Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | May 30, 2011

Traveling and Working in Splatsin Territory

By Chris Davey

What an amazing 2 weeks. It’s been almost non-stop meetings, gatherings, and games. On one level, this experience has been overwhelming, but on the other hand, almost everything has been engaging and a lot of fun. We have been warmly welcomed into this community and have had the pleasure to meet too many people to mention here, each with valuable knowledge and interesting life stories.

This second week just flew by. Just as I was settling in, it ended, though it was not without its share of interesting events. On Wednesday May 25th, I aided Tad McIlwraith in his work for the field school by driving him, 2 members of the community, and 2 other students up towards Revelstoke to examine a few bridges in line to be replaced in the near future. On this trip, I was witness to beautiful scenery, lots of knowledge of the areas along the highway to Revelstoke, as well as the compromises that need to be made when construction takes place on native land. Even though a miscommunication lead to a 1-hour mix-up driving back and forth along the same stretch of road, the information gathered and scenery witnessed was well worth the trip. [The photo, below, is from that trip. It shows the mountains along the south side of the Eagle River, west of Revelstoke, BC, -ed.]

This week, I also got a better idea about what the focus of my research will be. One of the other students and I will be examining a few locations on the Southwest border of the territory to get a better idea of what was there in the past, and furthermore to determine what the role of the Splatsin was in those areas. In particular, I will be focusing more on the aspect of fishing in relation to these places. I will be looking into the seasonal round, or the different fish that were available in the different seasons, as well as what was used to fish and why these places may have been chosen for fishing sites. I am really looking forward to learning more about these areas and I am eager to see what there is to be found.

Also of interest was the Traditional Gathering that took place over the weekend from Friday night to Sunday. There was a structured feel to it, though it also was very open.  There was an order and guiding force to the events, but guests were often invited to participate and to witness the events that were occurring. It was both a fun event to witness, as well as at times a solemn occasion that carried emotional weight as well as serious meaning. Altogether it was a very worthwhile and powerful experience that I will not soon forget.

As overwhelming as these 2 weeks have been, I simply cannot wait to see what the next 2 bring. Even though challenges have arisen, I feel that we as a team have done well to face them and move past them. I feel like this community really wants to help us to do work with them, and part of what has been overwhelming is the support and friendliness of the community in helping us to do work related to our topics.

I look forward to working further with members of the community, and to living for the next 2 weeks with this group of people that have become friends.



  1. Thanks for sharing Chris. Mix-ups like you describe can often lead to significant insights and data, although you might not appreciate it at the time. I find that being very flexible is often the best approach to fieldwork. Your research sounds quite significant. I’ve done quite a bit of that sort of thing in BC myself. Also, you may never forget the traditional gathering. As you point out, they can be very powerful, which is sometimes difficult to convey to others. Bob

  2. a change of scenery is a nice and welcomed experience, to leave the safe confines of the city and venture off to a far away place for a month must have been an exhilarating experience. criss crossing information happens all over the place so dont let it get to you! swim with the current not against it!!! you will look back at this one day and it will be the topic of humorous experiences in the field! finding out about the fishing types and species has to be very interesting, have you considered trying the methods you are researching?

  3. Chris, Your work on traditional fishing practices sounds fascinating! I am also interested in food sources and the ways in which procuring food has changed over time. So many things such as dams, pollution, and overfishing can alter the ability of a water source to continue to provide healthy food for a community. Sometimes the arrival of a McDonald’s does it. 😦 Your work is important as many people are relearning old ways of procuring food.

  4. Hi Chris:

    Alot of work that I have been involved in is looking at how proposed projects may impact fishing and so I often need to look at what fish are caught and consumed, how they are processed, what season they are caught, who has the rights to the fishing locations and if one fishing spot is destroyed (e.g. to make a footing for a bridge for instance) does that mean that a family or a clan no longer has access to any fish? For some projects I have had to delve into the past to find out how many fish used to be caught and processed and how has the technology changed. Were the changes external (demanded by DFO for example) or internal (exchanging one technology for another due to efficiencies, safety or changes in flow or shape of the river).

    Good luck on your research and my advice would be to be aware of all the different ways you could take the research and then pick on aspect of it and stick to it. (So easy to get side-tracked).

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