Virtual Museum of Canada (VMC)



Xwelmexw means ‘the people’ and comes from a connection between our people and our land. This section is about our Sq’éwlets people and places, including our leaders and families, maps of our important places, and the cultural activities we practice today.

Children, youth  and adults, both male and female, are gathered around a picnic table serving food.

Our Lives Today

We are a growing community that is healing and prospering by learning and teaching our traditions. Our Sq’éwlets Band has over 300 members. Our Band Office and reserve lands are located on Harrison Bay, in the upper Fraser Valley of British Columbia between the towns of Mission and Agassiz. We recently built beautiful soccer fields, a basketball court, skate park, and playground for our children, our community and our neighbors to play in. The vast area surrounding our Band Office is where we have always lived and where our ancient sites, villages, and cemeteries can be found across the landscape. Though we live in a rural area, we are coming under increasing pressure of development from greater Vancouver and the needs of the millions of people living in this urban centre of British Columbia.

Many of us at Sq’éwlets live, as some say, with our feet in two canoes – traditional and western. We try hard to keep those canoes from drifting apart. Many of us remember when we had no running water and heated our homes with firewood. We maintain many of our ancient practices, some of them in new forms. Though there are very few speakers now of our language, Halq̓eméylem, we are working hard to restore its use and many of our children and adult community members are learning it. We continue to harvest and preserve foods that we get by hunting, fishing, and plant harvesting. Some of us are Christian and others follow the Winter Spirit as Dancers in our longhouse winter gatherings. Some follow both ways. When we die, we are put to rest at our cemetery here at home in the traditional way.

We honour our families who provide the heart and soul of our community. Most of us have many pictures of our children and relatives on our living room walls. Our members pursue many careers that reflect our traditional interests, such as environmental monitoring, teaching, storytelling, archaeology and history, art, social work, landscaping, fish processing, construction, and politics. Our Elders Group helps to sustain our well-being through their guidance and teachings. They help guide our community planning and our healing as we recover from the harmful legacies of Residential Schools and the Indian Act. We are active in protecting our aboriginal rights and title, and in teaching our youth and others about our history and who we are. We do our best to live our lives in a good way, following our traditional teachings.

Canoe Pulling (Richard Williams)

View Transcript

Participating in a canoe, It’s like a canoe journey. So you’re starting from as young as a junior buckskin. And it’s like each race you graduate because you learn more and more. You learn to balance, communicate as a team. Soon as you’re young and you – it’s like when you first learn to walk, you learn to balance. So relax, balance, your voice, your teamwork, and the spirit of the canoe. As soon as you’re a whole team working as one, you can feel that same spirit and the canoe will take you. So as you get older, the canoe gets lighter, and everybody is a team. And that’s how a spirit works as one. It’s pretty cool.

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