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

​​​Secwepemc Cultural Education Society

Secwepmec Education Training Centre


High-bush Cranberry, Viburnum edule, t’nisellp
All Interior native people used high-bush cranberries where they were available.  They collected them in autumn after the frost had sweetened them and ate them fresh or boiled, in soups and with apples to make jam or jelly. Because of their tartness these berries were stored in water filled containers in order to dilute them. 

​​At higher elevations the subalpine forest covers most of the landscape. Among the trees are open meadows that occur in valley bottoms, parkland areas and on lower, gently sloping ground. Alpine meadows are common where prolonged snowmelt keeps the soil moist all summer. Herbaceous plants, such as Sitka valerian, Arctic lupine and alpine paintbrush, provide a beautiful floral display in the summer months. Moist grasslands are limited, but occur in drier regions where giant wildrye, balsamroot and mariposa lily commonly grow on south-facing slopes. In the moist subalpine climate wildfires are uncommon and many forests are old, with trees ranging in size and age. As a result, the undergrowth is lush, with many ferns, wildflowers and shrubs growing over the moss carpet. 


Saskatoon, Amelanchier alnifolia, speqpeq7uw’i
Saskatoon or service berries were the most important berries to the Secwepemc people; another common name is ‘service berry.’ The berries were harvested in great quantities. The Secwepemc name speqpeq7uw’i means ‘real’ or ‘ordinary’ berries.  Dried saskatoons were a common trading item, especially between the Interior and the coastal area.  The berries were eaten fresh or dried in cakes or like raisins for winter use. The wood is hard, straight-grained and tough, making it ideal material for arrow shafts, digging sticks, spear, harpoon shafts, barbeque sticks, rims for birch bark containers and thwarts for canoes. The Secwepemc placed a grid of green saskatoon sticks at the bottom of birch bark cooking baskets to prevent them from being burnt from the red-hot rocks.  They also lined steaming pits with the twigs. Maple and saskatoon sticks were used to boil together a medicinal drink for women following birth.  In the Secwepemc language, the eighth moon is called “Saskatoon ripen.”

Arrow-leaved Balsamroot, Balsamorhiza sagittata, ts’elqenupye7
All parts of this plant are edible and provided a very important food for the Secwepemc.  In early spring, from March to April, just as the balsamroot leaves began to show above the ground, people dug up the taproots.  The young leaves can be eaten raw or steamed.  The taproots were roasted, steamed or hung to dry and then soaked overnight.  The cooked roots are brownish with a sweetish taste.  In April and May, when the flower buds were still slightly closed, the bud stems were peeled and eaten raw, steamed or boiled.  The seeds are like small sunflower seeds and the Secwepemc dried and pounded them to use as flour.  An infusion of leaves was used as a wash for poison ivy and running sores.

Round-leaved Alumroot, Heuchera cylindrical, legmin
The Secwepemc widely used the alumroot to treat wounds and sores. They also added the leaves to make a solution to bathe sore feet and used to treat diarrhea.

Pin Cherry, Prunus pensylvanica, pekllanllp (E), pekllenllp (W)
The Secwepemc ate the fruit of the pin cherry.  There were never enough cherries to preserve for winter use and they were unsuitable for drying.  There is a large stand of pin cherry along the west shore of Salmon Arm on Shuswap Lake, where the Secwepemc people used to gather the cherries in mid summer. The cherry bark has waterproof properties and it was used to wrap implements and decorate baskets.

Black Hawthorn, Crataegus douglasii, stmuqwallp (E) stmuqwellp (W)
Hawthorn berries ripen in August and September.  The Secwepemc made a popular type of “bread” by mashing the berries, squeezing out the seeds and drying the pulp.  Later, they boiled the berry-bread with deer fat and bone marrow to make soup, or pounded and mixed it with powdered salmon bones.  The Secwepemc sometimes used the dry seedy fruits medicinally.  The spines of black hawthorn had many purposes including probing skin blisters and boils, piercing ears, and fishhooks and game pieces. The bark was used to treat diarrhea stomach pains.  The wood is very hard and fine-grained and it made durable axe handles, dip net handles, double-tree yokes for horse-drawn wagons and digging sticks.

Thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus, stiq'wam (E) stiq'wen (W)
The Secwepemc ate the berries, usually fresh or with other berries.  The berries were ripe in June and July.  The berries were seldom picked in large quantities because they were hard to pick. Often there were not a large enough quantity available and they did not dry well.  The young shoots were peeled and eaten raw or cooked with meat in a stew.  The large maple-like leaves were widely used as temporary containers, to line baskets, separators or as a surface to dry berries.

petse, digging stick

Showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, wupupapqa7 (E) wupupepqe7 (W)
The Secwepemc treated warts with the milky sap. The coagulated latex was chewed for pleasure.