This section makes no attempt to tell the St’at’imc story of the Creation and account their own cycle of events, which hopefully someone may create a webpage about someday but that is not this site’s purpose.  The mythical-era history referred to here is all of what might be known or conjectured about the history of the St’at’imc peoples up to the time of “Contact”, either known archaeologically, geologically or interpolated – guessed at – by references in certain St’at’imc legends.  Mythographical history is only educated guesswork so anything said here must be discounted as entirely conjectural.  There is no linear context to what little is known of “the time before time”, only fragments as described (or speculated upon) herein.

Lower St’at’imc here refers to the current Lil’wat and In-SHUCK-ch governments/historical chieftaincies and associated communities, Upper St’at’imc to the Fraser River Lillooet.  Lakes Lillooet will refer to the St’at’imc whose dewscendants are the Seton Lake Band and Nequatque (D’arcy/Anderson Lake) First Nation.
  • The Lower St’at’imc myth of the Great Flood  says that all the people lived around Green Lake (in today’s Whistler Resort Municipality) in the age before the Great Flood.  When great rains began and the rivers and lakes began to rise, a man named Ntanenkin,When you trade via you will understandthat technical analysis does not check the stock being overvalued or undervalued. What actually matters is the past data of the asset that is the price and volume. This is used to predict the future price movement of the security. It is also important to know that technical analysis uses some assumptions.

    who had built a great canoe, was begged by the people to take the children, which he did, floating on the waters with the children of the St’at’imc to the level of the peaks.  When the waters receded they found themselves lodged in the high crack in the peak known as “Split” – Neskato (In-SHUCK-ch Mountain today and in Douglas Trail times as Gunsight Peak).  After the flood they made there home near where Ska’tin (Skookumchuck Hot Springs) is today at the south end of Liittle Lillooet Lake.  All the peoples of the Lower Lillooet are descended from Ntanenkin and his descendants and those of the rescued children, and they spread up and down the Lillooet River from Samahquam and Douglas to Pemberton Meadows, and up the Birkenhead River to Owl Creek and Birkenhead Lake and elsewhere in the area.

