This material was created in consultation with Sinixt Smum iem Matriarch, Marilyn James. All photos are by Taress Alexis except ones credited separately.

Sinixt Laws

The highest law of the Sinixt is the whuplak’n (whup-lock-en), the law of the land. The whuplak’n lays out how we must treat everything on this landscape. We must leave things the same or better than how we found them for future generations. This means a considered and far forward-looking use of everything that exists here. Sinixt tum xúlaʔxʷ  (toom-who-lau-h) is unceded meaning that these laws are still in force here.

Old Growth’s role in Diversity and Ecosystem Functioning

Prior to European settlement and massive impacts on the Inland Temperate Rainforest, most valley bottoms were old growth. It was just forest. All the parts of the ecosystem contributed to one another in a never ending cycle.

One example of ecosystem interconnections can be seen through how the Caribou rely on old growth lichens as primary food sources; the Sinixt, in turn, relied on Caribou as an important food source. Salmon returned from the ocean to feed animal and human people, as well as the old growth forests where their spent bodies returned to the Earth. (Coalroot by Heather Dewey)

Sinixt Uses of Old Growth

Sinixt lifeways have always been intertwined with the forests of their tum xúlaʔxʷ. Berries, meat, roots and medicines were harvested in old growth. Also, fibre to make pit houses, baskets, clothing, and countless other culturally important items came from old growth forests. 

Old Growth Cedar provided both beams and bark without trees being cut or killed. Beams were removed by making a cut with an adze, high up in a large cedar, and then cuts descending on both sides. Wedges were then used to pry a board from the live tree. Cedar bark was used for baskets for gathering as well as storage. Caches were lined with cedar bark and it was also used to make burial baskets and shrouds. Trees used for these purposes are now known as “culturally modified trees” (CMTs).

Edible Horsetail Lichen (Bryoria fremontii) which is known to the Sinixt as sqʷl̕ip (squil-lip), is an important winter food for caribou, styʔíɬc̓aʔ (sti-yilh-tsa) flying squirrels, deer, elk and moose. It was also a staple and emergency food for the Sinixt. It was washed then pit-cooked with other roots and bulbs and dried in cakes for storage. They then boiled the cakes with berries, roots or meat to eat them.

Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus) is known to the Sinixt as x̌ʷuwwugway’lhp. It is a powerful plant with many uses, both medicinal and practical. Traditionally a cold infusion was made of the roots to treat consumption, dry cough and other ailments. The mighty thorns were used to pin sewing together. (Devil’s Club by Moe Lyons)

Old Growth and Water

Sinixt laws are as applicable to current issues as they were in traditional Sinixt culture. The Sinixt recognize the deep value of Old Growth Forests to the ensuring of water quality and quantity as well as the role they play in mitigating the impacts of climate change. A mature cedar processes 150 gallons of water per day.