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FNSS Curriculum Integration Project Click here to download this lesson.
Randy Nelson (MS-Word format.)

Grade: 4
Lesson 1: Secwepemc Calendar
Time: 70 minutes

Topic: The Secwepemc Calendar and yearly cycle of events.

Rationale: The Secwepemc calendar is a highly-developed, unique, complex, and interesting system of accounting for time. There are also many similarities between this calendar and the Gregorian calendar (the most commonly used today).

Materials and Resources

  • Appendix 1: "Introduction to the Secwepemc Calendar"
  • Appendix 2: "Summary & comparison of Secwepemc and Gregorian calendars," preferably as an overhead, or copies for each student
  • Appendix 3: "Secwepemc moons information cards" - one print copy, cut into individual cards.
  • Appendix 4: "Important dates" on a Gregorian calendar - for teacher reference during scaffolding of student research activity
  • Appendix 5: "Student Evaluation for lessons 1 and 2" - one copy for each student.
  • File 1.2: Chart of Secwepemc months - preferably as an overhead, or copies for each student
  • File 1.3: Student notes & illustrations pages - one print copy. Each group of two or three students will work on one page.
  • At least 12 common wall calendars, preferably those that display the moon cycles.
  • Books and other materials on Secwepemc culture for student reference as needed.
  • Chart paper and pens (for Venn diagram)

Main Concepts
Exploration of the characteristics, history, cultural context, meaning, and significance of both the Secwepemc and the Gregorian calendars.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Math: examine the passage of time in terms of months and seasons relate events, months, and seasons
  • Science: relate the movement of the sun, moon, and Earth to periods of years and months
  • Social Studies: demonstrate awareness and appreciation of various Aboriginal cultures in Canada describe traditional technology used by Aboriginal people in Canada identify technological exchanges between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people identify physical environments and cultures of Aboriginal groups explore how people interact with their environment, in the past and in the present

Vocabulary in Material

  • Secwepemc
  • calendar
  • moon
  • month
  • year
  • season
  • seasonal
  • event
  • activity
  • Shuswap
  • Gregorian
  • Roman
  • Caesar
  • Pope Gregory XIII
  • lunar year and month
  • solar year
  • time
  • period
  • month names
  • meanings of Secwepemc months
  • similarities
  • differences

Planned Learning Activities
Introducing the Secwepemc calendar (15 min)

  1. Ask students to recite the months of the year (January, February, etc.) Say, "Those are the months that we are familiar with. But the Secwepemc people have another calendar that is quite different, and yet quite similar. We are going to learn about the Secwepemc Calendar today."
  2. Read the "Introduction to the Secwepemc Calendar" (Appendix 1) to the class.
  3. Display the chart, "The Secwepemc Calendar" (File 1.2) Read the names of the Secwepemc months and their meanings out loud to the class (do the best job you can with pronunciation). Ask students to predict, from the meanings of the month names, what kinds of activities the Secwepemc people would participate in during each month.
  4. Display the "Summary of the Secwepemc Calendar" overhead (Appendix 2). Read each point of the summary out loud to the class.

Introducing the Gregorian calendar (15 min)

  1. On the "Secwepemc Calendar" chart (Appendix 1), point out how the Secwepemc moons roughly correspond to the months of the year with which the students are familiar. Point out how the Secwepemc year begins in the Fall, in October. Ask students when the New Year is in their culture.
  2. Group students in twos or threes and have each group share a wall calendar. Say, "This is the type of calendar with which you are probably most familiar. It is called a 'Gregorian' calendar. Any guesses why?"
  3. Play "I spy" with a few of the "important dates" in the wall calendars (Appendix 4) as well as some ordinary days (e.g., "February 1st"), to help students get familiar with them (for example, "I spy, with my little eye, Remembrance Day."
  4. Display a wall calendar that includes the phases of the moon. Point out the moon phases displayed in the calendar. Point out how the Secwepemc months were based on the cycle of one full moon until the next. Point out how the moon’s cycle does not match the months in the calendar exactly.
  5. Display the "Summary of the Gregorian Calendar" overhead (Appendix 2). Read each point of the summary out loud to the class.

Student research work (30 min)

  1. Group students together in partners. Some students may have to work in a group of three. Give each group of students one wall calendar, one "Secwepemc Moon" information card (File 1.1 Appendix 3), and the corresponding "Student Notes and Illustrations" page for that moon/month (File 1.3).
  2. Give students instructions: to find the main events and activities that take place in their assigned Secwepemc moon and Gregorian month, and to record these events in short form on their note-taking page. Outline the criteria you will be using to evaluate their work (see Appendix 5 for Student Evaluation).
  3. Students work on note-taking page. Teacher provides guidance as needed. When first few students are finished taking their notes, stop the class and review the criteria for illustrating one of the events they have noted. (One event for the Secwepemc Moon; one for the Gregorian month).

