The story below is compiled from various sources including James Teit and Ron and Marianne Ignace.
Weyt-kp, le7 te sr7alt! Carl Archie ren skwewkst. Te Government Transition Advisor te S7elkstwen. Ell Te tkwenme7iple7ten te Tsqescen ri7. Le7 ren pupsmen es wiktelmen xwexweytep ne7elye ne cplulkwten te slexlexeyem ri7.
So I like to spend time reading about Secwepemc history. One of the things I came across was the name of Canim Lake in James Teit’s book called “The Shuswap” he wrote in 1909. In it he said he learned from the Canim Lake people that the name for the Canim Lake is “Kolila”. I got to thinking about where this came from and what it means.
We know it as “Canim” today which is actually a chinook word. It means canoe. The Chinook language is a trade language which was spoken by tribes on the west coast of North America. It has some really interesting ties to the Tsqescen people.
But I was really interested in the name Kolila and what that was all about. I learned that it is the name of a plant called hog fennel , biscuit root, or indian carrot. It’s an important staple food of interior people. Elder Nellie Taylor of Skeetchestn said that Qweqwile is used as a prenatal vitamin to make sure babies are born healthy. Other people use it as a fertility medicine. I’ve seen this plant grow on the shores of the Canim Lake.
But I thought to myself there has to be more meaning to it. Because Secwepemc people don’t often name an entire lake like this. We normally would name only a feature of the lake, for example, pespeqmimc, has baby swans is a place where the current McNeil Ranch is.
So I continued to investigate. And what I learned took me back to about 5,000 years. Qweqwile was one of the original transformers of the Secwepemc Nation creation stories. He originally lived in the Kamloops area but travelled throughout the Secwepemc territory. Qweqwile travelled passed the confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers at Lytton.
There he met Qwiqwtqwet, which means smiles a lot, who is a Coast Salish transformer. There they had power contests which showed that Qweqwiles power was stronger than Qwiqwtqwet’s. To this day, these two transformers lay side by side in stone at Kumsheen near Lytton.
After their contests they parted ways and Qwiqwtqwet travelled up the Thompson and Qweqwile travelled south to N’taqt’aqten “the crossing” at Kanaka Bar where there is a place marker between the Nllkepemc and the Wutemtk, the Stolo people. Below this place, no qweqwile grows. Above, it gets more plentiful as you get into Secwepemc territory. Ron and Marianne Ignace have plotted where Qweqwile grows and overlayed it with Qweqwile’s travels and found that they are nearly identical.
After qweqwile reached the Stolo territory, he turned around and came back home via the Columbia River. Further maps of their travels show that Qweqwile’s travels circumscribe the interior salish tribal territories, with the Secwepemc Nation territory being at its core.
Eventually Qweqwile settled down and he had a baby with a young woman at Tskwikuy, the mouth of Scotch Creek. Their baby was named Qwle7il’t. Qwle7il’t eventually grew up to meet Tlli7sa and his brothers. Tlli7sa tried four times to kill Qwle7il’t but couldn’t because he had inherited great power from his father, Qweqwile. Qwle7il’t became the fourth brother in the story, Tlli7sa and his brothers.
So this is who our Lake is named after. It’s honouring one of the creators of the Secwepemc Nation. The archaeological record shows that about 5000 years ago, there was a phase called the Lehman phase. This is about when Secwepmc people started to become more like the Secwepemc we see now days. It’s because at the time, Stolo people migrated into the interior and began teaching us salish language and new methods to catch salmon and other fish. This is represented by the transformer, Qwiqwtqet, smiles a lot, who was Stolo and travelled up the Thompson River.
This is the story of the origin of Qweqwile, the Secwepemc name of Canim Lake. It’s one of the many reminders that we have a deep, rich, and long history. It also ties us to the Secwepemc Nation, and the rest of the Interior salish nations.
Carl has been actively involved in re-imagining nation building. He has travelled extensively throughout Secwepemc territory and is fluent in Secwepemctsin.