project, 1982 (1895)).

Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy "Tsawwassen Ethnography and Ethnohistory" in Archaeological Investigations at Tsawwassen, B.C. edited by Arcas Consulting (Port Coquitlam: Arcas Consulting Ltd, 1991).

Helen Codere "The Swai'xwe Myth of the Middle Fraser River: The Integration of two Northwest Coast Cultural Ideas", Journal of American Folklore 1948 61(239):1-18.

Wilson Duff, The Upper Stalo Indians of the Fraser Valley, British Columbia. (Victoria: British Columbia Provincial Museum, 1952).

Norman Feder "Incised Relief Carving off the Halkomelem and Straits Salish" American Indian Art Magazine 1983 8(2):46-53.

Brent Galloway "An Upriver Halkomelem Mink Story: Ethnopoetics and Discourse Analysis", Papers for the 31st International Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages, Vancouver 1996.

Brent Galloway A Grammar of Upriver Halkomelem. Publications in Linguistics 96 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).

Brent Galloway, Albert Phillips and Coqualeetza Elders Group "Stó:lô Geographical Place Names File", unpublished ms. (Sardis: Stó:lô Nation Archives, 1976-1979).

Brent Galloway Upper Stó:lô Ethnobotany. (Sardis: Coqualeetza Education Training Center, 1982)

Brent Galloway Tó:lméls ye Siyelyólexwa: Wisdom of the Elders (Sardis: Coqualeetza Education Training Center, 1980).

Paula Gustafson Salish Weaving. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1980).

Charles Hill-Tout "Curious and Interesting Marriage Customs of Some of the Aboriginal Tribes of British Columbia", American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal 1902 24:85-87.

Charles Hill-Tout The Salish People, Volume III: The Mainland Halkomelem. edited by Ralph Maud (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1978).

Charles Hill-Tout "The Salish Tribes of the Coast and Lower Fraser Delta", Ontario Provincial Museum Annual Archaeological Report 1905 12:225-235.

Diamond Jenness Faith of a Coast Salish Indian. Memoirs in Anthropology Number 3 (Victoria: British Columbia Provincial Museum, 1955).

Diamond Jenness"Coast Salish Mythology", VII-G-9M, Box 39, F.1, (Hull: Canadian Museum of Civilization 1934-1935).

Wolfgang Jilek Indian Healing: Shamanic Ceremonialism in the Pacific Northwest Today. (Surrey: Hancock House, 1992).

Elizabeth Johnson and Kathryn Bernick Hands of Our Ancestors: The Revival of Salish Weaving at Musqueam. Museum of Anthropology Note 16 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1986).

Michael Kew Coast Salish Ceremonial Life: Status and Identity in a Modern Village. PhD Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, (Seattle: University of Washington, 1970).

Michael Kew Sculpture and Engraving of the Central Coast Salish. Museum of Anthropology Note 9 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980).

Michael Kew and Della Kew "'People Need Friends, It Makes Their Minds Strong': A Coast Salish Curing Rite", in The World is as Sharp as a Knife: An Anthology in Honour of Wilson Duff. Edited by Donald Abbott (Victoria: British Columbia Provincial Museum, 1981).

Michael Kew "Central and Southern Coast Salish Ceremonies Since 1900", in Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7, Northwest Coast. edited by Wayne Suttles (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990).

Eleanor Leacock "The Seabird Community" in Indians of the Urban Northwest. edited by Marian Smith (New York: AMS Press, 1949).

Norman Lerman Folktales of the Lower Fraser. unpublished ms. (Sardis: Stó:lô Nation Archives, 1955).

Leslie Lincoln Coast Salish Canoes. (Seattle: Center for Wooden Boats, 1991).

Lynn Maranda Coast Salish Gambling Games National Museum of Man Mercury Series. Canadian Ethnology Service Paper No. 93 (Ottawa: National Museums of Canada, 1984).

Sonny McHalsie and Brian Thom "Halq'eméylem Place Names File", unpublished ms. (Sardis: Stó:lô Nation Archives, 1994-1996).

Donald Mitchell "Prehistory of the Coasts of Southern British Columbia and Northern Washington", Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7, Northwest Coast. edited by Wayne Suttles (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990).

