Stó:lō: A Note on the Halq'eméylem Language


"Stó:lō" is a Halq'eméylem word that refers to both a river and a people. It means "River," "River of Rivers," and "Tribe of Tribes," all in reference to the "People of the River," Stó:lō. The Stó:lō are the indigenous peoples of S'ólh Téméxw (Our land, our world), occupying the lower Fraser River watershed of southwestern British Columbia. Halq'eméylem is the upriver dialect of their language. Stó:lō Elders say, "S'ólh Téméxw te it'kwelo. Xyólhmet te mekw' stám ít kwelát" (This is our land. We have to take care of everything that belongs to us). They also say, "We have always been here." Archaeological evidence documents at least ten thousand years of occupation in S'ólh Téméxw. The current Stó:lō population is approximately ten thousand people. The Halq'eméylem words and phrases listed below are used throughout this book as important parts of the exhibition Man Turned to Stone: T'xwelátse.


Halq'eméylem. The upriver dialect of Halkomelem, language of the Stó:lō.



Shxwelí. Spirit; life force; spiritual bond connecting all things.


S'ólh Téméxw

S'ólh Téméxw. Our land, our world.



Sqwélqwel. True news or personal histories.



Stó:lō. People of the River, Tribe of Tribes, River of Rivers, River.



Sxxwiyám. The period of the distant past when the world was mixed up; also the narratives of Xexá:ls (the Transformers).



T'xwelátse. The first man of the Ts'elxwéyeqw Tribe (Chilliwack Tribe) of Stó:lō. He was born in the
distant past when things were not quite right and transformed into stone by Xexá:ls.



Xexá:ls. The Transformers: four black bears—three brothers and a sister—born from red-headed woodpecker
and grizzly bear, who travelled through the land "making things right." Xá:ls is the singular form.


Xyólhmet te mekw' stám ít kwelát

Xyólhmet te mekw' stám ít kwelát. We have to take care of everything that belongs to us.