THE FLOOD AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE LILLOOET PEOPLE
Many ethnographers in the past have documented the history and culture of the Lillooet people. All of them captured the importance of the land in the Lillooet culture. The following story illustrates this connection.
Gunsight Mountain can be found on the northwestern end of the Little Lillooet Lake. In Ucwalmícwts (the lower Lillooet dialect), the name of this mountain is pronounced In-SHUCK-ch, meaning “split like a crutch” and referring to the split precipice at its peak. In-SHUCK-ch Mountain has great significance in the origin stories of the Lillooet. “The Flood Story” is one such origin story.
As is the nature of oral history, there may be several versions of a story- specific details may vary between each telling of the story, but the significant events remain consistent. The following version was told by Samahquam elder Lukcha7 (Laura Purcell), and recorded in October, 2015.
A long, long time ago one of our ancestors, whose name was In-Chee-nim-kan received some advice from the Great Chief.
The Great Chief told him that the land was going to flood and almost all the mountains would be covered with water except In-SHUCK-ch.
The Great Chief gave In-Chee-nim-kan some instructions. “Bind together all of this cedar bark and these willow saplings into a long rope, and anchor it onto the top of In-SHUCK-ch Mountain.”
Although he could not see the Great Chief, In-Chee-nim-kan believed the advice that he received from him. His brother, In-Chee-lum-kan, began to questions what he was doing. “Why don’t you make the rope out of animal hide?”
In-Chee-nim-kan looked at his brother and replied “I have been given my orders from the Great Chief. When the flood comes my canoe will float over to In-SHUCK-ch Mountain and I will anchor onto the peak.”
The brother In-Chee-lum-kan made a rope out of deer hide and In-Chee-nim-kan made a rope out of bark as the Great Chief instructed.
It began to rain, a great and continuous rain over the lands. The lakes and rivers began to overflow their banks and flood the surrounding country. In-Chee-nim-kan and his family took refuge in his canoe.
When the people saw the waters rise above the ordinary high-water mark, they became afraid. When they saw that they would probably drown they begged the brothers to save their children rather than themselves.
In-Chee-nim-kun’s canoe was too small to hold all the children so In-Chee-nim-kan took one child from each family – a male from one, a female from the next, and so on.
The rain continued falling and the water rose until all of the land was submerged except the peal of the high mountain called In-SHUCK-ch. In-SHUCK-ch was so named because it was split like a crutch.
In-Chee-nim-kan told his brother to anchor to In-SHUCK-ch. They both fastened their ropes to In-SHUCK-ch Mountain.
It is not known how long the people were anchored to the mountain peak, but In-Chee-nim-kan’s brother’s rope, which was made from animal hides, stretched until it broke. His raft floated away because the water was moving quickly.
Eventually the water receded and In-Chee-nim-kan’s raft floated down until it was grounded on a sloping area of the mountain. Each stage of the water’s sinking left marks on the side of the mountain.
When the ground was dry again the people settled on the land that is opposite the present site of Pemberton. In-Chee-nim-kan settled in the valley with his wives and children and began to live off the land. The people who survived on In-Chee-nim-kan’s canoe spread out through the valley and settled in places that were rich with food. They settled in Green Lake, Anderson Lake, Seton Lakes, Little Lillooet Lake and along the Lower Lillooet River. This was the country peopled but the offspring of In-Chee-nim-kan and survivors of the great flood.