Secwepemc Cultural EducationSociety
Wolf willow or Silverberry, Elaeagnus commutata, sp’eqwey
The tough fibrous bark provided the Secwepemc with an important material for making bags, baskets, rope, and other woven material. The silvery fruits were strung as beads for necklaces from the wolf willow. They sometimes made soapberry beaters from it by tying a bunch of shredded bark on a short handle.
Black cottonwood, Populus balsamifera ssp. Trichocarpa, mulc
The Secwepemc ate the cambium rarely. It is ready to harvest in May. The cottony fluff was used as a stuffing for pillows. The inner bark was used as a medicinal tea. The ashes were used as a substitute soap for laundering clothes. The sticky resin on the buds has a pungent odor in the spring. It was used as an ointment for small cuts or as glue. The Secwepemc used the large trees to make dugout canoes. The wood was used fresh or partially rotten, for smoking buckskin.
When a river rises and overflows its banks, the water spreads over the flood plain and a layer of sediment is deposited after each flood. Over time the flood plain actually rises. Flood plains can be hazardous environments but are extremely fertile lands. In the Fraser River Basin where rivers meander through flat and wide valley bottoms, flood plains are common. Around small creeks, beaver dams create wetland environments of shallow water, sedge marches and willow swamps, which are important wildlife habitats. Moisture-seeking plants, such as Bebb's willow, red-osier dogwood and Nootka rose, grow mostly along stream courses or along the edge of lakes.
Wild mint, Mentha arvensis M.Canadensis, cwecw7u7cw
The mint was used to make a tea to treat bad colds, pains and swelling.
Praire rose, Rosa woodsii, sk’eplel'llp
Beaked hazelnut, Corylus cornuta, qap’cw (E) qep’cw (W)
The Secwepemc people enjoyed hazelnuts and traded them with groups who were unable to harvest sufficient quantities. The wood of the beaked hazelnut was sometimes made into arrow shafts. The fresh branches were used as matting for cleaning salmon on and for sitting and sleeping on. The suckers were used as edging for birch bark baskets and cradles and made spoons from the wood because they have no strong flavor. A hazelnut branch with a secondary twig still attached was sometimes used as a fish hook.
Bebb’s willow, Salix bebbiana, q’ wlsallp (E), q’welsellp (W)
Subalpine fir, Abies lasiocarpa, melanllp (E) melenllp (W)
The Secwepemc called subalpine fir the ‘medicine tree.‘ They used the sweet-smelling boughs as a wash. The seeds were used as a food. The fibres were used to make mats and rugs. The boughs were used as bedding. The Secwepemc pushed the broken ends of the branches into the ground to produce a soft, springy sleeping surface. The branches were used as flooring in sweathouses, after swimming to keep the feet clean. Large temporary baskets were made from the sheets of subalpine fir bark. These baskets were barrel or funnel shaped, with the exterior surface of the bark forming inside the basket and the seams stitched with spruce or cedar root. The bark was used for vessels for cooking berries or soaking skins, but they did not consider them as high quality as birch bark baskets.
Cascara, Rhamnus purshiana, llanllen (E) llenllen (W)
Cascara bark boiled with soopolallie sticks was used as a laxative.
Prickly rose, Rosa acicularis, sk’eplel'llp
The rose hips are high in vitamin C, and provided calcium, vitamin A and phosphorus for the Secwepemc. The rose hips were used to make herbal teas, jams and jellies. The seeds were then discarded and only the rind was eaten. The Secwepemc made arrows from the rose wood (probably prickly rose). The rose leaves were chewed and put on insect bites to relieve pain and swelling. Branches were left in the home after the removal of a corpse to keep the disease in the body. The Secwepemc ate the fruits of these roses, although usually on a casual basis or in times when other kinds of foods were scarce. Rose hips ripen in late summer but often remain on the bushes after ripening, so they can be gathered frozen from the bushes in mid-winter.
Pacific willow, Salix lucida ssp. lasiandra S. lasiandra, q’wlsallp (E) q’welsellp (W)
Black twinberry, Lonicera involucrate, re stq'wlustsin's (E) kenkeknem re stq'wlustsitsen's(W)
Many Interior natives including the Secwepemc called them ‘bear berries’ or grizzly berries.’ The berries were used to dye roots for basketry. The berries were mixed with other plants as an arthritis medicine. The berries were considered poisonous.
Baldhip rose, Rosa gymnocarpa, sk’eplel'llp
Scouler’s willow, Salix scouleriana, q’ wlsallp (E), q’welsellp (W)
The wood of Bebb's and Scouler's willows were used for smoking salmon, drying meat and fish and for making barbecue sticks and fishing weirs. They used rotten willow roots as punk or tinder which could be ignited and carried while traveling. The Secwepemc used the withes of Scouler's willow and others for sewing birch bark canoes and for making cradle rims and hoops. They used strips of inner bark to make headbands and to string edible roots for drying. They also used the strips of bark for lashing and tying. Dolls were made from the inner bark of a willow. The young willow branches were boiled and used daily as a wash to clear pimples and used when bathing to keep odor away. The willow bark was used to bathe babies with diaper rashes.
Cow-parsnip, Heracleum Ianatum H. sphondylium, xwtallp (E) xwtellp (W)
Cow-parsnip also known as Indian rhubarb is still widely used as a green vegetable. The Secwepemc harvested the young stalks and leaf stems in spring, before the plants flowered. Then they peeled off the fibrous outer layer and ate them raw. Sometimes they boiled, steamed or roasted the stems. Several groups in the Interior made toy flutes and whistles out of the dry hollow stems. The large leaves were used to cover berry baskets. The Secwepemc boiled the entire plant in water to make a washing solution for eliminating fleas from clothing.
FLOOD PLAIN GARDEN
Metéltwecw-kt Es Knúcwetwecw-kt
"Everyone come together to help one another."
Western redcedar, Thuja plicata, estqwp
The Secwepemc used the roots to sew baskets and used its wood to make dip-net hoops, handles, drying frames and other implements. The Secwepemc made rough cooking vessels for boiling fish by cutting off a piece of bark about a metre long, folding it and tying it around the top with a twisted red-osier Dogwood branch. The boughs were used for bedding. The long sheets or slabs were used as material for temporary shelters.
Red-osier dogwood, Cornus stolonifera C. sericea, tseqwtsqwalqw (E) tseqwtsqweqwelqw (W)
The Secwepemc used the berries as a mouthwash. The berries were gathered from August to October, although many considered them bitter. The berries were usually eaten fresh, often mashing them with sweeter fruits. The boiled inner bark was used for any kind of sickness or applied as a poultice to sores and swelling to kill pain. The plant was used for weak kidneys, a pediatric aid and urinary aid for children bed-wetting. The branches were used for fish traps and weirs, poles, skewers for barbecuing salmon and salmon stretchers. They also made their sweat lodges out of the bent branches. They were used to make the rims of birch bark and cedar root baskets, to line cooking pits and to make a grid to hold the food being cooked in a steaming basket. The wood is considered good fuel for smoking and drying meat and fish because it doesn't blacken the meat. The bark fibre was used as a cordage for tying and lashing. They stripped off the bark and spliced the pieces together, or sometimes twisted the entire branch because the wood added strength to the rope. They used the rope to bind underwater implements, to tie fish traps, barbecue sticks and smoke house frame poles and as lattice for fish weirs.
Nootka rose, Rosa nutkana, sk’eplel'llp