The Lillooet River today is green and fertile and warm relative to the fierce alpine of the mountains surrounding it, but in ages past it was filled with a huge glacier which at its greatest extent merged with the great Fraser glacier south of what is today Harrison Lake.  When the ice withdrew, which in this area it must be remembered may be accompanied by torrentially warm rains or volcanic and tectonic events (or, conceivably, all three), the sudden melting of the Lillooet Glacier back up the long trench from Lillooet Lake to today’s glacial till at Silt Lake, 70 miles northwest of Pemberton could easily have triggered massive floods.  Flooding in the same area in the late 1990s  generated massive temporary waterfalls and torrents of gigantic size due to sudden snowpack melt from heavy rain – without any appreciable difference in the size of the Ipsoot and Pemberton Icefields.  An Ice Age-ending flood, conceivably could have filled the valley of Wedge Pass, southeast from Green Lake to Little Lillooet Lake, and when the waters subsided there would have been a totally new landscape, previously under the crushing weight of the ice, or inundated by the ancient lake which once stretched all the way back up to Pemberton Meadows but which has by today silted in (as it continues to do east of Mount Currie).  Whatever Green Lake’s climate was in Ice Age times it could not have been more amenable than the warmer and drier valley of the Lillooet.  St’at’imc people continued to live, hunt and trap in the area of Alta and Green Lakes and Callaghan Creek until the building of the railway, and it remains part of their traditional-lands claim.  Despite the usual line that the First Nations people have been here “since time immemorial”, glaciological history indicates that human time must begin with the withdrawal of the ice.  Concurrently, the same must apply to Green Lake, although the legend at least indicates that it was ice-free before the huge riverine glaciers (or their outflow lakes) withdrew.
  • Native legend of the Lil’wat subgroup of the St’at’imc tells of a girl named Chinook-Wind, who married Glacier, and moved to his country, which was in the area of today’s Birkenhead River. She pined for her warm sea-home in the southwest, and sent a message to her people. They came to her in a vision in the form of snowflakes, and told her they were coming to get her. They came in great number and quarrelled with Glacier over her, but they overwhelmed him and she went home with them in the end to her warm country by the sea.While on the one hand tells a tribal family-relations story, and family/tribal history as well, the tale also seems to be a parable of a typical weather pattern of a southwesterly at first bringing snow, then rain, and also of the melting of a glacier, perhaps the Place Glacier near Birken Lake or the once-great Birkenhead River glacier 10,000 years ago, when most of this region was icefield, and so also tells of a migration of people to the area, (or a war, depending on how the details of the legend might be read, with Chinook-Wind taking the part of Helen in a First Nations parallel to the Trojan War).  It also suggests that the coastal-montane romantic relatinship and associated tribal dispute may have occurred at the time of the withdrawal of the Place Glacier.  The source specifies the Place Glacier over the more ancient Birkenhead and Birken-Gates (Seton) Glaciers which would have receded long before the Place, which is the only named glacier in the Cayoosh Range.
  • In ancient times the people of Seton and Anderson Lakes were mountain goats, sheep and deer that could take the shape of humans, and could leap from mountainside to mountainside across the valley, “and the mountains were closer to each other in those days”.  Today’s Seton Lake Band are often members of the Crane clan.  Prominent historical clans at Lillooet included the Crane and the Frog as well as the Bear.  A reference to the Deer people living over the mountain to the north, in the valley of the Bridge River in four large underground houses may refer either to a supernatural Deer people or to a lost Deer clan.
  • The great slide which formed Seton Portage, splitting a proto-Seton Lake in two, occurred some time between 8,000 and 20,000 years ago.  The Lillooet area was already ice-free in this era, although the Lillooet and Birkenhead Rivers probably were not.  The mountainside may have been unstable because of the steep grades carved the ancient Seton Glacier, which had its origins around Mount Birkenhead and a common col with the Birkenhead Glacier, in long ages past.  Without the ice to support it a combination of the elements, time and the instablity’s own weight plunged it into “proto-Seton Lake”.  The impact wave or megatsunami created by such an event is now known to be on the order of thousands of feet high and would have funneled along the mountain valleys east and west.  At the lower end of the Seton Valley the wave may have contributed to the steep overhanging walls of the Inkumptch gorge and the cliffs on both sides of Seton Lake, and also been the agent by which Seton Creek began to carve its path through the terminal moraine which divides lower Cayoosh Creek from Seton Lake.  As for the people of the Seton valley – which doubtless there were given the antiquity of other human occupation in the region – very few could have survived such an event, either those up in the mountains hunting or berry-gathering or  just gone for a hike, or those saved by freak circumstances involving accidental shelters and wave-tossed canoes.  The level of proto-Seton Lake is indicated by the benchlands on the north side of the lake above Shalalth, and the height of the terminal moraine above Seton Beach (where Hwy 99 comes down out of the mountains and you get the first view of the lake).  Any possibility of an archaeological record relating to times before the great slide would be on that moraine, or on those benchlands.  Much of the archaeological record at Seton Portage, concerning the time since its creation by the great slide, is known to have been destroyed by tilling for agriculture and water-sluicing, trenching and other exploratory mining techniques.  It was supposed to have been a great quiggly village of hundreds of underground houses, their firelights resembling stars when seen from high on the mountains above.
  • .
  • At about 9,000 BP a great slide blocked the Fraser River at Texas Creek, creating the lake whose shores lapped at Keithley Creek and lower Pavilion, and built the benchlands opposite Lillooet and those of the Jones Ranch (the Sheep Pasture golf course) as it withdrew.  The higher-elevation benchland of the Airport correlates to a different, more ancient, slide farther downriver.  Today’s Big Slide on Highway 12, about 15 miles south of Lillooet, is the same slide that once blocked the Fraser.  The great slide which destroyed proto-Seton Lake doubtless impacted the Fraser Canyon and whatever lakes where formed within it at the time of the disaster.
  • So many thousands of years ago, the volcanoes of the upper Bridge River and Taseko areas, and those of the Itcha-Ulgatcho, were erupting, causing sudeen melting of the great glaciers and creating huge ash clouds and lava flows which helped form today’s Chilcotin Plateau.  The Lillooet area was devastated by floods generated by massive lahars pouring down from the still-shrinking Lillooet Icecap, then much larger than it is now, and perhaps opening the Big Canyon of the Bridge River to more or less how it looks today, as well as scouring the bedrock at the confluence with the Fraser River at the Six Mile Rapids.  Pictures of what had been the river’s course before its diversion show a deep, sharp canyon cutting directly into the rock of the shelf which spans the canyon-bottom at that point, from one side of the Bridge to the far side of the Fraser.  Around the same time, an eruption of Mount Brew, immediately above Lillooet, was accompanied by tectonic rivening of the local landscape which helped create the gorges of Cayoosh Creek and Seton Lake, and probably helped open the terminal moraine blocking proto-Seton Lake.  The same tectonic activity may have precipitated the Great Slide which formed Seton Portage.
  • A certain spot at Fountain, near the “great gates” of the Fraser on the gorge below 12 Mile, is by some tradition one of the Three Great Homes of Coyote on the North American continent – where he would habitually reside part of the year with his wives.  The standing limestone pillar above Pavilion Lake known as Chimney Rock translates from the Secwepemc language as a reference to the great Trickster’s primary genital apparatus.  Coyote’s domain in the world ended at the foot of Seton Lake, where he and the Transformers had met to divide the duties of correcting the World between them, and the world of the Fraser Canyon is entirely Coyote’s as far south as somewhere between Boston Bar and Spuzzum (maybe at Hell’s Gate), where a similar meeting with the Transformers took place at the end of their journey up that river.
  • In the Seton valley, there is a legend that “long ago, someone came through the valley who was so good, people say he was God.”  This tantalizing scrap of legendary tradition has little else attached to it, except that the man spoken of was very holy and instructed people to be good.  Needless to say, the Oblate missionaries seized on this tradition, as was the case with native “prophets” and prophecies elsewhere in BC, to aid in Conversion efforts.  What may be of interest to cross-reference, by contrast, is the story of Hua Shen, the Buddhist monk from Jilin (Kabul, Afghanistan) who is said to have travelled to the New World in the 6th Century A.D. as part of a company of missionary monks financed by the Chinese Emperor.  This isn’t to say this story was not a reference to some Sioux or Inuit holy man, or even the being who became known farther south as Quetzalcoatl, and the mounting evidence that Irish monks and Norse skalds (scholarly poets of the pagan tradition) migrated as individuals to North America suggests another, remoter, set of possibilties.  The myth is known not to refer to the Transformers or to Coyote or other beings in the usual St’at’imc mythical universe.
  • The Transformers’ journey through the land of the Lower St’at’imc and Lakes Lillooet can be told in considerable detail, but mytho-historically, other than their meeting with Coyote at Seton Lake, the other event of import was in the Poole Creek area of the Gates Valley just southwest of Birken Lake.  There the Transformers were accompanied by the Lower St’at’imc, the Lil’wat, when they were met by an emissary to the Transformers coming from the Fraser River Lillooet, bringing dried salmon and seeking to trade for spatsum (the name-source of Spuzzum), the reed used in basket-making.  One of the Transformers stamped his foot in a large stone at the spot, and declared that this would divide the country of the Fraser River people from that of the Lower Lillooet, but that they would be one people and meet here to trade salmon and spatsum.  The stone exists to this day, although it is on private property and not open to the public, and remains the traditional boundary-point between the division of the St’at’imc into Upper and Lower.  The older terms, prior to the naming of the town of Lillooet in January 1860, were more specific – St’at’imc and Lil’wat, but with the application of the latter’s name to the town where the former were traditionally concentrated required an agreement between the chiefs.  The situation that has arisen is that the longtime English name for their mutual political organization is the Lillooet Tribal Council, aka the St’at’imc Nation, and the Lil’wat are also known as the Lower St’at’imc.  Culturally those terms apply to non-member nations of the Lillooet Tribal Council, also, although Lil’wat refers specifically to the Mount Currie people and their location..



