The Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc (pronounced Ste-kem-LUP-sem t’ suh-WEP-muhc) have occupied their traditional lands in the Kamloops/Thompson region of BC’s interior since time immemorial. Secwepemc culture is intimately linked to Secwepemculecw, their homeland, and to each particular place that supports Secwepemc economy and culture through food, medicines, or timber. Some of these special places, such as Pipsell (Jacko Lake), Goose Lake, the Prayer Tree and Coyote’s Sweathouse, have storied connections with Secwepemc history, ancestors and spiritual beings.
At the heart of the land that is being reclaimed through the title case is Pipsell (Jacko Lake), a spiritual site which is the source of a foundational story for the Secwepemc people. The Trout Children Stseptekwll (Oral History) contains important principles of Secwepemc Indigenous law regarding reciprocal accountability to living beings on the land. This oral history also informs social conduct across generations. Trout from Pipsell and plants from the area — harvested in the crucial period in early spring before the higher-elevation plants are available — continue to play a significant role in the food economy of the Secwepemc.
Yecweminem – Responsibility for the land
The Secwepemc determination to pursue title to their land in court is grounded in Secwepemc Indigenous law and the concept of yecweminem — the obligation to care for and protect land, water and sky worlds within Secwepemc territory.
For decades the Secwepemc have had to contend with a storm of unwanted and polluting projects on their territory, including most recently the TransMountain pipeline and the proposed Ajax gold-copper mine. Mining, roads, settlement, and ranching have deprived the Secwepemc of the enjoyment of their lands. In many places, development has destroyed or damaged the land’s ability to provide for the Secwepemc, or to be used in accordance with Secwepemc culture. The Secwepemc are determined to restore the land to a state of balance, and maintain their traditional and contemporary spiritual practices on the land in the locations marked by their ancestors. Their vision for their land is a healthy ecology supporting a thriving Secwepemc culture and a robust Indigenous economy that contributes to the whole Kamloops region.
Pipsell, the Hunting Blind Complex and Goose Lake collectively comprise a unique historical site in North America. Together, they are a cultural and socio-economic keystone site. This includes not only the lake itself and its Water People and Water World (aquifer) but also special places such as the Prayer Tree, the red-headed woodpecker and chickadee habitats, the Hunting Blind complex and associated grasslands, and Sky World. It is unthinkable that such a profoundly sacred place for the Secwepemc people should ever be dewatered and filled with waste rock and tailings, as the Ajax proposal would have it. The Secwepemc have declared Pipsell a Cultural Heritage Site.