Semá:th Lake History

Practice Point

Semá:th Lake History

November 18, 2021

OUR HEARTS AND MINDS ARE WITH THE PEOPLE AND ANIMALS displaced by slides and flooding throughout the province. We express our support for all communities feeling the impact of these events, and we send wishes for safety for all.

Thinking of the people in the Fraser Valley, and for the Stó:lō and Nlaka’pamux communities who are affected, we consider history.

Chief Dalton Silver of Semá:th First Nation wrote on the website of Sumas First Nation about the lake that for eight thousand years existed on the farmland now called Sumas Prairie:

My grandpa used to say, that in the Coast Salish Territory, Semá:th was the central location where the people used to gather.

The people gathered in the summertime as we had Semá:th Lake that once offered every species of fish right there at the front of our village and in the winter time people gathered there from all parts of the Coast Salish Nation for the winter ceremonies and I hope sometime in the future that we can re-establish Semá:th as a central place amongst the Coast Salish.

That we can gather again and maintain the ties that we once had as Salish People.

Xwelíqwiya: The Life of a Stó:lō Matriarch by Rena Point Bolton and Richard Daly has a chapter on Semá:th Lake and the “hardship [wrought by the drainage] for those who had relied upon it for their living as far back as any of the Xwélmexw could remember.” Rena Point Bolton, a matriarch, artist, and craftswoman, is the mother of The Honourable Steven L. Point, OBC (Xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl), who has generously contributed to CLEBC programs for many years.

Chad Reimer wrote Before We Lost the Lake published in 2018, giving researched history of this 8,000-year-old wetlands dredged and drained a century ago to create farmland.

Tyler Olsen and Grace Kennedy give more history here.

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We acknowledge that the land on which we work is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.