Mothers of Our Nation

Q'umk'uts' (Bella Coola) 8 May 1945

Above: This picture expounds the 'matriarchal' powers of Nuxalk history; we are the children of 'Mother Earth' . . .

These Nuxalk women are the Mothers of Our Nation;
Our Sovereignty has been passed down to our families
and must be respected in the highest honour. We are from the Land; as we are from Our Mother.

Front row (from left): Annie Johnson, Anna Schooner,
Helen Schooner, Flossie Webber and Amanda Siwallace.

Back row (from left): Agnes Edgar, Emily Schooner, Mabel Moody, Gertrude Schooner, Marjorie Tallio, Annie Tallio and Margaret Siwallace.

Left: Unidentified Nuxalk woman, c. 1920.

"The first generation (the Elders), they have their culture. It's solid for them. The next generation, they're the ones who got it stripped away through the residential schools. The third generation – my generation – we're lost. The fourth generation – our kids – there's real pride with the elders now as they see the fourth generation coming on. I can never commend the elders enough. The things they have gone through and seen. The way they retrain themselves. I'd like to have a total immersion in the culture. But I can't. I have to do the legwork for the Elders." Chief Qwatsinas in 'Wisdom of the Elders' by Ruth Kirk, 1986.

Dr. Margaret "Sisini" Siwallace

Margaret Siwallace, Doctor of Letters UBC, honoris causa, 1985:

"Margaret Siwallace was born in Kimsquit, BC. Educated at the Crosby Indian Girls School at Port Simpson, Margaret Siwallace was an excellent translator, moving easily between English, Chinook, and her own native Nuxalk (Bella Coola) language. An intercultural woman of great personal and scholarly integrity, Siwallace was the principal source for many papers and theses in fields that ranged from ethnobotany to linguistics, history to nutrition, and ethnomedicine to pharmacology. A true scholar and scientist in her own right, she fought for First Nations rights, working for her own community as well as for good relations amongst others. Siwallace mediated and unraveled many knotty problems in politics, law, customs, science and more general scholarship. Trained for chieftainship from an early age – which office of the Nuxalk people she graced with rare ability for many years – she was a great historian. She was a mother of five, grandmother of eighteen and great grandmother to thirty. Throughout a long life which had known dire tragedy as well as the extremes of material poverty, Margaret Siwallace has always been generous of herself, freely sharing with others the qualities and wealth of her mind and heart, her knowledge, her sympathy and her insight. She earned the respect, admiration and love of all who encountered her."

Interview with Q'umulha (Sximana) 2005

Left: Q'umulha (Sximana), 1 September 2011.

Some of Our Matriarchs Today

Melvina "Nuxilhtimut" Mack

Mercy Snow

Karen "Skyakw" Anderson


Hazel Hans

Rita Snow

Pearl Snow

Eliza Saunders

Jemina Schooner


Nuxalk Smayusta Homepage