Gordon Mohs, "The Upper Sto:lo Indians of British Columbia: An Ethno-Archaeological Review", unpublished ms. (Sardis: Stó:lô Nation Archives, 1990).

Hank Pennier Chiefly Indian: The Warm and Witty Story of a British Columbia Half Breed Logger. (West Vancouver: Graydonald Graphics, 1972).

Joanne Schriver and Eleanor Leacock "Harrison Indian Childhood" in Indians of the Urban Northwest. edited by Marian Smith (New York: AMS Press, 1949).

Marian Smith "The Nooksack, the Chilliwack, and the Middle Fraser", Pacific Northwest Quarterly 1950 4(1):330-241.

Marian Smith "House Types of the Middle Fraser River", American Antiquity 1947, 12(4):225-267.

Hilary Stewart Cedar. (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1984).

Hilary Stewart Indian Fishing. (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1977).

Hilary Stewart Stone, Bone, Antler and Shell: Artifacts of the Northwest Coast. (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1996).

Wayne Suttles "Spirit Dancing and the Persistence of Native Culture among the Coast Salish" (1987), in Coast Salish Essays. (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1987) Pp. 199-208.

Wayne Suttles "Linguistic Evidence for Burrard Inlet as Former Halkomelem Territory", papers for the 31stInternational Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages, Vancouver 1996

Wayne Suttles "The Shed-Roof House", in A Time of Gathering. edited by Robyn Wright (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991) p. 212-222.

Wayne Suttles, "Persistence of Intervillage Ties Among the Coast Salish" (1963), in Coast Salish Essays. (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1987) Pp. 209-232.

Wayne Suttles: "Linguistic Means for Anthropological Ends on the Northwest Coast" (1965), in Coast Salish Essays. (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1987) Pp. 248-255

Wayne Suttles "Affinal Ties, Subsistence and Prestige Among the Coast Salish" (1960), in Coast Salish Essays. (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1987) Pp. 16-25.

Wayne Suttles "Private Knowledge, Morality and Social Classes among the Coast Salish" (1958), in Coast Salish Essays. (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1987). Pp. 1-15.

Wayne Suttles "The Halkomelem Sxwayxwey", American Indian Art Magazine 1982 8(1):56-65.

Wayne Suttles "Productivity and its Constraints - A Coast Salish Case" (1987,) in Coast Salish Essays. (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1987) Pp. 100 - 136.

Wayne Suttles "Central Coast Salish Subsistence" Northwest Anthropological Research Notes 1990 24(2):147-152.

Wayne Suttles "Central Coast Salish", in Handbook of North American Indians Volume 7, Northwest Coast. Edited by Wayne Suttles. (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990).

Wayne Suttles Katzie Ethnographic Notes. Anthropology in British Columbia Memoir 3 (Victoria: Royal British Columbia Museum, 1955).

James Tait "Tales from the Lower Fraser River", in Folk-Talkes of the Salishan and Sahaptin Tribes. edited by Franz Boas (New York: American Folk-Lore Soceity, 1917).

Brian Thom in collaboration with Edna and Frank Malloway, "Telling Stories: the Life History of Chief Richard Malloway." unpublished ms. (Sardis: Stó:lô Nation and U.B.C. Department of Anthropology and Sociology, 1994).

Kevin Washbrook An Introduction to the Ethnobotany of the Stó:lô People In the Area between New Westminister and Chilliwack on the Fraser River. unpublished ms. (Sardis: Stó:lô Nation Archives, 1995).

Ellen Webber "An Old Kwanthum Village - Its People and Its Fall", American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal 1899 21:309-314.

Oliver Wells Salish Weaving Primitive and Modern. (Sardis, 1970).

Oliver Wells Myths and Legends of the STAW-loh Indians of South Western British Columbia. (Sardis, 1970).

Oliver Wells The Chilliwacks and Their Neighbours. (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1987).