Summary activity (10 min)

  1. Make a Venn diagram on chart paper showing the similarities and differences of the Secwepemc and Gregorian calendars. Refer back to the "Summary of the Secwepemc and Gregorian Calendars" (Appendix 2) as needed.

Please see Appendix 5

Gifted Student Activities:

  • Students may choose one of the events from the Gregorian calendar which they have experienced personally, write in their journals what they experienced during the event, why they think they participated in the event, and how they felt when participating in the event.
  • Students may choose one of the events from the Secwepemc calendar and write a fictional biography from the point of view of a Secwepemc person experiencing that event. What did that person experience? Why did they participate in the event? How did they feel when participating in the event? Students should write the account in the first person (use "I")

Special Student Activities:

  • Students may choose one of the events from the Secwepemc calendar, look for pictures of that event in the books about Secwepemc culture in the classroom, copy those pictures or aspects of them, and write a few words describing their pictures.
  • Students may choose an event from the Gregorian calendar which they have experienced personally, draw what happened during the event and how they felt.
  • Later, students may present their drawings to the class and describe what they drew, why the event takes place, and how the people participating in the event feel.

Other Integration Opportunities

  • Language Arts: Writing and drawing activities outlined in "extensions."
  • Math: Math problems involving months, dates, and years.
  • Science: Phases of the moon; solar system; what causes the seasons

Resources Used and Supplementary Materials Available

  1. School District 73 & Secwepemc Cultural Education Society. First Nations Education. Secwepemc: Before Contact. Village life. "The moons." Website. secwepemc.sd73.bc.ca
  2. Secwepemc Cultural Education Society Ethnobotanical Gardens. Secwepemc Calendar. "Secwepemc Wisdom." Website. www.secwepemc.org
  3. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia (1999). "Calendar." Digital media.
  4. "Good Buddies" 16 Month 2002 Calendar. Leap Year Publishing: Sonoma, CA (2000).
  5. David Seymour. [Secwepemc people]. picture.
  6. James Alexander Teit (1975). The Shuswap.
  7. Jennifer Dick. Stories about the Shuswap Indians.
  8. John Coffey et. al. (1990). Shuswap history: the first 100 years of contact.
  9. Marianne Ignace (1998). Secwepemc culture kit.
  10. Marianne Ignace (1998). Secwepemc songbook: 1998 teachers’ guide.
  11. Marianne Ignace (1999). Secwepemctsin (Shuswap language) 5 to 12 integrated resource package.
  12. Marie Matthew (1986). Foods of the Shuswap people. Artist David Seymour.
  13. Marie Matthew (1986). Shuswap songs and dances. Artist David Seymour.
  14. Marie Matthew (1986). Technology of the Shuswap people. Artist David Seymour.
  15. May Dixon, Mary Palmantier (eds.) & assistant Aert Kuipers (1982). A western Shuswap reader.
  16. Mona Jules (1998). Secwepemcsin children’s reader.
  17. Renee Spence (1995). The Metis people: a teacher’s curriculum and resource guide.
  18. Robert Matthew (1994). Shuswap mapping: teacher’s handbook.
  19. Robert Matthew. Traditional uses of local plants by the Secwepemc people: teacher’s handbook.
  20. "Salmon smoking" video and teacher’s guide (1992).
  21. Vicki Mulligan (1988). We are the Shuswap: teacher’s guide and student text.

Introduction to the Secwepemc Calendar

"The Secwepemc people originally had 13 months, or moos as they are called.

"The calendar months are determined by activities of each month, growing season and each division of the Shuswap has their own kinds of activities therefore, the calendar differs slightly in each community. (Verified by the late Amy August of the Neskonlith Band).

"Seasonal activities were identified by birds or insects before the written calendar. At the first chirp or signal of a certain migratory bird or insect, activities such as berry picking or fishing would begin. Certain birds sang their song when the soapberry ripened for instance or the yellowjacket (bee) buzzed about when the salmon arrived in the rivers and streams.

"The Secwepemc have always known their seasonal calendar and their survival over thousands of years indicated that they were correct in their knowledge of the seasonal round of activities. (As told by Kye'7e Sulye'n of Skeetchestn)."

Source: Secwepemc Cultural Education Society Ethnobotanical Gardens: The Secwepemc Calendar, "Secwepemc Wisdom" Website: www.secwepemc.org

Secwepemc Calendar

This is the traditional calendar of the Secwepemc people. They have used it for centuries.