The “Contact” era for the purposes of this article is defined by Simon Fraser’s visit to the Upper St’at’imc in 1808.  The St’at’imc world was largely untouched and uncontacted further by non-natives until a few years before the gold rush of 1858, with only transits of the area by other HBC employees in 1828 and 1842 (Anderson).  In working terms some of the events described predate Fraser’s visit – or are rather contemporaneous to it – but the term “Contact” predisposes actual visitation and absorption into the so-called “civilized world” as represented on maps.  For technical purposes, even though he came nowhere near the Lillooet Country, the 1793 trip to Bella Coola via the West Road River by Alexander Mackenzie may be a better definition of the Contact period.

The Lillooet, both upper and lower, were some of the most hard-pressed of all native peoples in BC and, as observed by ethnologist James Teit, there was a Lillooet/Stl’atl’imx slave in almost every community in British Columbia, even among the distant Haida, Tlinkit and Kutenai.  This seems surprising given the apparent isolation of their home valleys, but their location next to warlike neighbouring peoples left them prey to attack, as they had no regular tradition of warfare of their own and lived in widely-disperesed mountain communities.  They were attacked by the Euclataws, who came in over the pass from Toba Inlet, where Lillooet people sometimes wintered (they were the only Interior Salish people to regularly frequent the Coast, if only at this spot), and it is likely via that raiding route that slaves wound up in Haida Gwaii.  The Squamish also raided the Lillooet, and there was some conflict over the hunting and fishing country in the upper Cheakamus which was frequented by people of both nations.  By historic times the two peoples were on good terms, as was also the case with the Chehalis and Sto:lo people, who sometimes had raided up Harrison Lake to attack the people of the lower Lillooet River.  Still, according to Lunden-Brown, it was only with the security brought by the gold rush that the Stl’atl’imx of the Lower Lillooet began to live at Douglas, althoug htheir absence from there in the interim may not have to do with the Chehalis, but (as we shall see) the Nlaka’pamux.  But that is towards the end of our tale, not at its start.

The timeline of relatively modern history in the Lillooet Country begins some time in the years before Simon Fraser came down the Canyon in pursuit of the river’s mouth into the sea.  Warfare against the Lillooet by neighbouring peoples to the east was fully underway at the time of Fraser’s visit, noting as he did that their main encampment was fortified and they were heavily armed, and agitated that Fraser’s native companion, a Shuswap or Chilcotin.  The identity of Fraser’s Atnah people has never been confirmed; they may be the Canyon Shuswap, who were allied with the Chilcotin but also not directly allied to the mainstream Shuswap (Secwepemc) of the Cariboo plateau and Thompson-Shuswap Country.  Fraser’s guide disavowed membership in the enemies of the “Askettih” (the band of Lillooets they met, as they recorded the name; this may be the Lillooet chiefly name Retaskit but that was not a placename; but translation between Fraser and his men and their guide and the guide with the Stl’atl’imx cannot have been precise, and it may be that the chief’s name was understood as the name of the village – or rather the fortress, as it was better described.  By the sound of Fraser’s account the Lillooets were not at war with the Thompsons at the time, so it is around that time that one of the great wars against the Lillooet, by the Shuswap, was in its last stages, or perhaps only recently over.

The war in question is described in some detail in Lunden-Brown’s transcriptions of Lil’wat-Ska’tin oral histories.  The Shuswaps, apparently those of the Adams Lake area in league with those from the Quesnel River, attacked the Lakes Lillooet suddenly and even thrust through the Gates Valley in the Lillooet River, either enslaving the Stl’atl’imx and Lil’wat or driving them into the hills.  The war may be the same as that alluded to in Teit’s history of the Okanagan peoples, in which a chief of the Interior peoples responds with umbrage to denials by the Chief of the Lakes (which may mean either the Lakes Lillooet or the Sinixt of the Arrow Lakes) that there were no such thing as white people, that the chief was lying to the council.  Oaths were sworn, and soon after they descended on the people of the Lakes at night, cutting their population to a tenth.  The Teit story has no connection to the Adams Lake or Quesnel River people, and it is not clear if the Bonaparte were among  the raiding parties.  For over a dozen years the Shuswap occupied the warm valleys of the Lillooet with its rich salmon runs and hunting and berry patches and wild edibles, so much more benign than their own high, cold plateau country.  Finally those people of the Lower Lillooet who had remained free, some of whom had taken refuge in the upper Lillooet River, or farther down towards Lillooet Lake, or in the Green River country where Whistler is now, began to train their youths spiritually and physically for the seemingly-impossible war to retake their homeland from the Shuswap.  A campaign of guerilla warfare and terror tactics was launched, as were artificial floods and other calamities brought down on the Shuswap by two, as the story goes, Lil’wat youths who had been raised to the task at the great hot springs at Meager Creek, and the other at Teiq, near Pemberton Meadows.  At their wits end by the deadly harrassment brought upon them by the two youths, the Shuswap begged for parley and agreed to withdraw.  The Lil’wat demanded they withdraw entirely beyond the Fraser, and so also the people of the Lakes and the west shore of the Fraser, the town of Lillooet and the three main Lillooet reserves, were freed from Shuswap domination.  At the time of Fraser’s and Anderson’s journey through the Canyon, though unbeknownst to either of those outsiders, the natives living on the east side of the Fraser in this area were Shuswap until the time of the gold rush, although much intermarriage had taken place between the two peoples, who were peaceful by then.  The people of Pavilion have always been of mixed blood, and are related to the Bonapartes as well as the Canyon Shuswap, and Fountain is a community drawn from all parts of Stl’atl’imx country as well as from Shuswap country, though fully Stl’atl’imx-ized culturally and politically.  Most native placenames on the east side of the Fraser north of Laluwissen (which is a Nlaka’pamux word; the place is roughly opposite Nesikep) are Shuswap, increasingly so towards and around Pavilion.