1. There have been a number of "classic" works by anthropologists about traditional Stó:lô culture. Although many of these writings reflect as much about the time and cultures of the anthropologists themselves, they are for the most part, worthwhile. For specific ethnographic descriptions of Stó:lô traditional culture see Franz Boas "The Indian Tribes of the Lower Fraser River", Report of the 64th Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1894, Pp. 454-463; Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy "Tsawwassen Ethnography and Ethnohistory" in Archaeological Investigations at Tsawwassen, B.C. edited by Arcas Consulting (Port Coquitlam: Arcas Consulting Ltd, 1991); Wilson Duff, The Upper Stalo Indians of the Fraser Valley, British Columbia. (Victoria: British Columbia Provincial Museum, 1952); Charles Hill-Tout The Salish People, Volume III: The Mainland Halkomelem, edited by Ralph Maud (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1978); Hill-Tout "The Salish Tribes of the Coast and Lower Fraser Delta" Ontario Provincial Museum Annual Archaeological Report No. 12, 1905 Pp. 225-235; Marian Smith "The Nooksack, the Chilliwack, and the Middle Fraser" Pacific Northwest Quarterly Vol 4, Number 1, 1950 Pp. 330-241; Wayne Suttles "Katzie Ethnographic Notes" (Victoria: Anthropology in British Columbia Memoir 3, 1955); Ellen Webber "An Old Kwanthum Village - Its People and Its Fall", American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal Vol 21, 1899, Pp. 309-314. For excellent general discussions of Central Coast Salish culture, including the Stó:lô see Homer Barnett The Coast Salish of British Columbia (Eugene: University of Oregon Monographs Studies in Anthropology 4, 1955); Barnett "The Coast Salish of Canada" American Anthropologist Vol 40, Pp. 118-141; Wayne Suttles "Central Coast Salish" in Handbook of North American Indians Volume 7, Northwest Coast. Edited by Wayne Suttles. (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990);

2. For oral traditions surrounding the origin of Stó:lô people see Diamond Jenness Faith of a Coast Salish Indian (Victoria: British Columbia Provincial Museum Memoirs in Anthropology Number 3, 1955). For discussions of the archaeology of the Stó:lô and their neighbors see Donald Mitchell "Prehistory of the Coasts of Southern British Columbia and Northern Washington" Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7, Northwest Coast edited by Wayne Suttles (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990) Pp. 340-358.

3. Duff, 1952 p. 11.

4. Halq'eméylem is spoken fluently by very few people today. Conscious efforts by the government and missionaries to assimilate Stó:lô people during the past century forced many children to stop speaking it while they attended residential school. Although several efforts have been made at language revival, there is a crisis in language today, with the real possibility of the upriver dialect of Halq'eméylem becoming extinct within a generation. The work of linguist Brent Galloway presents some grammar and vocabulary of Halq'eméylem: Tó:lméls ye Siyelyólexwa: Wisdom of the Elders (Sardis: Coqualeetza Culture and Education Center, 1980); A Grammar of Upriver Halkomelem (Berkeley: University of California Publications in Linguistics 96, 1993).

5. A language family is a groups of languages that share a common origin.

6. The names from these languages have been given, where possible, in the orthography used by the speakers of those languages. The names in brackets are the simplified English names for these languages. Éy7á7juuthem (Comox Salish) is found in Dorothy Kennedy and Randy Bouchard Sliammon Life, Sliammon Lands (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1983); Shashishalhem (Sechelt) in Ronald Beaumont She shashishalhem The Sechelt Language (Penticton: Theytus Books, 1985); Snichim (Squamish) in Aert Kuipers The Squamish Language: Grammar, Texts, Dictionary, Janua Lingaurum Series Practica 73, 1967; Lk'wín in Timothy Montler "Languages and Dialects in Straits Salishan", Papers for the 31st International Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages, 1996; Senoen in Dave Elliott, Saltwater People, (Saanich: School District 63, 1983); Xwlemichosen from Timothy Montler, linguist University of Texas, personal communication 1996; Dxwlšucid (Lushootseed) in Dawn Bates, Thom Hess, Vi Hilbert Lushootseed Dictionary, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994); Tuwa'duxqucd (Twana) in William Elmendorf The Structure of Twana Culture (1960) (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1992); Lhéchelesem (Nooksack) from Brent Galloway, linguist University of Regina, personal communication; and Nxws'ay'm'u'cn (Klallam) in Timothy Montler "Languages and Dialects in Straits Salishan", Papers for the 31st International Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages, Vancouver 1996.

