Interior Douglas maple, Acer glabrum
The Secwepemc people used the tough pliable wood to make a wide variety of goods, especially snowshoe frames.  Other items included throwing sticks, bows, rattles, masks, digging sticks, fish traps, scoop-net handles, spear prongs, headdresses and shafts of spears and harpoons.  The Secwepemc wove the fibrous inner bark into twine and rope.

Tall Oregon-grape, Mahonia aquifolium Berberis aquifolium, stsal`sellp (W) sts’el`sallp (E)
The Secwepemc people extracted from the inner bark of the stems and roots a bright yellow pigment to dye basket materials or porcupine quills.  The Secwepemc ate them (although tart) and made a jelly for meats.  They gathered the berries in mid-August, when fully ripe.  The bark and wood was used as a tonic and blood purifier.

Brittle prickly pear cactus, Opuntia fragilis, Seki7
The stems were gathered, mainly in the spring.  They ate the inner stem boiled, roasted or pit-cooked.  The stems were used in soup or mixed in with fat and berries to bake in cakes.  They also boiled the flesh into syrup for use as a cough medicine.When bones were unavailable, they joined two cactus spines together in a V-shape or four together in a cross to make a temporary hook. 

Ponderosa pine/ yellow pine, Pinus ponderosa, s7atqwllp (E) s7etqwllp (W)
In spring the Secwepemc collected and ate the cambium from young trees.  Many Interior people including the Secwepemc gathered the seeds in autumn and used the wood to produce quick, hot, smokeless fires.  The tree was used to remove underarm odors.  An infusion of the tree was used to wash sick babies.  The branches were used in a sweat lodge to hit oneself at the hottest point.  The boughs were generally used as bedding and covering for floors.  The needles were used as insulation for cellars, food caches and underground storing pits, and when dry made good tinder. The wood was good for smoking buckskin.  The pollen was gathered in the springtime, mixed with hot water and as a concoction to color clothing a light yellow. 


Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, qets’uye7e7llp (E) qets’uye7ellp (W)
The Secwepemc placed the leaves on fires to discourage mosquitoes. They and other native people put washed and crushed roots in their teeth to stop toothaches, bathed in an infusion of leaves and stems for rheumatism and used a decoction as a tonic or astringent. A decoction of the flowers and roots were taken as a blood purifier

Common Juniper, Juniperus communis, punllp
Southern Interior natives seldom ate the berries.  The most common use of juniper was as a fumigant, deodorizer or cleanser, especially in connection to sickness.  Boughs were burned or boiled and the strong pungent odor emitted was thought to purify the house and protect the inhabitants from infection and harmful spirits.  They also boiled branches and berries to make a tea which was taken as a medicine for many ailments, including colds, heart trouble and kidney problems.  

Rocky Mountain Juniper, Juniperus scopulorum, punllp
The extremely tough wood has been used for making bows, spears, clubs, spoons and snowshoe frames.  The boughs or leaves were used for medicinal purposes in the same way as common juniper.  The berries were eaten fresh in small quantities or drunk as a tea for many stomach ailments. Some used the "berries" as beads, often interspersed with silverberry seeds.

The Coast and Cascade mountains influence westerly air masses flowing above the central region of Secwepemc Territory. As a result of a rain shadow effect, the vegetation located in the semi-arid valley bottoms and plateaus is drought tolerant. Dry forests of drought-resistant trees, such as Ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain juniper and Douglas-fir prevail. Open canopies allow grasses and shrubs to dominate the undergrowth. These dry forests provide winter habitat for large ungulates, such as mule deer, elk and bighorn sheep. Bluebunch wheatgrass is the most abundant plant species in the grasslands. Other grasses, such as fescues, needlegrasses and bluegrasses are common, as are many showy wildflowers that bloom in spring and early summer. Today, most grasslands are grazed by domestic livestock. On severely overgrazed areas, knapweed, toadflax and other weedy plants have unfortunately taken over from native species.

Kinnikinnick, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, alkallp (E) elkellp (W)
The Secwepemc people smoked kinnikinnick. The Secwepemc ate the berries of the kinnikinnick from late summer until well into winter and even dug them out from the under the snow.  The berries were cooked by frying them in salmon oil or bear fat or by boiling them in soups or with deer meat, moose or salmon.  Kinnikinnick is from an eastern aboriginal word meaning ‘ mixture ‘ and it was originally applied to any smoking mixture.

Metéltwecw-kt Es Knúcwetwecw-kt
"Everyone come together to help one another."

Brown-eyed susan, Gaillardia aristata, sqlelten re ckwtut’stens
The Secwepemc used a solution made from this plant for a dandruff shampoo. The Secwepemc name for this plant means “ little salmon eyes”.

Showy Aster, Aster conspicuous, (s-) qweqw’icen’
Being aware of this plant’s excellent medicinal properties, the Secwepemc soaked the roots in water to wash sores, boils and infections.