Some time in the same era, either before or after (but probably after), the benighted Nlaka’pamux of the Fraser Canyon and Cole Harris’ writings, who came over the rugged spine of the Lillooet Ranges to attack the Lower Lillooet River communities, even attacking Lil’wat (Mount Currie).  Many people were killed, and many enslaved, and the Lower Lillooet were weakened greatly by this, although they had successfully driven off the Nlaka’pamux as had the people of the Upper Lillooet River and Gates Valley long before.  The people of the Lillooet used the thick forest that was their home to great advantage against the Nlaka’pamux, who were used to open pine country, and also used tactics involving ambushes using the river, which is strong and dangerous everywhere between Tenas Lake and Harrison Lake.  This was not supposed to have been much before the gold rush, as there were those Lunden-Brown interviewed who had lived through the experience, which was a harrowing one.  Nlaka’pamux and Lil’wat-Ska’tin peoples have long since reconciled, although the first formal arrangement between them was joint patronage and custody of the Stein Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park between Lytton and Mount Currie.  Even in David Spintlum’s time, though, the Nlaka’pamux concept of the world had two of its corner-posts at Lillooet and Cache Creek – in Stl’at’imx and Bonaparte country, and both locations which the Nlaka’pamux had waged war against, attacking the communities of present-day Lillooet simultaneous with their attack on the Lower Lillooet River peoples.

The most famous war known to non-readers of obscure ethnographers and diarists, however, is the great war of the Chilcotins upon the Lillooet.  Apparently from the same period as the horrific attack on the Carrier people at Chinlac, the opening of the war was too much like that incident in its suddenness and bloodthirstiness.  The first victims were the then-large Lakes Lillooet community on the Blackwater River (Blackwater Creek on some maps), which flows into the Gates River from the low pass leading to the head of Birkenhead Lake..  The Chilcotins came over the pass at night and killed everybody who could not escape, spitting the children like lambs on spits and devouring the hearts of adults alive.  Other attacks on the Anderson and Seton Lake communities, Lillooet and the Bridge River people, the Pemberton Meadows people, the Lil’wat and even the people of the lower Lillooet River at Skookumchuck.  The Chilcotins came not to occupy, as had the Shuswap and Nlaka’pamux, but to enslave and to kill.  A dispute over hunting territory in the upper Bridge River basin may have been the source of the dispute which launched the attack, but this has never been proven and as far as the Lillooet tradition concerning this goes the attacks were completely unprovoked.  Once again the people of the Lil’wat/Lillooet and the Lakes rallied, and prepared a mountain campaign of retribution and revenge upon the Chilcotin.  Details of the war are not known except that it went on for many years, until ultimately the Lillooets came across an encampment of the Chilcotin, somewhere in the Big Creek country (about 50 miles north of Gold Bridge) and killed them all, except one to send the message home that the war must end.  The location of this attack is supposed to have been Graveyard Valley near Lorna Lake and the head of Relay Creek, due to the presence of some graves there, but this has not been proven.

One oral tradition has it that the leader of this attack, and the broker of the peace with the Chilcotin, was none other than Chief Hunter Jack of D’Arcy and Shalalth.  This makes sense a bit as it was known to the early miners and hunters in the Bridge River Country that Hunter Jack had learned Chilcotin, expressly to help end a war between their peoples, and that he was the first Lillooet to have done so.  The compromise appears to have been a division between Chilcotin and Lillooet hunting territories, roughly along Gun Creek and east over the Shulaps via Noaxe Creek, that shows up on some old maps of the country.  As Lillooet still hunted in the country beyond Gun and Tyaughton Creeks, the compromise appears to have been their right to hunt over into Big Creek and the Lord River, southeast and south of Taseko Lake, and in the country in between, and the Chilcotin could do the same.  Jack was apparently fluent in Chilcotin and knew many Chilcotin songs and dances – signs of someone who had spent a lot of time in another’s culture.The Chilcotin also came to Lillooet in gold rush tmies and on in sometimes great numbers for annual celebrations and horse sales and games.

What is known about the end of the war is that there was a mutual celebration including horse races, games, feasting and several dancing “somewhere in the Groundhog Mountains”, at the place called Many Roots.  That location has never been determined, and it could be anywhere from the upper Bridge basin, the upper Yalakom, or somewhere in the southeastern Chilcotin such as the Dil-Dil Plateau or the Sky Ranch-Hungry Valley area.  One sketch shows the Grounhog Mountains, which were Hunter Jack’s preferred hunting and guiding turf, was in the Dash Hill area north of uppermost Relay Creek, just west of the Mud Lakes pass with the head of Churn Creek.  Another possibility is the Moha area, where one landowner has been told by a Bridge River elder that the land he has he should hold onto because it has great power; it was the location of huge gatherings and dancings and contests and such and was a special place.

It is near this same area that one of Hunter Jack’s legendary gold mines is supposed to have been, at the head of a fork of Tyaughton Creek.  Others say that it was on Marshall Creek, and still others that it was on Whitecap Creek or somewhere hidden high above Shalalth on the mountainside, or somewhere else on Seton Lake.  A hunting guide from Shalalth, Mission Peter, once agreed to take someone to the Tyaughton Creek location but panicked, looking around terrified and urging them to leave, and he never returned to that area again.

A separate but probably related account mentions the resolution of a tripartite war between the Chilcotin, Lillooet and Shuswap that was settled simultaneously, possibly through the mediation of the Canyon Shuswap, who had friends on all sides.  The other accounts of war with the Chilcotin and Shuswap do not mention a joint war, but it is possible they were, if not connected, then at least contemporary.  Or there could be an entirely other war that this other account, brought to my attention by author and friend Terry Glavin, that did involve groups from all three nations.  In that story, the war is brought to an end when one of the mediators proposes the three warring parties learn a language completely alien from each of their own as a way for them to all learn something together; and the rest of the season was spent learning to speak the Chinook Jargon all at the same time, so that they would have a common tongue and a way to avoid misundesrtandings and hostility, and to aid intermarriage.  It is not known if this was the same war as that ended by Hunter Jack’s intervention (and possible ambuscade).

