I would like to extend appreciation to Albert Joseph for sharing this information with me.
It was at this time of the year, from July to September, that large family groups from all over our territory, Shalalth, Bridge River, Pavilion, DArcy, Fountain, Cayoose Creek, the rancherie and Mount Currie moved to hunting camps. It used to be a real gathering of the people. Albert Joseph recalls these trips from about 65 years ago when he was just a little guy. A lot of the older ones travelled by horseback and wagon while ones like Adam or Chris Bob, Francis Edwards, Sam Mitchell and Nelson Terry may have had trucks.
They went by way of old travel routes that had been used for generations, trails that were about 4-5 feet in width and worn down a foot deep in some places. All of these major travel routes from our territory extended into a network of trails in neighbouring Aboriginal territories. All of the highways/roads that now go through our territory are right on top of the old trails that our people used, from Lillooet to west Pavilion, thru to the Chilcotin, Lillooet to Yalakom, Lillooet to the Shuswap territory, from DArcy to Lytton, and to Bralorne, as well as the Duffy Lake road. Remnants of these trails that have not been ruined can still be found along these routes.
The hunting camps began in late July and included picking and gathering of wild potatoes, hak7wa, and all kind of berries and roots that they would dry. The spring salmon were also arriving at Tyax so these were harvested and prepared as salt salmon. The families were all in a large camping area. People would stay up there for a week to ten days, as long as it took to dry the meat. The men were able to hunt right outside of camp. The deer were so plentiful, you could pick the ones you wanted. The women worked with the meat, drying it in long thin strips with smoke fire and also making salted meat.
There were different ways of drying meat depending upon family method. Depending upon family size, 2 - 9 deer could be taken and prepared during a trip. They would make sure they dried and salted enough meat. In those days everyone helped one another and no one went hungry.
While hunting, the hunters could also get moose and bear. The moose were plentiful then but were a lot more work. The fat that was taken from the bear was used for oil, cooking, waterproofing, made into soap with lye and ash, and had many other uses. The bear meat was also salted.
In the last couple of years, our people have started going back into Graveyard Valley and meeting up with the Tsilhqotins (Chilcotins) for hunting and meat-drying camps. It is a way of teaching the younger people and keeping important parts of our culture alive. There will be another annual hunting and meat drying camp next August in Graveyard Valley.
Cathy Narcisse First Published in Bridge River Lillooet News Sept 2005
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