I identify as Sqilxw (pronounced by me as skaylowch (ch like a soft windblow) meaning ‘people of the land’)
Sqilxw because I am from the Fraser/Nicola/Columbia confluences of the Interior Plateau. I don’t think it is appropriate to identify as being one or the other. I was raised Syilx because that is the language that came north with the people and stayed.
I am literally a boundary people. It used to be that when we were in the Arrow lakes we identify as people living in this place. Colonizers said ok that makes you Sinixt when you stay. When we are in Kamloops we became Secewepemc. It didn’t matter to us what they wanted to call us. We identify by who our parents and grandparents are to locate ourselves within the Plateau. They would know I was raised Syilx but still Sqilxw because my great grandmother was Mariette Gregoire – Great granddaughter to Chief Niskonlith and I could understand the changes in dialect within each place.
This is what it means to be a boundary family living in the Plateau. My great great grandmother Marianne is buried at the CCT side of the Columbia river.
Yes my family has been removed from the Arrow lakes – that does not mean I am not Sinixt.
It means I don’t live there at this time.
It means that at the time of North Okanagan contact my family was at Head of the Lake preparing for summers harvest and winter.
We are a forever people. Bound to the rivers and protocols guided by the language of the land.
There are peculiars about our performed existence I am finding when navigating what is and isn’t Sqilxw. Visitor and respectful engagement protocols are articulated through the captilkw – animal stories. They are Sqilxw not just Sinixt,Syilx or Secewepemc. They are Coyote people stories – from which we all identify as being as told in place about how to exist in relation to all that exists within that place in the dialect of that place. They are pieces of grand narratives embellished by individuals through the language, reflecting the characters of that place.
The language is of the land – that means it tells us how to speak of what is there in that place. That is why there are slight changes from north, south, east and west – we are a dynamic peoples – then and now. Imagine over the course of 200 years of eradication we as a collective peoples have been able to hang on to core language principals simply by remaining in place and visiting with each other.
The living beings are represented in the characters of the captilkw. Sometimes they are animals, sometimes they are elements, sometimes they are insects. These stories dictate the natural order of things in the place they are told about the reality of that place.
If you knew the Syilx version of How Food Was Given you would recognize Fly as being a necessary but annoying part of bringing Black bear back to life after sacrificing self for the people to be. The People to be are Us today. We all have our roles and our time within each role.
Everyone gets annoyed with Fly and just tries to swat them away. No one wants to listen to what Fly has to say because of Fly’s approach.
In the field of natural science what is the role of a fly?
We are attached to place and thats good. There’s lots of good work still to be done. We are all colonized peoples, trying to decolonize means letting go of the self identifying labels of our oppression. When you look at the maps of the Plateau since cartography came, they try to separate us into neat little lines on paper representing land. They don’t map the marriage patterns as being indicators of coexistance, but rather evidence of boundary, they don’t map the food migration, they don’t map the gathering places where peaceful resolution is formed. They don’t map why the people stayed in these places and how families maintain their connections. Instead they left the woman stories out of history in an effort to force forgetfulness to our connections.
They just try to divide us, call us different names and let us fight amongst ourselves as we try to identify for them.