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Merritt, BC History

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First Nation Traditional Foods and Lodging in the Nicola Valley

 First Nation Traditional Foods in Merritt BC

Nicola Valley British Columbia Canada First Nation Traditional Foods & Lodging

“We harvest berries in the traditional Nicola Valley areas, as well as, fish and hunt using the old ways and new ways.”

What type of First Nation traditional foods and lodging in the Nicola Valley have helped my people endure the hot summers and cold winters? My people, through many generations, have experienced the changing seasons of the Nicola Valley for generations. The extremes of our Nicola Valley weather systems have taught us many survival skills and have played a large part in growing our appreciation of our lands. How did the First Nation people survive is a journey I would like to share with you? 

My Ancestors Were Nomadic During The Spring, Summer, And Fall Seasons

My ancestors used to live throughout the Nicola Valley territory traveling in groups. Living a nomadic life on the move provided my people the food necessary to last through the long cold winter months. Families would gather together in our seasonal villages and enjoy cooking over the open  fire, and celebrating our traditions.

First Nation Traditional Foods and Lodging

Saskatoon berries I picked

We lived on berries …

First Nation traditional foods in Merritt and throughout the Nicola Valley consisted of berries like Saskatoon berries, huckleberries, choke cherries and soap berries.

And We Hunted And Fished…

My ancestors’ diet wasn’t limited to just berries. No… we also fished and hunted wild game. During the fall seasons, my First Nation people would fish the mighty Fraser River. My people of our village would catch enough fish to survive the long winters. During the entire year, dependent on the weather, village hunters pursued wild game while hunting with bows.

 How Did My People Preserve Their Traditional Foods In Merritt BC?

traditional foods and lodging

Tule mat lodging

    In the early days of my people we often preserved our traditional foods by drying it on specially made mats of tule reeds. Tule reeds were gathered during the winter months on the shores of nearby lakes. Properly prepared these reeds were used for drying and preserving many of our First Nation foods. My people would also make larger mats from the tule reeds to double as floors in their makeshift lean-to’s during the warmer months.

How Did The Nlaka’pamux People Carry All This Food?

traditional foods and lodging

Cedar Root basket

As gathers and hunters we required transportation of our goods. Before the introduction of horses to our culture by the Spaniards, my people would use dogs to transport our goods. Because we lacked horses at that time my people would walk to and from,  here and there with their dogs. The dogs would be saddled with food packed in ceder root baskets.

Where Did My People Live Back Then?

traditional foods and lodging

Traditional lodges made out of cedar bark at Tuckkwiowhum interpretive village in Boston Bar

My First Nation ancestors used all sorts of materials from the land and waters. Because of our nomadic nature we were often in need of a portable shelter.  In the summer months we used temporary shelters because of the ease of transportation moving from location to location. These portable lean-to’s were created out of fir boughs and tule mats. If the location required a longer stay my people would build these lean-to’s with cedar bark. 

What About The Winter? 

First Nation pit houses

Interior model of a traditional Sheeiskin

Those summer temporary shelters wouldn’t hold up to the long winters of the Nicola Valley. During the winter season our shelters would take on new materials to create a new kind of shelter more durable to the winter conditions.  This new shelter covered in earth is called a pit-house. In our first Nation tongue Nlaka’pamuxcin it is called a “Sheeiskin”

Lots of thought and planning went into these structures. They would spend weeks looking for a proper location, then, when they found an acceptable spot, the community would work together and help build a pit house.

The sheeiskins were typically conical in shape with a hole in the center, which would let the campfire smoke escape through the hole.  The First Nation men would enter down a ladder through the same center hole. while the women would enter through a side entrance. Each First Nation pit house could usually hold up to 3-4 families.  There are locations in the Nicola Valley where you can still see the pit houses left behind from old sheeiskins, like at Monck Provincial Park.

Traditional Ways Are Still Around

Our First Nation traditional foods and lodging made it possible for my ancestors to survive the four seasons of the Nicola Valley. 

traditional foods and lodging

Chokecherries I picked

Today we still harvest berries in the traditional areas and fish and hunt using the old ways – as well as the new. Our respect for our elders has never wavered.  Elders are given first servings of any food we have gathered, and they are the keepers of our history often sharing their stories of our traditional and cultural ways.

A questions I have for you:

What is the traditional name of the First Peoples in my own area?   

Please feel free to contact me with your answers. I always love learning about new cultures. 