Mohawk princess-cum-poetess Pauline Johnson (Tekahionawake) who visited the Lillooet country, and addressed it in one of her better-known and more legitimately lyrical poems, Song of Lillooet, remarked upon the darker complexion and more angular features of the Canyon and Lakes Lillooet, so very different from the lower Lil’wat despite a shared language, and speculated upon the wars and intermarriage which bred the different bloodlines so evident even to her native eyes.  The darker, copper skin of the Lillooet Country described the Johnson has a simple explanation – the strong sunshine of the country east from Seton Lake, and the accompanying inescapable glare of summer heat.  This may not be ethnographically correct, but comments overheard by the author concerning family lines in Lillooet and Seton relate to greater contact with the Chilcotins and groups such as the Nicolas, whereas the Lower Lilllooet had greater contact with the Squamish, Sto:lo, Chehalis and, marginally, with the Homalhko (Comox) of Toba Inlet..

Two Hudson’s Bay voyageurs travelled through the Seton-Birken-Pemberton-Douglas route that would become the Lillooet trail in 1828, but without charting it.  That was left to the more well-known journey by Alexander Caulfield Anderson in 1842.  Other than those two journeys, and the oral histories compiled by Teit and Lunden-Brown and certain others, little else is known about the region other than the history of warfare and the scarcity that came with it.  Anderson comments on it, and even 16 years later at the opening of the gold rush all accounts mention how hungry people were, one account mentioning how recent wars had brought this about, by reasons of social disruption and, in the case of the Chilcotin war, a reduced hunt – partly because the men would have been away in the hills hunting the Chilcotin in the revengue for the Blackwater, Seton and Pemberton Meadows massacres, and partly because ordinary casual hunting in the rich Bridge River Country would have become dangerous, for the very same reason of the war with the Chilcotins.  Indications are that Hunter Jack (or whomever) brought about an end to the war sometime in the early 1850s, before any records on the area – or awareness of the area – by others began to be written.  Anderson’s notes concerning the presence of a form of the Chinook Jargon in the Fraser Canyon and Lakes Route region he gave to a publisher, but denounced the book when it came out, although his original notes are long lost.  What the story indicates, however, is that in the Lillooet area of the Canyon, at least, Chinook was already known, suggesting that the tripartite Chilcotin-Lillooet-Shuswap war was over, perhaps, or that the Lillooet knew Chinook in advance of the end of  the war (war was mentioned to Anderson by the locals in the Seton area).  Chinook is only known to have come to BC, in terms of docuemnted history, with the arrival of the multiracial/cultural HBC staff transplanted from Fort Vancouver, many of whose wives were actually of the Chinook people but who otherwise were an amalgam of French, Iroquoian, Metis, Scots, and Hawaiian and for whom Chinook was daily speech.  And much easier to teach Chinook to the locals of the lower Fraser than to try and learn the difficult subtleties of Halqemeylem, the language of the Kwantlen, Sto:lo and Chehalis peoples.  It was apparently in use at Nisqually and Puyallup and Colville and other HBC establishments, including Kamloops, although it had not as yet penetrated the Fraser; its presence at Forts Rupert, McLoughlin and Simpson farther up the BC Coast is not documented but may be at least partially assumed.  It did not appear to penetrate the New Caledonia “heartland” (north and northwest from Prince George) until the Omineca gold rush, rather than in fur trade times, since traders apparently had picked up enough Carrier that Chinook was not needed.  And west of there, Fr. Morice was a capable linguist who learned the languages of the people he moved among, and did not need to proselytize in Chinook as would become the case in the southern Interior under the diocese of Kamloops, which greatly spread the use of Chinook within the Catholic native population.

But the Lillooet Country was off  the beaten track virtually until the opening of the gold rush per se in 1858, although there are indications that some HBC staff had abandoned their posts, either to mine gold or to take up residence, in the Lillooet area prior to the discovery at Hill’s Bar, and during the gold rush it was noted that “it was extraordinary how many French Canadians there are about”.  Their identity, other than those known during the gold rush, has never been estabished but some may have been independent of the fur company who followed the route west, upon news of the area’s warm climate and good living, relative to the frigid realm of the Prairies (an old theme in BC migrations).  Another trace of prior non-native presence in the Lillooet area is the heritage of Frank Gott, said to be 65 years old at the time of his enlistment in 1914, whose father was a Capt. Gott and whose mother was Stl’atl’imx.  They would have had to have met in 1850 for that to be the case – but there is no record in HBC files of a trader or traveller named Captain Gott, and there has been no dispute of Frank’s age or year of birth.  The name is either Germanic or French (but not Canadian French) in origin.  It may be that Capt. Gott was in the American cavalry or other military somewhere in the West and found a Lillooet slave and rescued and married her, taking her home to her home country to have their child.  A romantic story if it were true, but the possibility of Capt. Gott having been American is the only vaguely remote one, as there were not even French and German mercenaries within three thousand miles of Lillooet at the time (many would be in the Canyon during the Gold Rush).


