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.
A Nomadic People
Indigenous Peoples of Canada were largely nomadic. They erected camps where there was the greatest number of resources, by season or harvest time, and relied upon dogs, horses, dugout canoes, and themselves, the people, to carry their belongings to and from their seasonal homesites.
Teepee homes consist of tall poles erected to make a cone shape and are covered with animal hides. The top of the teepee is not covered and has space for the smoke of a fire to escape. The inside of the nomadic teepee was divided into different areas for sleeping, cooking, and storage. During hot summer months, the sides of the teepee can be rolled up to help cool the space. The main skeleton of the teepee was constructed of long, straight wooden logs skinned of their bark and left to cure in the sun. These teepee poles often were used during a seasonal move by lashing them to a dog or horse as a Travois to move their belongings.
In the mid-summer to early fall the people would gather up their belongings and temporary homes and travel back to their wintering grounds. Traditionally, the Secwépemc, Nlaka’pamux, and Scw’exmx people wintered in permanent pit houses known as: s7ístken (Líl̕wat, Northern St̕át̕imcets); sʔístkn (nłeʔkepmxcin); c7ístkten̓ or c7es7ístkten̓ (Secwépemc).
There are many pithouse sites in the interior of British Columbia including around Kamloops, Lillooet, Lytton, and in the Cariboo Chilcotin areas with Keatly Creek being one of the largest and well-studied pithouse village sites in Canada. It dates from the Middle Prehistoric period 7,000 to 4,800 years before present day! Over 115 house sized depressions are at the site with some being the largest constructions known from the British Columbia Interior, and from western Canada during their time. Some pithouses were very large with multiple hearths and additional pole holes for room divisions. The largest of these pithouses probably had 45 or more residents living within the home in a basic hierarchy, a house chief and the lower-ranking families.
Food was hunted and gathered with weapons and tools fashioned from stone and wood, as well as bone. The people followed the herds of Bison, Elk, Moose and other ungulates through their territories following the resources season to season. Fishing and hunting took place along the Fraser River in the summer and fall months. The women harvested plants for food and medicine in the montane regions around the river. Food was preserved by placing it on drying racks in the sun and this would help it keep for several years if future harvests were poor. Within the pithouses there were often large storage pits used to store or cache their dried foods.
Some groups propagated and cultivated plant species such as the Bitterroot agriculturally by replanting the ‘heart’ or core of the plant in the spring after harvest and before making the moving to a winter home. Agriculture was a far more ancient and indigenous of a tradition than many are aware of, with archeological evidence of Indigenous agriculture of over 180 plant species cultivated and used for foods, medicines, ceremonies, and construction materials. There is also evidence of an extended trade network in Canada in the form of shell artifacts from the Atlantic Ocean, copper coming from the Great Lakes area, and exotic materials from other places such as the Caribbean.
Sometimes traditional hunting and gathering territories were shared and overlapped with other tribes and community groups; for example, the Secwépemc, Nsyilxcən, St̕át̕mic, and Nlaka’pamux share overlapping territories for hunting, fishing and gathering of plants for food and medicines. During times of the salmon run, different traditional groups would gather in their ‘respective’ fishing areas around the Fraser River. There they would fish for salmon, drying it on racks constructed of logs. There are many archeological pithouse sites in an around the Downing, Marble Range, and Edge Hills Provincial Parks that clearly show this gathering of different tribes into one territory or region for the purpose of food gathering during the richest times of the year.
Being primarily hunters and gatherers, these Indigenous nomadic people had sustenance lifestyles, a deep respect for nature, egalitarian social values, and deep spiritual beliefs. Indigenous Peoples have rich cultures with distinctive traditions in art, fashion, dance, and song. They created their own ceramics and pottery, weapons and tools, some of which have been found during archeological studies of BC’s interior pithouses.
Researched and written by Lana Rae Brooks
The Northern Plains: Nomads of the grasslands, Written by Ann Chandler — Posted May 1, 2015
Accessed Aug 25, 2022
All Aboriginal People were Nomadic, By Bob Joseph, January 21, 2012
Accessed Aug 25, 2022
Occupation at Keatly Creek
Accessed Aug 25, 2022