Rabbit brush, Chrysothamnus nauseosus, tseptsepqenellp
The northern Secwepemc drank a tea made from its leaves to ease cramps. The branches were used for smoking hides.  The Secwepemc stuffed pillows and mattresses with the cottony, fruiting heads.

Soopolallie, Shepherdia canadensis, sxusa (E) sxusem (W)
The berries ripen any time from May to August depending on the elevation and latitude.  The people usually harvested them by placing a mat tray or bucket beneath the branches and whacking the branches sharply with a stick, so that the berries fell onto the mat. All native groups whip up the berries with a little water into a light froth called ‘Indian Ice cream’.  The berries are rich with iron and were either eaten fresh or dried for later use, or boiled into syrup for use as a beverage.  Berries were an important trade item and are still valued as gifts.  The Secwepemc used the berries, juice, twigs, or leaves medicinally for everything from heart attacks to indigestion, including acne, boils and even gallstones.  Most importantly, the sticks were valued as a purgative.  The name ‘soopolallie’ is Chinook for ‘soap’ berry.  The plant is so-named because the berry pulp is soapy to the touch and ‘soapberry’ is another common English name for it.  Other common names are ‘buffalo berry’, ‘hooshum berry’ and ‘bear berry.’

Big sagebrush, Artemisia tridentate, kawku (E) kewku (W)
The sagebrush leaves and branches were used to make teas for colds. They used the leaves widely as a fumigant and dried as a smudge.  The foliage was boiled and used as a solution for washing walls and floors as a disinfectant and insect repellent. The wood was often used as a fuel, for cooking and smoking hides.  The sagebrush leaves were rubbed together in the palms of hands and sniffed until a headache went away.  As a medicine they used the tea to soak sore feet and boiled sagebrush for eye infections.

Hemp dogbane, also called Indian hemp, Apocynum cannabinum, spets’a (E) spets’en (W)
This plant was the most important source of fiber for interior native groups.  The stems were harvested in autumn and the inner fibrous parts of the bark was removed and dried.  The fibres were separated and formed into twine for a great variety of uses, such as fish nets, animal traps, sewing, weaving baskets and hemp to hold things together.  Because of its importance in technology, it was a much desired trade item among native people. 

Interior Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii var.glauca, tsq’ellp
Many of the Interior peoples ate Douglas-fir seeds.  The Secwepemc made a tea from young twigs and needles.  The Secwepemc obtained a white crystalline substance that forms on the leaves and branches of some trees, known as “Douglas-fir sugar” or “wild sugar”.  They used this sugar whenever they could find it.  The heavy, strong, fine-grained wood was made into spear shafts, gaff-hook poles, snowshoes, canoe thwarts and river poles.

Nodding onion, Allium cernuum, qwlewe
They harvested the bulbs before flowering during spring, from May to July and ate them raw (with the leaves), steamed, boiled, roasted, or for flavoring other foods such as salmon and meat.  The bulbs were also dried for later use.  The crushed bulb was used as a disinfectant and as a poultice to alleviate pain swelling from insect bites

Pasture sage, Artemisia frigida, p’enellp
Southern Interior native peoples valued several species of Artemisia for ceremony and as medicine, for their pungent, aromatic fragrance.  They burned pasture sage to drive away mosquitoes and other biting insects and placed pieces of the plant in bedding to get rid of bedbugs, fleas and lice.  The Secwepemc covered their sweat lodges with sage and Douglas-fir boughs.

Shrubby penstemon, Penstemon fruticosus, segsesegt
A decoction of the branches was taken as a purgative to treat ulcers and to bathe sore eye injuries and aches from rheumatism and arthritis.  The branches were used as a flavouring when pit cooking.

Choke cherry, Prunus virginiana, tkwlose7ellp
The Secwepemc drank choke cherry juice to gain strength after sickness.  They made jellies and jams from the berries or ate them fresh and they also dried them in large quantities for winter use.  They spread the cherries on mats and dried them in the sun, like raisins or mashed and dried them in cakes.  Choke cherries ripen in the latter half of August and throughout September.  The choke cherry wood was used for making handles, especially on root diggers, and the bark was shredded and used for decorating basket trims.  A decoction of the bark was used as a tonic.

Common snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus, no Secwepemc name
The berries were not eaten; many considered them poisonous or toxic.  In several Interior languages, the name for this plant means ‘corpse berries’ or ‘ghost berries’.  The Secwepemc hollowed out the twigs to make pipe stems.  The branches were used to make brooms.  They bound the bushy twigs together in a tight bundle and sometimes tied a long stick for a handle. Sometimes the berries were used as beads for necklaces.

Lodgepole pine, Pinus contorta var. latifolia, qwli7t,
The trees were used to make fishing spears, poles and for constructing their dwellings.  The sweet, succulent inner bark of lodgepole pine was an important food for the Secwepemc.  It can be harvested in the late May or June when the sap is running.  It was usually eaten fresh, although they also dried it for later use.  The Secwepemc used the bark in a remedy for coughs and tuberculosis.

​​​Secwepemc Cultural Education Society

Secwepmec Education Training Centre