As already noted, the Lillooet were often described as destitute at the onset of the gold rush.  They were also known as the Friendly Indians, apposite to their Nlaka’pamux cousins farther down the Fraser who had warred with white men and who were known as the Couteau, or “Knife” Indians.  The frontier-period approximations of the aboriginal names are Stlatliumh and Hakamaugh.  Indications are in Lillooet and through the Seton-Gates corridor that there had been recent war and ensuant famine and social disarray and, likely, population decay – not just decrease from the war, but from the social effects of its aftermath.  No one, least of all  the remote Lillooet people, could have foreseen the scale of the transitory invasion that ranged through their country for a few short years.  They had seen invasion before, but never mass migration by people so alien from themselves or on such a scale.  Numbers vary, but the usual number stated for the migration through the Douglas-Lillooet Trail is in the range of 25,000 – in a few short months.  Natives generally welcomed travelling parties, although some stories of resentment exist in some of the journals, but for the most part natives readily took part in the busy commerce of the route, especially in freight, whether carried on their backs or by canoes.  At D’Arcy (Nequatqua) and Seton Portage, hordes of miners and hangers-on swarmed through the ports on hundreds of makeshift watercraft and a handful of small steamers, as also on Lillooet Lake and even more on the long route from New Westminster to Port Douglas.  In all areas, native communities on the waterfront were pushed aside, especially at the Portage and in the town of Lillooet, where today’s Main Street, the wide breadth of the Golden Mile and its vaguely gold rush flavour, is directly on top of the original main Stl’atl’imx village.  Even when the Royal Engineers were surveying the townsite – at the end of its heyday, after the original “metropolis of the upper Fraser”.dissolved itself in pursuit of richer goldfields elsewhere –
the chief and council of what is now the Lillooet Band (T’it’kt), whose main village is on the uppermost benchland at Lillooet now.  The RE had launched their survey atop where the town had grown – no doubt as miners wound up living in and buying out native residences or spaces in the Main Street area; the gold rush era town must have been much more haphazard, and the wide breadth of the road, ready for wagon trains, was an invention of the Engineers.  Actual commencement on the Alexandria Road via the Upper Fountain and Pavilion Mountain had to be launched on the farther side of  the river anyway, at the Bridge River or opposite Miller’s Ferry.At Seton Portage, the ancient quiggly village that spanned the short two kilometres was destroyed as miners tilled over the ground and water-sluiced it, and traversed across it and camped on it.  At Lillooet Lake it was a bit different; the main Lil’wat community was at Pemberton Meadows, many miles up the Lillooet River, but the presence of the miner traffic brought natives down in greaer numbers to live at what is now Mount Currie.  Similarly, Lunden-Brown notes, as also noted above, that the people of the Lower Lillooet River only took up regular residence at Port Douglas once the non-native people were living there and, he suggests, it was safe to to do – as they would be immune from further risk of enslavement by the Chehalis or others (they were there seasonally, he says, but not year-round).  The arrival of the Oblates in all areas during the 1860s and their establishment of missions at Skookumchuck Hot Springs (Ska’tin), Owl Creek (up the Birkenhead River from Mount Currie), and Shalalth caused a shift in native population patterns, although even by the 1890s the Oblates were still having to convince some villages to move into “modern” style housing (log cabin construction that is very rustic today).  The churches in nearly all communities were built on the village model, where a group of houses shared a street with their chapel, as at Nequatqua, Nkiat, Slosh, Cayoosh Creek, Fountain, Pavilion and, until their destruction by fire, at Shalalth and Lillooet.  Leon Creek has such a church, but its village is long-abandoned.Immediate and further famine set in over the cold winters of 1858-59 and 1959-60, when the salmon runs disappeared and continued to be scarce for years, relative to their former abundance.  They protested, rightly, that the harm caused to the rivers had harmed the magic of the return of the fish, and the famine continued, though abated by the introduction of non-native vegetables and livestock.  In 1862, the depredations of the greatest of the smallpox epidemics devastated local populations and society.  Smallpox revisited the area from time to time in the next forty years but the population rapidly rebounded, though not to pre-gold rush and pre-war levels.  Those are unknown, although apocryphal oral descriptions put places such as Mt Currie, Seton and Lillooet in the tens of thousands; other estimates are much lower.

Of the three principal Lillooet chiefs, it was the chief of the Bridge River Band who openly cut mining licenses and collected taxes, encouraging the intense and profitable hydraulic mining of the Bridge River upstream as far as Moha.  Chinese miners are supposed to have sluiced most of the bench in the area of the Hanging Tree, which is immediately above the core of the ancient village (name unknown by this author), which was about where today’s Post Office and Hotel Victoria are today.  Evangelists – “saddlebag parsons”  – led by the Revs. Lunden-Brown (Anglican) and Turner (Methodist) and succeeded by others, and eventually the Oblates – began ….















History & Culture

This page is UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Please forgive the lack of arrangement and more detailed information, which is temporary. Stl’atl’imx persons who may wish to help me compose this page properly please contact me (replace “_at_” in address with @ symbol). Links to other websites concerning Stl’atl’imx history, culture and politics can be found at the bottom of this page, and please also see the Bibliography page of this website and also the page on the Bridge River Fishing Grounds. My intent with this page is to provide a basic overview of Stl’atl’imx history and culture for non-Stl’atl’imx visitors to this website, using what pictures are available to me for illustration. Thank you for your patience.
BC Archives # C-00919, Indian Elders attending the opening of the Health Centre in Mt. Currie, August 27, 1958, photog unknown 
BC Archives # C-00919
BC Archives # F-03513, Mt. Currie Indian Dance Group, 1950s 
BC Archives # F-03513
Stll'atl'imx Indian Baskets, photo: local postcard 
Photo: local postcard
BC Archives # C-01165, Mrs. Frank Brokaw w. Indian Handicrafts, Mt. Currie, 1913 
BC Archives # C-01165
BC Archives # C-01094, Mt. Currie Indian Baseball Team, 1920s 
BC Archives # C-01094
BC Archives # C-00990, Congregatoin of St. Christopher's Church, Mt. Currie, 1910s 
BC Archives # C-00990
BC Archives # C-01110, Original Home of 25 Mile Jim at Mt. Currie, 1940s 
BC Archives # C-01110
Oleman Family Drying Racks, Skimka, Lillooet (Seton Beach) 
Photo: Unknown (reproduced from “Short Portage to Lillooet” by I. Edwards)