7. Laurence Thompson and M. Dale Kinkade, "Languages", in Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7, Northwest Coast, (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990), Pp. 30-51.

8. See Dorothy Kennedy Looking for Tribes in all the Wrong Places: An examination of the Central Coast Salish Social Network, M.A. Thesis, Department of Anthropology (Victoria: University of Victoria, 1995).

9. Brent Galloway, Albert Phillips and Coqualeetza Elders Group "Stó:lô Geographical Place Names File", Ms. Stó:lô Nation, 1976-1979. Sonny McHalsie and Brian Thom "Halq'eméylem Place Names File", ms. Stó:lô Nation, 1994-1996; Wayne Suttles "Linguistic Evidence for Burrard Inlet as Former Halkomelem Territory", papers for the 31st International Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages, Vancouver 1996; Galloway, 1993.

10. Gordon Mohs, "The Upper Sto:lo Indians of British Columbia: An Ethno-Archaeological Review", unpublished ms. (Sardis: Stó:lô Nation, 1990).

11. Diamond Jenness recorded this from Old Pierre and published it in Faith of a Coast Salish Indian, (Victoria: British Columbia Provincial Museum Anthropology in British Columbia Memoir 3, 1955).

12. This was recorded by Diamond Jenness in 1934-1935 and are printed in his unpublished manuscript "Coast Salish Mythology", VII-G-9M, Box 39, F.1, Canadian Museum of Civilization.

13. Chief Frank Malloway in conversation with Heather Myles and Tracey Joe, transcript on file at (Sardis: Stó:lô Nation, 1996).

14. See Wayne Suttles "Central Coast Salish Subsistence" Northwest Anthropological Research Notes 24(2):147-152 1990 for a good description of food and community life.

15. Wayne Suttles "Private Knowledge, Morality and Social Classes among the Coast Salish" (1958) and "Affinal Ties, Subsistence and Prestige Among the Coast Salish" (1960), both on Coast Salish Essays by Wayne Suttles (Vancouver: Talonbooks 1987).

16. Wilson Duff, 1952; Wayne Suttles "Central Coast Salish", 1990. See Hilary Stewart Indian Fishing (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1977) for an excellent general discussion of Aboriginal fishing practices on the Northwest Coast.

17. A leister is a kind of spear specifically designed for salmon fishing, with two barbed side-prongs and a shorter central point attached to a fixed head. This arrangement caught and held salmon very efficiently. Harpoons take salmon by means of thrusing a detachable point into the body of the fish and pulling it in. A gaff is a large, curved barb fixed on a pole used to hook fish and pull them in.

18. The following information comes mainly from Sonny McHalsie, personal communication, 1995. See also Duff, 1952.

19. Jenness, 1934-1935.

20. Duff, 1952 p.71-72; Suttles, "Central Coast Salish", 1990.

21. Sonny McHalsie, personal communication, 1995.

22. Sonny McHalsie, personal communication, 1995.

23. Suttles, "Central Coast Salish" 1990; Duff ,1952.

24. Two excellent pieces have been written on Stó:lô traditional use of plants: Brent Galloway Upper Stó:lô Ethnobotany (Sardis: Coqualeetza Education Training Center, 1982); Kevin Washbrook An Introduction to the Ethnobotany of the Stó:lô People In the Area between New Westminister and Chilliwack on the Fraser River ms. prepared for Stó:lô Nation and Parks Canada, 1995.

25. Jenness, 1934-1935, p. 66.

26. For a discussion of Central Coast Salish Art see Norman Feder "Incised Relief Carving off the Halkomelem and Straits Salish" American Indian Art Magazine 8(2):46-55, 1983; Michael Kew Sculpture and Engraving of the Central Coast Salish, University of British Columbia, Museum of Anthropology Note 9, 1980; Wayne Suttles "Productivity and its Constraints - A Coast Salish Case" in Coast Salish Essays, 1987, Pp. 100 - 136.

27. For an excellent general discussion of cedar woodworking and weaving on the Northwest Coast, with specific Coast Salish examples, see Hilary Stewart Cedar, (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1984).

