Our History Sumas First Nation

Cotton GrassThe Sema:th people have been here since time immemorial, time out of mind, as the history of the Sema:th people goes beyond the flood story which had taken place well over 10,000 years ago.

A very well respected man who comes from the mouth of the river, what we now call Musquem First Nation. This man could see into the future. He could see things coming before they happened. He seen the rising waters, the flood. When he seen the waters rising he travelled to all the communities up the river to tell the people that the waters were going to rise.

They were going to rise so high that they need to get their biggest canoes ready. He told them to make strong rope because the water is going to come up so high that they will need to tie their canoes to safety.

He told them they need to go to the top of Sumas Mountain as it is a place where they can tie their canoes, Sumas Mountain had fresh spring water and there was plenty of food up that they can use to survive while the waters were high.

Creek On Sumas First Nation reserveIt’s been said that some of the people listened to his advice about the flood and some didn’t. The ones that didn’t tried to go to other mountains that they say were as high as Sumas Mountain but those people didn’t survive because those mountains didn’t have the food or water supply that Sumas Mountain once had.

There was a canoe on top of Sumas Mountain whose rope wasn’t strong enough to hold and the people in that canoe floated away. No one knows what happened to this canoe or the ancestors that were in it. There is some speculation that the canoe that broke away may have been ancestors of the Nuxalk People. As they are Coast Salish people who live in a place far from the Coast Salish Territory.

It’s been said that when the waters start coming down the people moved to the lower part of Sumas Mountain where they can be sheltered in the caves, these caves on Sumas Mountain are known to our people as the Thunderbird Caves.

Children swimming in Sumas LakeLater on when the waters receded more and more land started to appear on the horizon some of the people got in their canoes to settle in other areas. It’s been said that some canoes went North and some canoes went South.

Our elders have said that’s why to the North of Sumas Mountain is Chehalis and there’s Scowlitz and to the South of Sumas Mountain what is now Washington State there is Chehalis and there’s Cowlitz. It’s been said that thousands of years ago these people were one in the same on top of Sumas Mountain during the great flood.

Some have also said that the name for Chehalis the old pronunciation that is being revived now Stsalies, Stsalies is very close to a name that we all identify ourselves with which is Salish. This place we say we live in Sema:th is very sacred because of the histories that go back for our people.

Not just for Sema:th but throughout the Salish Territory and we here at Sema:th are descendants of those who had their canoes tied to the top of this mountain thousands of years ago.

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