BC Archives # A-02483, Three Mile Canyon on the Fraser, near Yale, showing Native fish-drying racks
BC Archives # A-02483
BC Archives # G-04397, group of Indians near Lytton, c.1880, ph. Maynard 
BC Archives # G-04397 (c.1880, ph. Maynard)
BC Archives # E-01938, Indian Cemetery at Lytton, 1860s, ph. Maynard 
BC Archives # E-01938 (c.1860, ph. Maynard)
BC Archives # C-01165, Mrs. Frank Brokaw w. native basketry, 1913, Pemberton 
BC Archives # C-01165
BC Archives # C-01007, Sports Day on Mt. Currie Reserve, 1940s 
BC Archives # C-01007


Drying Salmon and Berries

BC Archives # I-29073, Lillooet Indians Drying Salmon, 1954 
BC Archives # I-29073
BC Archives # I-29074, Lillooet Indians Drying Salmon 1954 
BC Archives # I-29074
BC Archives # I-29071, Lillooet Indians Drying Berries 1954 
BC Archives # I-29071
BC Archives # I-31909, Indians Drying Salmon near Pavilion
BC Archives # I-31909
Oleman Family Drying Racks, Skimka, Lillooet (Seton Beach)
Photo: Unknown (reproduced from “Short Portage to Lillooet” by I. Edwards)
BC Archives # A-03965 Seton Lake Salmon Weir, 1911 
BC Archives # A-03965   (Photo: F. Dundas Todd, 1911)


Pictographs and Petroglyphs

BC Archjves # E-05605, Indian Carvings on Rocks, Lillooet 1930s
BC Archives # E-05605
BC Archives # E-05606, Indian Carvings on Rocks, Lillooet 1930s 
BC Archives # E-05606
BC Archives # I-29080, Indian Paintings between Lillooet and Cache Creek, 1948 
BC Archives # I-29080
BC Archives # C-01315, "Untitled" (Pictographs in Lillooet district, probably Marble Canyon)
BC Archives # C-01315
BC ARchives # NA-12025, road near Pavilion Lake 
BC Archives # NA-12025

“Kekuli” – “Quiggly Holes”

Si7sten reconstruction at Lilllooet; native pit-house, also called kekuli, or "quiggly holes" Photo Mike Cleven 
Photo: Mike Cleven
Si7sten reconstruction at Lilllooet; native pit-house, also called kekuli, or "quiggly holes" Photo Mike Cleven 
Photo: Mike Cleven
Si7sten reconstruction at Lilllooet; native pit-house, also called kekuli, or "quiggly holes" Photo Mike Cleven 
Photo: Mike Cleven
Si7sten reconstruction at Lilllooet; native pit-house, also called kekuli, or "quiggly holes" Photo Mike Cleven 
Photo: Mike Cleven
Si7sten reconstruction at Lilllooet; native pit-house, also called kekuli, or "quiggly holes" Photo Mike Cleven 
Photo: Mike Cleven


Stl’atl’imx  Cemeteries

BC Archives # E-01602, Funeral at Indian Cemetery near Lillooet, 1920s 
BC Archives # E-01602
BC Archives # I-29069, Indian Grave w. view of Lillooet, 1959
BC Archives # I-29069


Plans & Information re St’at’imc Cultural Centre Project for Lillooet  
Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police Homepage
UBC Museum of Anthropology  Collection of Stl’atl’imx Artifacts
Bibliography of materials on the Lillooet Language  
Abstract of Brian Hayden’s “A Complex Culture of the British Columbia Plateau” – an authoritative work on the ethnobotany and and society of the Fountain-Tskwaylaxw Bands
Artwork by Koskas Billy Dan, a  Stl’atl’imx from Mt. Currie BC Abstract of Thesis on St’at’imcets (Lillooet) Language
Website Project for Historic Photos of St’at’imc Culture and People
SPEC site on native opposition to Melvin Creek ski resort (many links)



AUTHOR’S COMMENT (please read, especially if you’re Stl’atl’imx)

The original version of this page was simply a compilation of what available images there were of Stl’atl’imx life there were in the Provincial Archives images collection, commenting on the activities and localities in the pictures used, plus a few local postcards featuring Stl’atl’imx basketry.  I hesitated to dare write a more thorough account of Stl’atl’imx life, history and culture because, being sama7 (“shama” – white person, alhough the meaning is actually a bit more derogatory than just that), I did not feel it was my place to do so and I was hoping an interested Stl’atl’imx person would come forward to contribute material and “indigenously author” this page.

I finally “took it down” when I got an email from a Stl’atl’imx woman complaining that I had not made it a priority to say that all animals, trees, lakes and mountains in the images depicted were sacred to native people.  Well, it’s not my business to represent or promote anyone else’s religious or spiritual tenets on their behalf, and in truth it’s not as if nature was not sacred to non-natives as well – particularly given my own admitted “spiritual” connections to the Bridge River-Lillooet Country and my particular reverence in particular for its mountain canyons, winds and skies.

That being said, around the same time I was also drawing heat in an online mailing list/discussion group for “discussing indigenous history without being instructed in it indigenously”, as if my learnings from my the non-native elders in my life, who themselves had learned what they knew from native elders who were their friends, were somehow less indigenous than if I had learned them directly from an indigenously-approved (and no dought certified, stamped and sealed in triplicate) “official elder”.  And that my readings and study of works either directly written by “official elders” or those who had consulted them (e.g. Hayden, Teit, Hill-Tout) were not indigenous either.

Short of actually being “indigenous” myself, that’s about as indigenous as anyone can get, unless one limits oneself only to listening orally to those few native elders who might be willing to talk openly with just any white guy who comes up the driveway.  Which, in Stl’atl’imx Territory as nearly anywhere else, is highly damned unlikely.  And besides, personally, I’m known for talking too fast and asking too many questions and having too many opinions to “fit” into the patient quiet of native styles of conversation; not that I’m not sympathetic to theri culture, it’s just I do have a right to have my own.