Or, if you also are Nlaka’pamux, share your stories with me!

See you later!  

(In many First Nation’s languages there is no word for “Good-bye”, as that word may be interpreted as I will never see that person again.)

 

 

 

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Historic Murray Church

Historic Murray Church

The oldest building in the Nicola Valley

“The quaint little white church, the first in the area.”

One of the most iconic attractions in the Nicola Valley is the historic Murray Church. Located in the Nicola Valley on highway 5A just northeast of Merritt, the quaint little white church, the first in the area. Built in 1876 the Murray Church is the oldest building in the Nicola Valley and also the only building still standing made with local Nicola Valley lumber. If you peek in the windows you can get an idea of what a 19th century church looked like back in the day. It has a pulpit at the front, pews waiting to be filled, and stained glass windows at the back.

Historic Murray Church - Experience Nicola Valley

Historic Murray Church

Murray Church originally starts out as a Presbyterian Church and in 1927 became Murray United Church. The church named after its founder Rev. George Murray is the most photographed church in all of the southern interior of BC.

Murray Church cemetery

A small cemetery surrounds it with several dozen headstones, some crumbled and worn, but mostly still legible. These told the story of a harder period in history, when many didn’t make it past the age of 50. One headstone marked the grave of a young mother who died just 19 days before her infant daughter. There was also a number of unmarked graves, distinguished only by small piles of rocks or wooden fences. Walking amongst these graves, some marked with ornate marble headstones and some just with a pile of stones, was a somber but fascinating experience.

About the founder – Rev. George Murray

Murray United Church - Experience Nicola Valley

Reverend George Murray

Reverend George Murray first arrived in the Nicola Valley in 1875. rev. George Murray, who became the only Presbyterian minister in B.C. for five years after his arrival. A graduate of the University of Glasgow, rev. Murray had previously ministered to the district extending from Yale to Clinton, including Ashcroft and Lillooet. Perched on a saddle and armed with a Bible, the reverend travelled through the wilderness on horseback covering a circuit of 600 miles. Now the Nicola Valley was added to his parish. As he travelled the circuit, the reverend would camp outdoors, or sleep at whatever house he happened to be near when night fell. As more settlers arrived, the village of Nicola began to take shape and the more optimistic looked forward to the day when it might become a great city. 

Rev. Murray was accepted into the valley and soon found his way into the people’s hearts. In 1876, with their help, he began construction of Murray Church. It was originally St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church as the local Presbyterian pioneer families. The Clappertons and the Moores were no doubt among the founders of the church. While living in the Valley, the reverend’s travels took him to surrounding settlements, holding services on alternate Sundays as far away as Stump Lake, Douglas Lake and down the valley to the old 22-Mile House. On special occasions he held services at Aspen Grove and Mamette Lake. Every other Sunday, he preached morning and evening in the little church at Nicola and in the afternoon at either Lower Nicola, or Forksdale (which later became Merritt).

Nicola Ranch home of the Murray Church

The Nicola Ranch is situated around Murray United Church. Major Goldman in 1919 purchased the Nicola Ranch and Town site in Nicola, which grew to some 300,000 acres. He owned all the way up to Monck Provincial Park. Which is now that name. He named this park after his son Commander Victor Robert Penryn Monck Goldman of the Royal Navy. Charles Sydney Major Goldman was a British businessman, author, and journalist who served as a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1910 until 1918. There is a memorial stone in the Murray Church yard. He had purchased all the land including the land that the Murray United Church on today. 

Much to the regret of the early pioneers, the great city that had been hoped for at Nicola did not materialize. Coal was discovered at Forksdale and with the completion of the railroad into the valley in 1908, Merritt began to grow at the expense of Nicola.

Historic Murray Church - Experience Nicola Valley

“Strings Plus” concert.

Today the Murray Church stands among the pioneer buildings of the original village of Nicola and the newly renovated buildings that serve the Nicola Lake Ranch.

Historic Murray Church today!!

 

This year the Murray Church has undergone renovations to restore the building to it’s former glory. 

Regular services there were terminated in 1957 and today the church is only open for special occasions, such as Easter Sunday service, wedding ceremonies and most recently “Strings Plus” concert.  Anyone is welcome to any of the services. Please contact the Trinity United Church 1899 Quilchena Ave. Merritt BC 250-378-5735 for more information.

If you are a history buff this attraction will definately be of interest to you!!!

Take a selfie and post your visit on www.experiencenicolavalley.com.