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Tsq̓éscen̓ First Nation officially adopts traditional name

The Tsq̓éscen̓ First Nation has abandoned the colonial Canim Lake Band label
Tsq̓éscen̓ First Nation Chief Helen Henderson addresses several dozen members of the public during National Indigenous Peoples Day in 2022. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

The Tsq̓éscen̓ First Nation has offically shed the Canim Lake Band name.

On Tuesday, Nov. 7 the Tsq̓éscen̓ First Nation announced that they are returning to their traditional name and sent a letter out announcing the move to South Cariboo businesses, governments and partners. Chief Helen Henderson said she is proud her community is reclaiming its identity as Styetemc (lake district) people within the Secwépemc Nation.

“The name change is about identity and who we are as Tsq’esenemc people and taking pride in our language, history and culture,” Henderson said. “We have been defined for the last 150 years by a colonial system and our identity has been attached to that system. To finally break free at least in principle through a name change is historic for us as we take our first steps to self-determination and self-governance.”

Tsq̓éscen̓ is pronounced Ch-kes-ken, Stemete7uw’i Friendship Centre manager Murray Casey said.

Tsq̓éscen̓ First Nation CAO Laurelee Bennett said the name change was put to a vote on May 21, 2022 with 107 members casting ballots. After they received approval Bennett and other members of the Tsq̓éscen̓ government spent several months consulting with elders and knowledge keepers about the proper spelling of the name.

“So the Tsq’esenemc people are the people of Broken Rock so Tsq̓éscen̓ First Nation is just referring back to their roots,” Bennett said. “It’s very exciting, I’m very grateful to work for the Tsq’esenemc people and I really enjoy all the work and projects we’re doing in the community.”

READ MORE: Tsq̓éscen̓ First Nation takes control of children’s education

Henderson said she’s always been proud of her heritage and sees the name change as a natural way to raise her community’s profile within their traditional territory. The Secwépemc have been in the area for thousands of years and Henderson said it’s important to educate her community and their neighbours about that fact. Bringing back their language and culture is a way to keep that rich history and culture alive.

“The language in itself is very special and unique. It absolutely identifies who we are as Secwépemc and Styetemc people,” Henderson said.

Looking to the future Henderson said empowering the Tsq̓éscen̓ First Nation’s people and helping them reclaim their identity remains her primary focus as chief. She also hopes to carry on building relationships with her community’s neighbours who share their territory with them.

“We are Tsq̓éscen̓ First Nation, we’ve been here since the beginning of time and we want to develop and strengthen our relationships,” Henderson said.