Séliš-Ql̓ispé Ethnogeographic Signs Initiative (SQESI)

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From the earliest SQCC recordings in 1975, the elders told us about place-names. They wanted us to learn these powerful words and all they have to teach us about our spirituality, our cultural relationships with the lands and waters, and our history.

For almost half a century, the culture committee has combed through our recordings of the elders, and also searched for information provided by earlier generations of elders held in archives and libraries across the country and the world. We have carried out extensive fieldwork throughout our aboriginal lands, recording the memories and insights of elders, and continue to do so today. We’ve held countless meetings with elders to review and correct our work. The materials that are coming out of the Séliš- Ql̓ispé Ethnogeography Project are based on that massive and rigorous foundation of research and consultation.

We have now documented approximately 1500 Salish place-names across our vast territories. But we don’t want this material to gather dust on a shelf. We want it to be part of the revitalization of our cultural ways. We want to fulfill the dream of our elders that one day, we will once again know these places by the names they were called by the ancestors. This project is therefore also dedicated to returning our place-names to our daily lives and to the land itself.

To that end, we launched the Séliš-Ql̓ispé Ethnogeographic Signs Initiative (SQESI): the installation of a series of map-centered signs in locations across our territories, both inside and outside of the Flathead Reservation. In most locations, we've put up one sign; in some locations, we have a two-sign set. Each sign (or two-sign set) has a map of that part of our territories, with Salish place-names, their translations into English, and the English place-names. And in each sign (or two-sign set), we also convey, in words and images, the importance of that particular area to our people — both in the past and in the present-day. In this way, the signs are helping reestablish the Séliš-Ql̓ispé presence in these areas, informing readers of our continuing connection to the places and place-names of our homelands. The signs have been given a beautiful, integrated look by graphic artist Joanna Yardley of Missoula.

We have now completed SQESI signs covering 10 out of 22 planned areas. Because many of the signs cover a large area, such as an entire drainage system, some signs are up in more than one location. As more signs go up in coming months and years, we will add them to this webpage.

We hope you enjoy visiting these signs and reconnecting with the cultural importance of each of these places for the Séliš and Ql̓ispé people. Click on the pin for directions to the sign.