As Stó:lō, we are People of the River. This is our Nation of interrelated families and tribes. Stó:lō means ‘river’ specifically the Fraser River that flows through the heart of Stó:lō territory and connects our tribal lands and peoples. Our land holds and takes care of our belongings, the remains of our ancient houses, and our ancestors themselves. Our land and river bring our families, ancestors, and relations together. We share S’ólh Téméxw, Our Land. We share many beliefs, customs, and laws of the land.
As Sq’éwlets people, we share much with the Stó:lō world and yet we have our own tribal history. Our tribal name ‘Sq’éwlets’ comes from the word ‘q’éw’. This place means: ‘to go around a bend in the river.’ Our home is where two rivers meet—where the Harrison River curves into the Fraser River. Here, the clear waters of the Harrison meet the muddy waters of the Fraser, swirling and blending. They flow through rich forested lands and mountains. They create the shoreline where our village sites, cemeteries, and current reserves are located. Our ancient village, Qithyil (sometimes called the Scowlitz site), is described in detail in the Archaeology and Belongings sections.
Our history is written on the land, buried in the earth, and preserved in our waters. In this section, we share our sxwōxwiyám with you. Our language is called Halq̓eméylem. These stories were traditionally shared in our language. Like Genesis, these stories tell of our beginnings. They tell us where we come from. From this we know both who we are and where we are going.
Our ancient stories tell us we are Sqwōwich (Sturgeon) people. We are connected to sturgeon through our sxwōxwiyám, our origin stories. These stories tell us about making the world right through the power of transformation. Our connection to sturgeon is also what connects us to other Stó:lō tribes, as part of our extended family and relations. Three other tribal groups share our ancestral connection to Sqwōwich. These are the Katzie First Nation located downriver from us in the Lower Fraser Valley, the Leq’ámel First Nation located west of us in the Central Fraser Valley, and the Shxw’ow’hamel First Nation, located upriver of us in the Upper Fraser Valley.