Shuswap Band is one of 17 Campfires (or communities) within the Secwépemc Nation that collaboratively govern Secwépemc traditional territory or Secwépemcúl’ecw. This territory includes approximately 180,000 km², with each Secwépemc community having an area that they are responsible for overseeing, referred to as their Caretaker Area. Shuswap Band’s Caretaker Area extends from the north near Valemount, to the B.C./United States border to the south, the Monashee Mountain range to the west, and the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta.
This Caretaker Area contains several trails and travel routes that were utilized by the Shuswap for plant collection, hunting, fishing, and meeting with other communities for things like inter-cultural gatherings and trade throughout the year. Kinbasket Trail, now known as Earl Grey Pass, was a major route that our Secwépemc ancestors used to travel between what is now known as the Columbia Valley and Secwépemc communities to the west. Trails east of the Rocky Mountains were used to access buffalo and meet with allies such as the Piikani or Stoney. Crowsnest Pass, Rogers Pass, and the pass-through Kootenay National Park were also used by our Shuswap ancestors, as the trails connected the community to spiritual areas, gathering places, and resource-procurement sites. Trails can be seen as threads that sew the Secwépemc way of life together. Access to these routes has allowed Shuswap people to fully make use of their Caretaker Area since time immemorial, as they followed resources throughout the year based on season, location, and availability.
A deeply embedded belief in our culture is that the land responds positively to care and respect. Ensuring that lands within Secwépemcúl’ecw are respected and cared for is a high priority for Shuswap Band, as we look to the future and strive for the continued health of the land and those who inhabit it for generations to come.