Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Profiles of Native Westerners: The Speckled Fish People

Bull trout, the "speckled fish" of the Sinixt people
I am a non-native living on an Indian Reservation; to be exact, the Colville Confederated Reservation in Northeast Washington State. We have been here for two and one-half decades. I followed my husband to the home of his father’s family after we completed collage at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA.

My husband and sons' band is the Sinyekst or Sinixt people.  This translates to the "Speckled Fish" people or Place of the Bull Trout.  They are currently referred to as the Lakes People. Here are five quick facts about the Lakes people:
  • They originated from British Columbia.
  • When the boundary was drawn between Canada and United States, extending to the Pacific Ocean, in 1849, it divided the upper and lower Lakes people. 
  • The Lakes people on the lower end of the 49th Parallel were added to the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington State in 1872. 
  • These were nomadic people: hunters, fishermen, and gatherers.
  • The Lakes people spoke a dialect of the Interior Salish that is closely related to the Okanogan people, which is what is taught today.
Historic illustration of bull trout (once called Dolly Varden) from Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

On my blog, I am posting a series on the life of the Lakes people as it has been taught to me before cell phones and video games. When children roamed the mountains and shores of the Columbia River learning to hunt and gather roots and berries. A simple life. A life fulfilled.   

Haiku Poem of the Speckled Fish People
Nomadic wander
To the Creator they pray
Life: hunt, fish, gather

A few words of the Lakes Language as taught to me by Elder Marguerite Ensminger:
Sinixt or Sinyekst:  Bull Trout or Speckled Fish People 
prounced: Sin-ikes-t
Hamis-hamis:  Morning Dove
huh miss-huh miss 

Carmen Peone has lived in Northeast Washington, on the Colville Confederated Indian Reservation for twenty-three years. She had worked with a Tribal Elder, Marguerite Ensminger, for three years learning the Arrow Lakes Language and various cultural traditions. With a degree in psychology, the thought of writing never entered her mind until she married her husband and they moved to the reservation after college. She came to love the people and their heritage and wanted to create a legacy for her sons.


Carmen Peone said...

Thank you, Susan! It was my pleasure to share my family's people with WWW readers.

Susan J Tweit said...

Carmen, Each story we share, no matter how brief, enlarges our understanding of the world and of each other. And oh, we need that understanding more than ever right now. Thank you for enlarging our world with your stories. Blessings back to you and yours!

Nancy Oswald said...

Carmen, it's wonderful that you are sharing your life and stories with others. We lived in British Columbia for 12 years and were non-Indians among the Shuswap people there. While we were there, electricity from the "outside" world arrived. Even though the comminity had power from generators before that, it could not run many things on the reserve and access to TV and electronic games was limited. This "small" thing marked changes in both the community and culture--not always good changes.

Carmen Peone said...

Thank you for sharing. It must have been an adventure for you in Canada. I agree, change is not always good. But reservation life is always an adventure!

Heidiwriter said...

Great post, Carmen, very interesting! BTW, I've enjoyed reading your books--they give us a glimpse into your family's world.

historywriter said...

Hy'shqe, Carmen, for the post and sharing something about your family's life at Colville. I know quite a bit about the history of the boundary survey and know it divided communities on the border. Similar stories up in the Everson area.

Carmen Peone said...

Thank you, Heidi. I appreciate that. Waking up to overlook the Columbia River makes life in a small and isolated town worth staying!

Carmen Peone said...

Wi, history writer. Lim lump for your comment. I see we have a passion for history. That is wonderful that you know about the boundary issues. Very interesting indeed. Thank you for commenting! Blessings to you. Carmen