Every traditional society has placed a strong cultural value on rivers. These photos, taken in Lillooet and Lytton, BC, demonstrate the cultural value of rivers to the local First Nations peoples in those areas.
Stein Valley, Lytton
The first two images, taken in the Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park, represent powerful aspects of the area to the local First Nation. The river and surrounding valley met both the spiritual and practical needs of the people who lived in the area for thousands of years.
The hole in the rock in the first photograph was a safe place for women to wash their newborn babies as they could access the fresh river water without the potential risks of holding their babies directly into the rapidly flowing water of the river.
There are numerous pictograph sites throughout the valley highlighting the importance of this area. The vibrant colour of these pictographs comes from red ochre obtained from clay.
Many of the pictographs are located in “power spots” believed to be inhabited by spirits. They represent the dreams and experiences of young people entering the valley alone to complete a rite of passage that involved finding their spiritual guardian. Some pictographs may also represent important historical events.
The route in to the Stein Valley from Lytton is quite beautiful. Visitors will need to take the reaction ferry across the Fraser River to reach the trailhead.
Bridge River Fishing Grounds, Lillooet
The final three images were taken on a tour of traditional fishing grounds in Lillooet (Xwísten Experience Tours). The local St’át’imc People still camp on the banks of the river during the summer and collect salmon that is then specially prepared and wind dried using traditional methods. The salmon that the river provided was crucial to their survival in the past and remains an important site for the St’át’imc People today.