I think what the complaining person was really on about was that, as was put a bit more bluntly by someone else in that mailing list, I don’t have a right to discuss native history because I’m not native – which is baldly a very racist argument.  It’s also like saying that only Germans have a right to discuss German history and culture, and only Japanese have a right to discuss Japanese history and culture.  What made these criticisms all the more ironic and discourse-deadning was that they were made in the context of a community based on shared interest in the Chinook Jargon, the old multi-ethnic trade language of the Pacific Northwest, which was used by native and non-natives alike – but which in latter-day linguistic politicizing is now considered to be only native in character, with non-native usage not worth studying or commenting upon, except that it was inferior in style, prononciation and usage to the “official” native version (an official version that never existed, and only through the efforts of modern linguists has a “standard” version attempted to be imposed).  That, despite the fact that at least half the known historical speakers of Chinook Jargon were not native, it should be studied only in the native context and its relevance within other groups should be debased and demeaned by “authentic”, er “indigenous”, modern scholarship.  In other words, “it’s ours, and you can’t have any”.  Hmmm – can someone spell “cultural appropriation” for me?  Or “hypocrisy”?

I bring this up because there will no doubt be those who will paranoiacally indict me for “appropriating” Stl’atl’imx culture, but that is anything but my intent.  Most published works on Stl’atl’imx culture are not in layman-accessible form (e.g. Hayden’s and van Eijk’s impressive and highly technical academic works) or are archaic nature (Teit and Hill-Tout) or random bits of native and general local folklore that all have to be tied together to make ordinary narrative sense for the casual reader.  So that is my intent, since no one else, Stl’atl’imx or otherwise, has tried.

A curriculum-oriented publication by the Upper St’at’imc Language Authority meant for schools as a textbook is in print, as also is a much more political but often didactic and not very focussed quasi-legal analysis of land claims by Joanne Drake-Terry, but again these are not much good at laying out “the whole story”.  In the last year or two I’ve wound up reading the frontier-era accounts (Hill-Tout and Teit) in reasonable detail, as well as the various diarists and note-taking officials from that era who give clues about personalities and native life in t hose times.  I’ve also based what is here on certain details and stories in the local histories by Decker (Pemberton), Harris (Lillooet-Pavilion), Edwards (Pemberton-Lakes-Lillooet), Ronayne (Pemberton and some Lakes, Lillooet and Bralorne), de Hullu (Bralorne-Gold Bridge-Minto), Miyazaki (the entire district) and Green (Bralorne-Pioneer, Gold Bridge and Minto mostly).  Decker, Edwards and Harris in particular try to cover a reasonable amount of native material, garnered from their own native sources (in Edwards’ case, longtime friends and store customers), and Dr. Miyazaki’s journal of his years as the local bush doctor give a good account of native life – as he encountered it.

As for my own motives, this site is non-profit and has been anything but relevant to the self-promotion of my own actual career interests and literary ambitions; the site is, rather, a labour of love for the region in which I first “woke up” as a human being, and to which I have returned over and over to “find my source” – to breathe in the mountains, and feel the wind remind my bones of their place on the earth, to soak in the desert heat and cool off in the jewelled waters of the lakes.  To omit mention Stl’atl’imx history and tradition from the overall content of would be a much greater slight, I would think, than daring to render native history as written by a non-native.  If appropriation were involved, as I know has been the case in the US and Eastern Canada, for those attempting to preempt native spirituality for their own use or aggrandizement, I would pretending to be a native, and making no pretense of using the sources I have just listed.

If this isn’t good enough for a Stl’atl’imx Person visiting the site who doesn’t like what I say, or the accounts of events that perhaps they may not wish discussed at all (such as the internative wars of  the early 19th Century, of which no mention at all is made in native-written histories), or not interpreted upon as I may do, then the solution is simple.  WRITE YOUR OWN SITE and don’t bitch to me that I haven’t written out what you would rather see presented.  Don’t tell me what I should have said – say it yourself!  The web is open territory, and you can stake as much of it as you like.  Certainly other native nations across North America have done impressive jobs presenting their cultures, histories and languages and making the world aware of their existence.

I would be only to happy if one day there were several Stl’atl’imx-authored historical and culture sites on the web, and I would gladly link to any of them without any return expected.  And maybe one day there might even be some Stl’atl’imx who appreciate my efforts to put together as much of what I understand of their history and culture here so that non-Stl’atl’imx people might have at least an inkling of who they are and where they came from and, indeed, why they’re still here.  And who maybe might even contribute pictures, songs or artwork to help illustrate and enrich the site for its intended non-native readership.

*NOTE: The Spelling used in the title here conforms to the conventional spelling of the proper name of the Lillooet Indians prior to a linguistic reform of the 1990s.  This spelling is still in use by the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police but the political and cultural organizations prefer to use St’at’imc, as in the latinization of their language, St’atimcets’, that is now official, the <t’> represents the “tl” sound.  This representation is not current in English, however, and the <t’> character even in other Northwest languages can also represent other sounds, so I have stuck with the older spelling so that people not from the area have a clue as to its prononciation.  The final <x> or <c>, depending on the spelling in use, is largely silent, but represents a very soft “stop”.  The frontier-era English spelling of this name, which is fairly close to the native prononciation, is Slatliumh or variants thereof.  This term in those days applied only to the “Upper Lillooet”, mostly those around the Fraser but nowadays including the Lakes Lillooet (Seton Lake Band and, theoretically, the Nequatque/D’Arcy Band), while the native source of the usual English name, Lillooet, is that of the large concentration of St’at’imcets speakers at Mount Currie, who are the “Lower Lillooet” or, as referred to in olden days, “the real Lillooet”.  The name for that community is Lil’wat, the people who live there the Lil’wat’ullh, or as given in frontier records, the Liluet-ol.  (“Ullh” means “people”, sort of).  The term Lower Lillooet Indians (or St’at’imc Nation) includes the St’at’imcets-speaking communities down the Lillooet River towards Harrison Lake, but in recent times they were separately consituted from the larger body of the Lillooet Nation as the In-SHUCK-ch Nation.  The Lower Lillooet also used to include communities at Pemberton Meadows and between Mount Currie and D’Arcy, and in the upper Elaho and upper Lillooet River valleys, and formrly around Green Lake and in the upper Cheakamus (what is now the Resort Municipality of Whistler).