The few words of Nicola-Similkameen that have been recorded suggest that this language was related to Chilcotin, about 250 km to the north, but analysis of artifacts from archaeological excavations indicates that Nicola-Similkameen PREHISTORY is closely linked with that of the neighbouring Lillooet, Thompson and Okanagan areas. By the early 1900s few people remained who spoke the Nicola-Similkameen language, as it had become secondary to the languages of those who now occupied their territory - the Thompson and Okanagan.
The Nicola-Similkameen language is now extinct. The last person who had even a partial knowledge of this language died around 1940. However, there are still some geographical place names both in the Nicola and Similkameen river valleys that are recognized by Interior Salish as being in the Nicola-Similkameen language, and some Thompson and Okanagan people are aware of their Nicola-Similkameen ancestry.
Very little information about Nicola-Similkameen culture has been recorded. They, like their Interior Salish neighbours, generally lived in semisubterranean dwellings (pit houses) during the winter and in tule-mat lodges at other times of the year. The Nicola-Similkameen subsisted primarily on lake fishing. Salmon were obtained mainly through trade, as anadromous fish were not available either in the upper Nicola River or along the entire length of the Similkameen River. The Nicola-Similkameen diet was supplemented by elk, deer, small game and vegetal foods.
Thompson and Okanagan encroachment into Nicola-Similkameen territory was the result of several factors, perhaps the most important being the introduction of the HORSE to the Plateau area in the 18th century. The horse extended travel for the purposes of trade and food harvesting, with the result that Thompson and Okanagan peoples came to use areas occupied by the Nicola-Similkameen. By the mid-1800s the Nicola-Similkameen were under the influence of the Thompson and Okanagan. Epidemic diseases, intermarriage with the Interior Salish and the increasing presence of non-Aboriginal peoples further hastened the demise of the Nicola-Similkameen in the latter half of the 19th century.
Author DOROTHY KENNEDY and RANDY BOUCHARD
F. Boas, "Fifth Report on the Indians of British Columbia," British Association for the Advancement of Sciences, Annual Report (1895); G.M. Dawson, "Notes on the Shuswap People of British Columbia," Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada 9 (2), (1891).
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The website for the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge, which features Canada's largest essay writing competition for Aboriginal youth (ages 14-29) and a companion program for those who prefer to work through painting, drawing and photography. See their guidelines, teacher resources, profiles of winners, and more. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.