Secwepemc Loons as Symbols of Power and Transformation

Date and Time: 
Friday, 12 May, 2017 - 08:45
Abstract Key Words: 
Ethnozoology, knowledge of Elders
, Marianne - Simon Fraser University
, Ronald - Simon Fraser University and Skeetchestn Indian Band

A common diving bird on lakes throughout Interior British Columbia, loons (Gavia immer) occupy an interesting position among the Secwepemc. Like other Indigenous groups, the Secwepemc explain the origin of the loon’s “necklace” as deriving from its characteristics.  Beyond that, loons  were known as one of the most powerful and cherished seméc or guardian spirits acquired by shamans (t̓kwilc) and other trainees for spirit power. In narratives of encounters with settlers, colonizers and British monarchy, loons play an important role as transcending colonial powers, vanquishing settler powers and speaking to the interactions of humans and birds in nature and spirit. We will address the role of loons in narratives recorded in the early 1900s by ethnographers, but also in previously little known Secwepemc narratives of colonial encounters which throw light on loons as natural species and as embodying powers of resistance.