Lemon Creek

Lemon Creek
(time 4:35)
Big Ideas
Educators are encouraged to focus on four dominant themes throughout their planning and study of the Lemon Creek story. The themes integral to the story are 1) circular existence, 2) the village situation, 3) archaeology, and 4) cultural law. The following are suggestions and added information that will assist educators in meeting their learning objectives for their students.
Teachers are encouraged to read the summaries and reflections found in the book Not Extinct: Keeping the Sinixt Way that relate to this story. The authors ask that you not let the brevity of this story mislead you as to its profound importance and emotional impact. A wealth of information is shared in the written text to support a deeper and more informed understanding of this multi-generational aspect of Sinixt existence. Topics and concepts referenced in the book include the following:
  • The Sinixt footprint on, and relationship with, a unique landscape;
  • Thermal cones and pockets of survival through epic glacial events;
  • Community – participation is the key;
  • Adaptive architecture – subterranean dwellings;
  • The sweat lodge;
  • The Winter Dance ceremony;
  • Obliteration of Sinixt presence by government;
  • Obliteration of Sinixt presence by neighbouring tribes;
  • Collaborative archaeology;
  • Written versus oral records;
  • Colonialism;
  • The Royal Proclamation of 1763;
  • Legislation to protect heritage sites.
An introduction to some of the following words and phrases may be needed for younger students prior to listening to the story: multi-generational, consults, academics, carbon-dated, artifacts, unique facets.
The Village Situation:
The village site at Lemon Creek, also referred to as the Slocan Narrows, was developed many thousands of years ago and was in continual use up until recent history. The size of the village would have fluctuated depending on many factors. In relation to the delineation of other Sinixt village sites, the Slocan Narrows village covered a more extensive area prior to damage or destruction by natural and human causes.
For balance and survival to occur in the community, the members of the village needed to commit to sharing and helping each other with important tasks, i.e. fishing, hunting, berry-picking, gathering bark for basket-making or tule mats, medicine gathering, root digging, wood gathering, and so on. Many families, even up to the present day, continue to use and caretake their traditional sites for gathering, digging, harvesting, and foraging. Many Sinixt are highly secretive about their location to avoid transgressions by others.
Sinixt People were masters of cultivation and caring for their sources of sustenance and survival. One Elder tells a story of traveling to her digging grounds only to find that non-Native people had used metal shovels to dig and uproot the family’s bitterroot beds, thus destroying any possibility for continued regeneration and regrowth. The Elder was beyond heartbroken at this profound loss to her family and disrespect to the land.
  • Think of the age-related chores and responsibilities that might be undertaken in a village situation, i.e. gathering sticks for the fire; being a good audience member during storytelling; taking care of younger siblings; observing, learning, and developing new skills; showing respect and patience during ceremony and ritual; assisting with controlled burns; practising cultivation and caretaking protocols within one’s homeland; assisting with preparation of meat and fish for storage; gathering foods such as berries and nuts; welcoming visitors and helping them feel comfortable, and so on.
  • It was a huge responsibility to pass along ‘the teachings’ to the next generation. These teachings or cultural laws were not learned sitting at a desk or under strict authoritarian and controlled environments. They were exampled by mature members of the group. As far as children were concerned, their ‘inclusion’ in daily village life was of utmost importance. Children were mentored in a most natural way by living within the cultural laws. They learned through experience, by doing, by observing, through storytelling, and through ritual, ceremony, and spiritual practise. Which cultural law do you think was broken by digging up the bitterroot beds with metal shovels? – wastage, despoliation, disrespect of the land, preservation, protection from desecration, taking more than necessary, not putting others in peril due to greed, and so on.
  • In what ways could a village site be disturbed or destroyed? – flooding, grave-robbing, settlement, erosion, archaeological digs, souvenir hunting, logging, bulldozing pithouses to rid the land of ‘evidence’, using depressions for well-digging and garbage pits, etc.
The Shape of Existence:
To attempt to connect with Sinixt life one must use one’s imagination to travel on that journey, and shed one’s colonial mentality and linear thinking in order to achieve success in the endeavour. Sinixt existence was circular or repetitive and based on maintaining harmony within a dynamic equilibrium rather than achieving mastery over it. But existence extended far beyond a dynamic equilibrium into the realm and under the requirements of cultural law. The Sinixt People were culturally and spiritually required to follow explicit cultural laws and were answerable to those laws. The most important cultural law was the law of the land. This law states that you must take care of the land, respect the land, and assume a responsibility to the land and to every being within it. The second most important cultural law states that one must live a life of service. In other words, take care of your own responsibilities first, and then contribute to the community by helping and taking care of others.
  • The seasons, the ripening of the berries, the spawning of fish, the mating of the caribou, and so on revolved rather than evolved. All forms of creation repeated themselves year by year, and so too did the existence of the Sinixt People under the requirements of their cultural laws. Think of examples of circular existence in your own environment. These could be as simple as going to bed every night, eating meals at the same time every day, having summer vacations each year, etc.
  • Take the students on an imaginary hike through a creative visualization process. Ask them to imagine a time when there were no stores, no hospitals, no warm dry buildings, and nothing at the end of the hike, not even a road. All that they have is what they see around them, no towns, no vehicles to give them a ride, just the wilderness around them and nothing to ease a long journey, no outside world to rely on for help or rescue. Tell them they are walking on the same trail in the same footsteps that their grandparents, great-grandparents, and ancestors for generations had walked. The path was worn smooth by their ancestors. They see the same landmarks their ancestors looked at, picked berries in the same locations, crossed the same rock faces and creeks, walked through the same dense cedar forests, washed and drank at the same waterways, stopped to rest in the same places. They would need the same skills, experience the same struggles and challenges, and live lives very similar to the generation before and after. They would not have to look to the past to know their ancestors whose stories would not fade or diminish…they would remain relevant. This visualization should explore far more than an emotional tie to the land; the land itself would be a tie to the communal past, present, and future as students develop an awareness for their surroundings as home. This creative visualization could very easily lend itself to collaborative work in language and/or visual arts projects.
Traditional knowledge is passed down through the generations. In settler culture archaeology is used to verify traditional knowledge. Archaeologists working at the Slocan Narrows site have elected to undertake a study that is not only collaborative with the Sinixt, but also conducted with conscience. Once the students have touched base with the idea of the village site itself through the Lemon Creek story, plus the seasonal-round circular existence and survival of the Sinixt People, the following link will take you to a 16 ½ minute video explaining the Slocan Narrows study from the archaeologist’s perspective.
  • Prior to airing the video, prepare the students to note the collaborative and conscientious aspects of the Slocan Narrows archaeological dig. https://vimeo.com/slocannarrows
  • Career development for older students – what skills might be needed to become a successful archaeologist? Be sure to include the need for sensitivity and cross-cultural training in the discussion.
Multi-Generational Involvement:
Lemon Creek represents a multi-generational effort in several ways. Two generations of academics have been connected to, worked at, and researched the village site at the Slocan Narrows. Three generations of Sinixt People, from Elders to youth, have been consulted since the study was originally launched in the year 2000. Four generations of Sinixt storytellers have participated in the narration of the Lemon Creek story in present-day circumstances, including the Sinixt grandchild who can be heard in the background at the 2:05 and 3:29 minute marks of the story. And finally, the powerful presence and innocence of children from both the Sinixt and settler cultures have graced the site. They have traversed the area in tandem while connecting with the landscape, the village, the ancestors, and each other as children do in a most natural and playful way. (The grandchildren of the Sinixt Narrator and the son of archaeologist Nathan Goodale spent significant time together at the site.)
  • What does multi-generational mean? What would be the benefits of a multi-generational approach to the study of the Slocan Narrows village site?
