Secwepemc stories of origin and creation tell us about our place in the world, responsibilities and purposes of the human beings, plants, animals and caring for the lands. Our collective memories about the traditional territory demonstrate that the Secwepemc ancestors continue to undertake these responsibilities and cared for the lands and resources diligently for the benefit and survival of all Secwepemc. Historical estimates of population are estimated at 80,000 Secwepemc within the Nation. With such large populations, the Secwepemc had definite societal organization, governance, responsibilities, and rituals, rights of passage, ceremonies and spirituality. The Secwepemc protected all areas of their traditional territory against enemies and those that encroached within their lands. The traditional territory is a region abundant in diverse lands and natural resources which provided the Secwepemc with all the sustenance they required.
First Contact with the Secwepemc occurred in 1793 on the banks of the Fraser River with Alexander McKenzie of the North West Company. They were seeking to expand their fur trade enterprise. However, it was David Stuart and Alexander Ross of the Pacific Fur Company who reached Kamloops first and in 1812 built a Trading Post. Finally the North West Company establishes a post in Kamloops as a result of their westward expansion. By 1827 fur trade is already on the decline and the settlers began infringing on Secwepemc lands and resources. The gold rush begins in 1858 and brought an influx of gold seekers from the United States and abroad. The prospectors competed with the Secwepemc for local resources, including land, access to water, and food sources. In 1861, Colonial Governor James Douglas began to set up Indian Reserves which were to be identified by the Indians and to be marked out by the surveyors.
In Oct. 31, 1862 William G. Cox, Magistrate and Assistant Commissioner of Lands and Works, travelled to Kamloops and met several Chiefs, Chief Neskonlith requests Cox to mark his lands. The area was identified and Cox proceeded to mark off these lands in accordance to Governor Douglas’s instructions forming the Neskonlith Douglas Reserve. Cox placed the first stake and the remaining stakes are placed by Chief Neskonlith at the end of the Great Shuswap Lake and at the head of Adams Lake.
However the Neskonlith Douglas Reserve was reduced by Joseph Trutch, Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, even though after several attempts he was unable to convince the Kamloops and Shuswap Chiefs to relinquish their traditional lands. Under the authority of Governor Fredrick Seymour, who replaced Governor Douglas, Trutch carried out reserve reduction activities in September 1866 and then in November 1866 submitted a trace map of these cut-off lands. In October 6, 1866, Trutch posted a notice for pre-emption of lands cut-off of the Neskonlith Douglas reserve for settlement and cultivation. These cut off portions of the Neskonlith Douglas Reserve were open for pre-emption officially on January 1, 1867.
Combined Adams Lake, Neskonlith & Little Shuswap reserves for total cut off lands.
In the interior region the first fur trading post was established in 1812 at the conjunction of the North and South Thompson Rivers. A township emerged around the fort to provide for the settlers and incoming gold seekers. Due to depletion of the fur trade resources eventually the Northwest Company moved to other territories, by 1821 the Hudson's Bay Company is the primary trading company serving the west of the Rocky Mountains.
Trading was a common practice of the Secwepemc, before trading posts were set up in the interior Secwepemc actively traded furs with the Coastal First Nations that traded with the Europeans. This is evident by the use of metal tools by the Secwepemc on arrival of the European fur traders. For the Secwepemc trading furs locally in the interior and coastal fur posts fetched better fur prices.
Here are the areas of the existing Shuswap reserves in 1871:
Reserve Number of Acres
Spallumcheen 218.5(two parcels)
Deadman's Creek 575
Bonaparte Creek 471
Shuswap Lake 3,112
Adams Lake 1,000
Kamloops River 6,000
The McKenna-McBride Royal Commission lasted from 1913 to 1916 and the commission made additional reductions.
The Little Shuswap Band lost 2,105 acres. In Neskainlith, Reserve No. 2, 480 acres was cut off. Adams Lake Reserve No.6 had 55 acres cut off and an additional 82 acres from Reserve No.7.