28. Hilary Stewart has another excellent discussion artifacts in her book Stone, Bone, Antler and Shell: Artifacts of the Northwest Coast (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1996).

29. For information on Salish Weaving see Paula Gustafson Salish Weaving, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1980); Elizabeth Johnson and Kathryn Bernick Hands of Our Ancestors: The Revival of Salish Weaving at Musqueam. (Vancouver: University of British Columbia, Museum of Anthropology Note 16, 1986); Oliver Wells Salish Weaving Primitive and Modern (Sardis 1970).

30. An excellent account of the canoes used by the Stó:lô and their neighbors can be found in Leslie Lincoln Coast Salish Canoes. (Seattle: Center for Wooden Boats, 1991).

31. Galloway, 1993, p. 589.

32. Malloway, 1996.

33. Duff, 1952, p. 47-48.

34. An excellent discussion of plank houses can be found in Wayne Suttles "The Shed-Roof House" in A Time of Gathering, edited by Robyn Wright (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991) p. 212-222.

35. Marian Smith gives a useful description and comparative account of pithouses based on her 1938 work with Bob Joe of Chilliwack and Jack Jimmy of Nooksack in her article "House Types of the Middle Fraser River", American Antiquity 1947, 12(4):225-267.

36. A detailed description of summer dwellings can be found in Homer Barnett, The Coast Salish of British Columbia, (Eugene: University of Oregon Monographs, Studies in Anthropology Number 4, 1955), p. 40.

37. W. Kaye Lamb (ed) The Letters and Journals of Simon Fraser, 1806-1808. (Toronto: Macmillian Co. of Canada, 1960).

38. Xwméthkwiyem fortified house information from Michael Kew, personal communication 1996; Shwx'whámél pithouse information from Sonny McHalsie, personal communication 1996.

39. Wayne Suttles, "Persistence of Intervillage Ties Among the Coast Salish" (1963) in Suttles 1987, p. 209-232; See also Eleanor Leacock "The Seabird Community" in Indians of the Urban Northwest edited by Marian Smith (New York: AMS Press, 1949).

40. Franz Boas, Indian Myths and Legends from the North Pacific Coast of America, Translated from Verhandlungen der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte by Dietrich Bertz, edited by Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy (Victoria: B.C. Indian Language Project, 1982) (1895).

41. It is interesting to note that the "local group" corresponds with the "named village group" for all of the Stó:lô living below Chilliwack, each group having their own stories about their connection to a common ancestor. Duff (1952:85) mentions that the Ts'elxwéyeqw, Peló:lhxw and Teltít "named village groups" do not have oral traditions of being descended from a common legendary ancestor. The Ts'elxwéyeqw recall their connection to four brothers who lead their villages in the move from the Chilliwack River Valley. Individual villages in the Peló:lhxw and Teltít "named village groups" have their own origin stories, (for example Shxw'whámél has a tradition of being related to sturgeon, Lexwchíyò:m has a tradition of being related to mountain goat). Thus, how a community related to the land and resources depended on where a person lived, and the history of that community.

42. Duff, 1952, p. 42.

43. This section relies heavily on the insights of two articles by Wayne Suttles: "Linguistic Means for Anthropological Ends on the Northwest Coast." (1965) Coast Salish Essays (Vancouver: Talonbooks), 1987, Pp. 248-255; and (1960), 1987, Pp. 15-25.

44. It should be noted here that in Halq'eméylem you must always use a marker to indicate the gender (ie: male or female) and the position (ie: present visible, nearby invisible, remote or non-existent) of your relatives. Thus your younger brother who is in front of you would be te le sqá:q "my younger brother whom you see before you", and so on. Having to add these markers to each kin term makes this a very large and complex structure. (See Suttles, 1987, Pp. 251-252).

45. Brian Thom in collaboration with Edna and Frank Malloway, "Telling Stories: the Life History of Chief Richard Malloway." Ms. on file, Stó:lô Nation and U.B.C. Department of Anthropology and Sociology, 1994.

46. Sonny McHalsie, personal communication 1995.

47. Hill-Tout, 1905. Pp. 225-235.

48. An excellent discussion of social status in Central Coast Salish communities can be found in Barnett, 1955, Pp. 241-247.

