This geocache is part of the Gold Country GeoTour – The Prequel: Be A Guest. This GeoTour focuses on a step back in time to learn about before the Gold Rush ensued: languages of the region’s culturally diverse families, handed down traditions such as recipes, flora and fauna, historic sites of significance, and points of interest. These stories will help preserve the oral languages and traditions of the region as well as assist in educating visitors and locals alike to the cultural diversity and environmental sensitivity of the region.
The Thompson River
The Thompson River is 429 kilometers long and begins as at the toe of the Thompson Glacier, of the Rocky Mountains west of Valemount, BC and flowing south as the North Thompson River. The North Thompson, in its leg of the journey, passes many communities winding its way through dense forests before becoming one with the South Thompson. Originating from the Little Shuswap Lake, named after the Secwépemc (Shuswap) people, the South Thompson travels 58 km before becoming one with the North Thompson.
The North and the South Thompson Rivers unite as the Thompson River in Kamloops, BC where the name of the community originates from the anglicized version of the Secwépemc word "Tk'əmlúps", which means "meeting of the waters". In 1808 Simon Fraser explored the Thompson River and named it after David Thompson accidentally, as he had thought that David Thompson had been there first. Simon Fraser was probably the first explorer to have contact with the Nlaka’pamux people of the region in June of 1808. Nlaka'pamux oral history tells that he took advantage of these people.
From Tk’əmlúps (Kamloops) the Thompson River continues further south winding its way down along the Fraser Canyon portion of the Trans-Canada highway #1 to Lytton BC where its blue-green waters join the mighty Fraser River.
As the Thompson River was the main body of moving water in this area of the Interior, it was an important resource to the Indigenous people who frequented it. The Thompson River is the Fraser Rivers largest tributary and provided not only clean water, but also was a habitat for the primary food source of the nations in the region, the salmon.
The importance of fishing to Interior Salish peoples, such as the Stl’atl’imx, Secwepemc, and Nlaka’pamux have been the foundation of Aboriginal economic, cultural, and social lifestyles along the Thompson River. These groups harvested Sockeye, Chinook, Coho, and Pink salmon. They also harvested Rainbow and Bull trout from the Thompson River. One of the most important fishing sites and trading areas was near Spences Bridge, at the confluence of the Nicola and Thompson rivers.
Fishing on the Thompson River was conducted by dip netting, however, weirs or fencing framework made of poles and rushes were placed across the tributaries of the Thompson River. As the salmon gathered in front of the weirs they would be speared, or dip netted. The “Thompson People”, as they were previously referred to, believed that all people were equal and deserved equal rights and opportunities with the Secwépemc sharing salmon and other resources. Their catch or harvests would be distributed between the various families participating in the fishing as well as harvesting and preparing fish for the elderly or incapacitated members of the community.
The Indigenous tribes of this region were seminomadic. They had mat tipis and moved to different hunting and harvesting locations as the seasons changed. The people also had permanent semisubterranean earthlodges now referred to as pithouses that were used as winter dwellings with some still being visible today, however, many have been adversely impacted over the last 50 years as colonial developments encroach the rivers and lake shores of the Interior. Canoes were made of birchbark in this region and used to travel the lakes in the area as well as the Thompson River.
The traditional culture of the regions people then began to change as it was influenced in the 1840’s by the gold miners and settlers who kept arriving in increasing numbers in the 1850’s. The smallpox epidemics of 1860s and again in 1879 had devastating impacts on many Indigenous peoples, with as many as two thirds of people who contracted it dying. The disease had a devastating impact on many Indigenous groups and it also impacted governance in some nations as knowledge, skills, and stories were lost with those elders who carried them.
Interesting Fact: Secwépemc was translated as Shuswap in many various spellings by early settlers. Tk'əmlúps was translated as Kamloops in many various spellings such as Cumcloups by early settlers. The first appearance of the spelling “Kamloops” was in the Postal Guide of 1872 and it has been spelled that way ever since.
Some Indigenous words:
Swetémtkemc - people who live downstream.
Wewtsk - three-pronged fish spear.
Wéwlem - to fish.
ƛ̓əq̓əmcín - Lytton area, tributary of Fraser River, and Thompson River
Researched and written by Lana Rae Brooks
Ignace (1998) and Teit (1909)