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‘We’ll be here forever:’ Landmark sculpture embodies Secwépemc presence in Chase area

Unveiling of impressive rose-granite Coyote Rock includes memorial for sculptor who died

The unveiling of the Tsqúqw7e Landmark sculpture on May 13, part of the Secwépemc Landmarks project, was both an occasion for celebration and for sadness.

The Tsqúqw7e Landmark was created by the late Mike ‘Savage’ Peters, assisted by his son Wolf Peters.

It was completed by his spiritual brother Shayne D. Hunt, with David Jacob Harder doing the metal work.

Tsqúqw7e, pronounced ch-kokw-a, is the place name for the Chase Memorial Park area, meaning “a small bay” in Secwepemctsín (the Secwépemc language).

The sculpture is shaped in the form of a Coyote Rock, which refers to rock formations created by Coyote (Seklé̓ p, Sklap ̓ or Senxúxwlecw), explained the project team. It displays a plaque dedicated to the memory of Michael Alexander ‘Savage’ Peters. He died on Oct. 24, 2021, before the sculpture was complete, so the unveiling was also a memorial.

Along with the smooth, massive, rose granite sculpture, three metal sculptures stand nearby, each with viewing portals. The portals are complete with place names, so people can look through and see the significant locations and their Secwépemc names.

The metalwork sculptures are in the shape of tree food caches, used to store dried roots and salmon. The project team explained that carvings in the metalwork represent oral histories shared by the Secwépemc Elders Advisory Committee, made up of Elders from Adams Lake, Skwláx (Little Shuswap), Neskonlith and Splatsín.

Read more: ‘Spirit of reconciliation’: Landmark at Salmon Arm wharf creates awareness of Secwépemc presence

Adams Lake councillor and project leader Shelley Witzky described Peters as “one of our Indigenous brothers and spiritual leaders, a warrior, well-respected” and spoke of the many lives he’s touched, “the work he’s done for us and for some of our most vulnerable people.”

Adams Lake Kukpi7 (Chief) Lynn Kenoras Duck Chief welcomed everyone and offered appreciations for Mike Peters and the beautiful legacy he left.

“It is a proud moment in Secwepecúl’ecw, to leave that as a landmark, for not only our own, our Secwépemc, but our allies too. Our friends, our community of Chase.

“You can see too this is a busy tourist attraction. We have people from all over…that will come and lay their eyes and learn about us, through our brother Mike Peters and through the eyes of the rest of the artists who have done this.”

She also expressed her appreciation for Witzky, project coordinator Libby Chisholm and everyone else involved in the landmarks project.

“The landmarks represent a connection. To me… the landmarks are saying, ‘we belong here, we’re connected here, we support here, we heal here and we’ll be here forever.’”

Representatives from surrounding bands, members of Chase council and members of Peters’ family expressed their appreciation for the sculpture as well as voicing poignant tributes to Peters. The tributes also included songs to honour him and his creation.

Witzky explained the sculptures are bolted into the bedrock 10 feet down and the granite comes from a Neskonlith quarry, all local. She predicted they will be in the area easily for another 1,000 years, “for as long as I think there are humans here.”

Read more: Secwépemc Elders guide stories, bless sites for Shuswap Landmarks project

Read more: Salmon Arm expresses ongoing support for Secwepemc Landmarks project

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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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