  • Explore the concept of the generations of misinterpretations and errors in documenting landscapes, traditional territories and boundaries, protocols, cultural laws, inter-tribal relations, spiritual and ceremonial rites and rituals, tribal politics, hierarchy, and matriarchy. For example, Franz Boas was responsible for several serious miscalculations and misunderstandings regarding the Sinixt and their traditional homeland that continue to plague Sinixt existence to this day. James Teit was a student of Boas who made several attempts to set the record straight, but to no avail. How many generations will it take to correct ‘the official record’, reverse ‘the extinction’, and recognize the full status and story of the Sinixt Peoples?
Ritual, Celebration, and Storytelling:
Following the cultural laws of the Sinixt People was tantamount to experiencing/living a life of fulfilment and gratitude. Formal celebrations of thanksgiving were central to a traditional life. Imagine celebrating the return of the fish in the spring or the success of a fall caribou hunt.
  • With everyone contributing and participating in a bountiful harvest that would ensure the survival of the family for another season, a celebration to express gratitude would be respectful and fitting. How is the modern-day Thanksgiving celebration every October an expression of gratitude? Children do not learn the concept of gratitude naturally. They need to be taught about gratitude. Take some time to develop this concept with your students.
  • The Sinixt Winter Dance, also known as a jump dance, is a ceremony that takes place for four days around the Winter Solstice. As part of the ceremony, the traditional foods gathered and harvested during the year are honoured. They are presented to and shared with the participants in the order in which they are harvested. Help the students understand why more information is not shared here about the inner workings of a sacred Sinixt Winter Dance.
  • The Sweat Lodge was, and in many families still is, a respected and revered daily ceremony used for prayer, cleansing, and healing. In Sinixt territory, the Sweat Lodge was built next to a waterway of some description. If by chance you happened upon a Sweat Lodge by a river, do you think it would be appropriate to explore the inside of the lodge, or take pictures of it? What would be the best practise to show your respect? How would you treat the area?
  • The coming together of the people after months of seasonal-round traveling, harvesting, and gathering must have been a time of great rejoicing, community sharing, and celebration. Many stories would unfold as the tales shared would be both educational and entertaining for the group. The lives of the people and the lessons they learned would live on in their stories. Have the students imagine and create interesting stories they might share after being away for a seasonal-round way of life, i.e. a run-in with a bear; great herds that were seen; learning a new type of game in another village like Cat’s Cradle; participating in an Indigenous sports competition with a neighbouring tribe; making new friends, etc.
The work at the Lemon Creek or Slocan Narrows site has been conducted under the guise of a Sinixt extinction. For a government to legally connect and interact with a tribal group, that tribal group must officially and legally exist….on paper. Since the Sinixt do not ‘legally’ exist in the country we now call Canada, no legal connection is required of the government and no legal agreements can be signed, for how can you connect with something or someone who does not exist. The dilemma here is jarring for the Sinixt People who do physically exist and yet are shrouded in a ghost status imposed upon them. Meanwhile, neighbouring tribes in various stages of land claims and treaties (on paper) continue to claim Sinixt territory, Sinixt rights, Sinixt resources, and the remains of Sinixt ancestors for repatriation and reburial as their own. These actions have not been discouraged and have fostered an environment of greed, theft, and dishonesty.
  • The Sinixt Narrator has made several statements at different times regarding reconciliation. What do students think about the following:
    • If there is no truth, there is no reconciliation.
    • There is no healing without the serum, truth.
    • There is no reconciliation without truth.
  • Some have referred to the imposition or intervention by neighbouring tribes as ‘cultural cannibalism’. What do you think is meant by the term ‘cultural cannibalism’?
  • Tribal governments that assume leadership through the election process have no continued consistency and intricate knowledge of their homeland. Considering the multi-generational aspect of consultation, how do traditional and hereditary leadership offer consistency?
Curricular Competency: (developed by the teacher creating the lesson plan in collaboration with the student(s) receiving the knowledge)
Creative Thinking:
Critical Thinking:
Positive Personal & Cultural Identity:
Personal Awareness & Responsibility:
Social Responsibility:


Popular posts from this blog

Educators Welcome and Introduction

Oral Tradition

Columbia River