49. Duff, 1952 p. 80.

50. A good discussion of shxwlá:m and other spiritual leaders can be found in Michael Kew Coast Salish Ceremonial Life: Status and Identity in a Modern Village. PhD Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, (Seattle: University of Washington, 1970) p. 225.

51. A very insightful discussion of the importance of feasting with your in-laws can be found in Wayne Suttles (1960), 1987, Pp.15-25.

52. See Lynn Maranda Coast Salish Gambling Games National Museum of Man Mercury Series, Canadian Ethnology Service Paper No. 93 (Ottawa: National Museums of Canada, 1984) for a discussion of slehà:l and other games played at potlatches.

53. See Wayne Suttles "The Halkomelem Sxwayxwey" American Indian Art Magazine 1982 8(1):56-65 for a description and discussion of this important ceremony.

54. See Wilson Duff's unpublished field notes (copy at Stó:lô Nation Archives, Sardis). See also Duff,1952, p. 96.

55. Another excellent description of this life-cycle can be found in Diamond Jenness chapter "The Cycle of Life", 1955 Pp. 75-85; Charles Hill-Tout "Curious and Interesting Marriage Customs of Some of the Aboriginal Tribes of British Columbia" American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal Vol 24, 1902 Pp. 85-87; Joanne Schriver and Eleanor Leacock "Harrison Indian Childhood" in Indians of the Urban Northwest edited by Marian Smith (New York: AMS Press, 1949) Pp. 195-242; Suttles, "Central Coast Salish", 1990;

56. See chapter "Spoken Literature", this volume for more information. Excellent accounts of Stó:lô oral narratives can be found in Geraldine Appleby Tsawwassen Legends (Vancouver: Typescript, U.B.C. Special Collections, 1961); Boas, 1895; Helen Codere "The Swai'xwe Myth of the Middle Fraser River: The Integration of two Northwest Coast Cultural Ideas" Journal of American Folklore 1948 61(239):1-18; Duff, 1952; Brent Galloway "An Upriver Halkomelem Mink Story: Ethnopoetics and Discourse Analysis", Papers for the 31st International Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages, Vancouver 1996; Hill-Tout, 1978; Jenness, 1955; Norman Lerman Folktales of the Lower Fraser (Sardis: typescript on file Stó:lô Nation Archives, 1955); Hank Pennier Chiefly Indian: The Warm and Witty Story of a British Columbia Half Breed Logger (West Vancouver: Graydonald Graphics, 1972); James Tait "Tales from the Lower Fraser River" Folk-Talkes of the Salishan and Sahaptin Tribes edited by Franz Boas (New York: American Folk-Lore Soceity, 1917); Oliver Wells The Chilliwacks and Their Neighbours (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1987); Oliver Wells Myths and Legends of the STAW-loh Indians of South Western British Columbia (Sardis, 1970)

57. A great deal has been written on the topic of Stó:lô spirituality. See Pamela Amoss Coast Salish Spirit Dancing: The Survival of an Ancestral Religion (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978); Wolfgang Jilek Indian Healing: Shamanic Ceremonialism in the Pacific Northwest Today, (Surrey: Hancock House, 1992); Michael Kew and Della Kew "'People Need Friends, It Makes Their Minds Strong': A Coast Salish Curing Rite", in The World is as Sharp as a Knife: An Anthology in Honour of Wilson Duff. Edited by Donald Abbott (Victoria: British Columbia Provincial Museum, 1981); Michael Kew "Central and Southern Coast Salish Ceremonies Since 1900" in Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7, Northwest Coast, edited by Wayne Suttles (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990); Kew, 1970; Wayne Suttles "Spirit Dancing and the Persistence of Native Culture among the Coast Salish" (1987) in Coast Salish Essays (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1987) Pp. 199-208.

58. There are a number of excellent works which document Stó:lô culture in the later half of this century. See Crisca Bierwert Tracery in the Mistlines: A Semiotic Account of Sto:lo Culture. PhD Dissertation, University of Washington 1986; Oliver Wells The Chilliwacks and Their Neighbours (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1987).

hit counter code