We are Lil’wat

mountainsWe describe our history as being “written upon the land.” Traditionally, the Lil’wat had an oral history with knowledge handed down in two kinds of stories, “sko-kwal” (true stories) and “shpi-tak-withl” (legends). Our ancestors used the landscape to anchor events much the way other cultures used calendars. Both sko-kwal and shpi-tak-withl were told with reference to place names where the tale’s events had occurred – in our traditional territory.

Within our traditional territory there is abundant archeological evidence of enduring Lil’wat occupation that includes pit houses, stone materials from tool manufacture, culturally modified trees and pictographs. These cultural artifacts, and the sites where they are found, are a critical part of the heritage we have pledged to preserve.

As fishers and hunter-gatherers, we have always been closely tied to the land. In the spring and summer, we collected berries, nuts, wild onions, potatoes, and other roots. The Birkenhead River gave us five species of salmon, from the Spring salmon that came in March to the Coho salmon that signaled the onset of winter. And year round, trapping and hunting provided us with food and clothing.

We have always enjoyed an economy. We traded the food and goods of our traditional territory with other First Nations and later with the European miners, fur traders and settlers. This historic economy was a crucial part of the foundation of our modern society.

Today, Lil’wat traditional ways of life continue to be important within our local economy. Fish, game, plant foods and medicines are still harvested and prepared in the traditional manner are bought and traded with neighbouring First Nations.

Traditional crafts remain important both economically and culturally. The Lil’wat people are famous for our intricate basketry with patterns created from cedar roots, cedar bark, wild cherry bark and various grasses and reeds.

Hand drums made from wood and the skins of deer, coyote, and moose created by skilled artisans are highly sought after, as are the detailed cedar carvings of both functional and decorative items. In recent years, traditional Lil’wat imagery has been translated into paintings by some of our community’s artists.

Handcrafting clothing of deer and moose hides, worn for special occasions, is also a popular pastime.

Singing and hand drumming are an integral part of all Lil’wat social gatherings.

The Lil’wat Nation continues to assert its right to manage the resources of our land. For clearly, our culture and livelihood depend upon a healthy environment and access to it. Through dedication, perseverance and innovative partnerships we are maintaining our traditional stewardship of the land in contemporary ways.

Read about the Ure Creek Blockade