The Succession of a Chief
When a chief died leaving several adult sons, they, and sometimes also all the immediate male relatives of the deceased, held a meeting, and elected the son considered best fitted to occupy the position, and he was announced be them to the band as chief. (569: Teit 1909)
Kukpi7: hereditary chief
One hereditary chief, kukpi7, was elected per band in the Secwepemc Nation as a political leader. The immediate male relatives of the previous deceased chief elected Kukpi7, who they considered was the best son, nephew or brother to fit the position.
Kukpi7 is a wise man that possesses self-assurance and a great understanding of his people. He has good judgment and acts fairly in all matters. Kukpi7 gives advice freely in all-important matters and offers advice to his people when asked. Kukpi7 possesses a very strong understanding of his band intimately. He knows their interests, activities, and problems, and their daily and seasonal activities.
Anastasio, Angelo. 1972. “The Southern Plateau; An Ecological Analysis of Intergroup Relations, Northwest Anthropological Research Notes. 6(2): 109-215.
Teit, James Alexander. 1909. Part VII-The Shuswap. In The Jesup North Pacific Expedition Vol. II. Edited by Franz Boas. E.J. Brill Ltd. Leiden.
The succession of a chief was carried out hereditarily, through the male line. When a chief died leaving several adult sons, they and all of the immediate male relatives, held a meeting, and elected the son best fitted to occupy the position of chief, and he was announced to the community as the band chief. If a son was not fit or available a grandson, a brother, or a nephew was chosen to be the next chief. (Teit: 1909:569)
Other Chiefs (Task Leaders):
Chiefs were also elected based on their outstanding abilities: such as war chiefs, hunting chiefs, and chiefs of dances. Skills of excellence in oratory, wealth, wise counsel, and generosity were also taken into consideration in chieftainship.
Teq’wilcw (Medicine Men)
Medicine men, teq’wilcw, were highly respected and feared individuals in Secwepemc bands. The Medicine men, through training, obtained powerful guardian spirits to assist them to cure the sick in the villages. With the help of their guardian spirit, the medicine men were able to draw out the diseases from people’s bodies and to recover lost souls. This process was done by: “exorcising the disease, by incantations, by certain prescriptions, by laying on of hands, by massagingparts of the body, and by sprinkling water on the head, and blowing it over the body.” (612:Teit 1909) When recovering lost souls, the medicine men wore a ,thloo-wh-CANE-um, a special cover over his head that extended down to his chest made of tules and cedar roots.
“Training for Power” told by Ike Willard. Shuswap Stories Collected 1971-1975 Edited by Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy. CommCept Publishing Ltd. Vancouver 1979.
SCES Cassette tape 052-2 transcriptions. Mary Thomas. Sept. 23, 1979. Ges Mortimer.
The Shuswap(Secwepemc) by Marianne Boelscher Ignace.
A council, tkw’enme7iple7ten, also took an important role in political decision-making of the band. They acted as an advisory board to the chief. The council consisted of extended family members of the band, which in the large part included elders.
Elders played an important role in the Secwepemc Nation. The voices of the Elders were heard in council and listened to carefully, as their expert skills were relied upon to assist in making critical decisions and to help to train the young generations.
Elders were highly respected and cared for as they aged. The Elder’s continually shared their knowledge of their people throughout the ages in stories told and retold to extended families or to the whole band during long winter evenings and around campfires at group gatherings.