By Julia Magsombol 

Local Journalism Initiative reporter 

They say that all we have in the present is the knowledge passed on to us by our elders — and the ‘seven grandfather teachings’ is the best example that represents Shuswap’s morals and values. 

In the March newsletter from Shuswap Band, information about these teachings was submitted by Clarissa Stevens, cultural/family liaison and Indigenous registry administrator. 

“Seven grandfather teachings have many different stories on where it comes from. They are mainly based on how one should live life. The natives use these teachings to teach the younger ones and the adults should be using them as well. The Secwepemc’s teachings came from Coyote,” said Stevens. 

It is said that these teachings are the seven principles that Secwepemc people should live by, and each teaching represents an animal. The teachings are the most commonly shared across North America. Many Indigenous communities have adopted these guiding principles of living. 

Regardless of where the teachings originated, they all share the same concept of abiding by the moral respect for all living things. For more information, read:

Stevens said that she has always known these teachings since her parents taught her these. 

“My greatest memory of learning these teachings is how they fit in everyday life,” she noted.

The seven teachings are: 

Bear (ském’cis) represents courage (crelrelállts’e). They are known to be medicine keepers, and they guide the Secwepemc people with medicines. 

Eagle (spel’qwéqs) represents love (xwexwi7úystem). The eagle is their messenger and sends positive thoughts and good medicine to the Creator. He is also known to be associated with someone’s next journey as he can guide them. 

Beaver (sqlu7úw’i) represents wisdom (slexléx). They are associated with guiding Secwepemc people through role modelling and hard work. It is believed that through hard work, beavers can build a home to survive the cold winter months. 

Salmon (sqlélten) is one of the significant animals for the Secwepemc people. It represents their culture, tradition and home. They present a home and a step of reconciliation for the elders and Secwepemc people. Every spring, Shuswap Band releases salmon. For the teachings, salmon provide food and offer wisdom to those who approach respect (xyemstem). They swim against the flow to complete their job. The salmon endure hardship to achieve higher goals. A story exists about how the salmon sacrificed themselves to provide food for the people so they may survive on the land. 

Turtle (spelq’wéqs) represents truth (wenécwem). They represent the sacred lands that the Secwepemc people live on, which is known as Turtle Island. 

Swan (speqmíc) represents resolving differences through the spirit of respect and reciprocity. The swan symbolizes how one can take action and leadership to overcome different challenges. This represents how the swan moves gracefully and openly with its community.

Coyote (sk’lep) represents humility (tkwekweltkstsút-kt). He can be known as both a trickster and a teacher. A legend exists where coyote and bear started day and night. Coyote had to compromise with the bear, who wanted night all the time. Coyote wanted day. In the end, they agreed to have both, so half of the time was day, and the other half was night. The ability to compromise symbolizes coyote’s humility. 

“Again, learn these teachings . . . live by them. These teachings really help oneself to be centre and to be with nature and live with mother earth. They do make life a lot easier to live by, ” Stevens said. 

For more information, visit Shuswap Band’s newsletter: