St’át’imc: A Storied Land

A Storied Land: The Flood and the Distribution of the Lillooet People

Many ethnographers in the past have documented the history and culture of the Lillooet people. All of them captured the importance of the land in the Lillooet culture. The following story illustrates this connection.

The previous picture is seen on maps of British Columbia as Gunsight Mountain, it can be found on the northwestern end of the Little Lillooet Lake. In the UCWALMICWTS (lower Lillooet dialect), the name of this mountain is pronounced In-SHUCK-ch, meaning “split like a crutch” (referring to the split precipice at its peak.) In-SHUCK-ch has great significance in the origin stories of the Lillooet.

The following version was acquired by James Teit, an ethnographer working for the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, in 1912:

All the Lillooet people lived together around Green Lake, and for some distance below Green River. At the time there came a great and continuous rain, which made all the lakes and rivers overflow their banks, and deluge the surrounding country. When the people saw the waters rise far above the ordinary high-water mark, they became afraid.

A man called Ntci’nemkin had a very large canoe in which he took refuge with his family. The other people ascended the mountains for safety; but the water soon covered them too. When they saw that they would probably be drowned they begged Ntci’nemkin to save their children. As for themselves, they did not care. The canoe was too small, however, to hold all their children: So Ntci’nemkin took one child from each family, -a male from one, a female from the next, and so on.

The rain continued falling and the water rising, until all the land was submerged except the peak of the high mountain called Split (Nci’kata). [The mountain is situated on the West Side of the lower end of Lillooet Lake and is also known as In-SHUCK-ch.]

The canoe drifted about until the water receded, and it grounded on Smimelc Mountain. Each stage of the water’s sinking left marks on the side of this mountain. [This mountain is just opposite Pemberton Meadows, to the northeast, and is rather low and flat. It has a number of flat terraces on its side, which are said to be marks of the receding flood.]

When the ground was dry again, the people settled just opposite the present site of Pemberton. Ntci’nemkin with his wives and children settled there, and he made the young people marry one another. He sent out pairs to settle at all the good food places though the country. Some were sent back to Green Lake and Green River; others were sent down to Little Lillooet Lake and along the Lower Lillooet River; and some were sent up to Anderson and Seton Lakes. Thus was the country peopled by the offspring of the Green Lake People.

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