Semá:th X̱ó:tsa: Sts’ólemeqwelh Sx̱ó:tsa/Sumas Lake: Great-Gramma’s Lake

Recipient of the 2021 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming

May 11, 2022

The Reach Gallery Museum, Abbotsford, British Columbia

In 2020, The Reach Gallery Museum initiated a collaborative, multidisciplinary partnership with a number of Stó:lō leaders and knowledge keepers in British Columbia to reclaim the memory of a lake that once stretched between present-day Abbotsford and Chilliwack, British Columbia.

For millennia, the lake was central to the cultural, spiritual, and physical wellbeing of the area’s original occupants, the Séma:th people of the Stó:lō nation; however, a century ago, a system of canals, dykes, and pumphouses were introduced to enhance the agricultural capacity of the region. The drainage of the lake had — and continues to have — a devastating impact on the lives and livelihood of the Séma:th people and other Indigenous communities. 

The initiative, titled Semá:th X̱ó:tsa: Sts’ólemeqwelh Sx̱ó:tsa/Sumas Lake: Great-Gramma’s Lake, resulted in a number of accessible, user-friendly resources to reach educators, students, and the general public. A print and digital children’s history book was distributed to nearby school districts. An exhibition at The Reach Gallery Museum featured the children’s book and included a pronunciation recording with a Halq’eméylem language expert. An online video and resource kits reached further audiences during the pandemic. Using memory and story, this collaborative project recalls a time when the lake was thriving and invites the public to consider the ongoing repercussions of colonialism in their community.