The year is based on the cycle of the seasons and by the number of times the moon goes through its phases (a lunar year).

The months of the year are determined by the phases of the moon and by certain seasonal activities.

The period of "one moon" (a lunar month) is equivalent to 29.5 days - the time it takes for the moon to orbit the earth.

The months are names for important seasonal events that take place in Secwepemc life.

Seasonal events, and thus the names of the months, would vary depending on where you lived in the Shuswap.

The beginning and end of each month is marked by a specific occurrence (for example, the arrival of the yellowjacket wasp buzzing around your ear occurred at the same time as the arrival of the salmon in the rivers).

Sources: Secwepemc Cultural Education Society Ethnobotanical Gardens, "Secwepemc Wisdom." Website: www.secwepemc.org
Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia (1999). "Calendar." Computer media.

Gregorian Calendar

This is the calendar that is commonly used today. It was developed by the Romans (Julius Caesar, 45 b.c.) and later adjusted by Pope Gregory XIII (1582 a.d.).

The year is based on the orbit of the earth around the sun (365 days – one solar year).

The year is divided into twelve months.

The months are named for Roman gods and emperors. For example, July is named after Julius Caesar; January is named for the Roman god Janus.

The beginning and end of each month is not determined by seasons, seasonal activities or seasonal events. Months are simply assigned a certain number of days.

Secwepemc Cultural Education Society Ethnobotanical Gardens, "Secwepemc Wisdom." Web: www.secwepemc.org (Accessed 2002).Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia (1999). "Calendar." Computer media.

Sources of information contained on the "Secwepemc Moons Information Cards"

  1. The Secwepemc Before Contact (Web-site): secwepemc.sd73.bc.ca
  2. The Secwepemc Cultural Education Society Ethnobotanical Gardens, "Secwepemc Wisdom" (Web-site): www.secwepemc.org

Pellc7ell7u’7llcwten’ ("entering the winter home")
First Moon - November

People move into their winter villages on the rivers. Food caches are filled with supplies for the winter. Dwellings are built or repaired. When all are settled, the chief calls the men to hunt elk or deer in the nearby hills. The telling of stories begins.

Pelltete’tq’em (Pestiteqem- "fall and winter merge")
Second Moon - December

The first real cold weather comes. Men continue to hunt. Women take the skins from storage and begin work on the winter clothing and all the garments needed for the coming year. People visit families in nearby villages.

Pellkwet’min ("remain at home")
Third Moon - January

The sun turns. Deer hunting continues in this, the coldest month. Families fish through the ice in rivers and lakes for trout and white fish. This is the month of winter feasting. Food is shared and people play lahal and other games.

Pellctsipwen’ten ("with cache-pits")
Fourth Moon - February

The spring winds month. People catch some fresh food, such as rabbits and fish, but the stored supplies are running low. The chief might ask a family who still had food to share with a family in need. New clothes have been made, while new hides are prepared by tanning.

Pellsqe’pts ("spring wind")

Fifth Moon - March

Pellsqe’pts is the little summer month. Snow begins to melt and some people move from their winter homes. Food might still be very scarce. People are preparing for spring, sewing and repairing storage bags and tumplines, building new canoes, and packing their belongings.

Peslle’wten ("snow melts")
Sixth Moon - April

Peslle’wten is the time when the snow disappears from the high ground and grass begins to grow. Mats are made ready for the summer dwellings. Family groups move to their own camps in the traditional gathering places. They harvest the first of the new plants, such as the chocolate lily. Tree roots and bark are gathered for making baskets.

Pell7ell7e’7llqten ("root-digging month")
Seventh Moon - May

People fish trout in the lower lakes and continue deer hunting. Many more plants are ready for harvest, such as cow parsnip, balsamroot, and wild potato. Revitalised by a healthy diet, people begin to plan for major trips throughout their territory, to meet old friends, and to trade goods.

Pelltspe’ntsk ("strawberry month")
Eighth Moon - June

Pelltspe’ntsk is when the Saskatoon berries ripen. The chief announces the time to gather the first berries. People travel widely through their territory. Many people of different nations travelled to the yearly gathering at Green Lake for celebration and trading.

Pelltqwelq’we’l’t ("everything ripens")
Ninth Moon - July

The salmon arrive and people harvest the fish. More berries also are ripening. They begin to preserve the salmon, berries and other foods for their winter supplies.

Pellct’e’xel’cten ("salmon run up stream")
Tenth Moon - August

People spend a great deal of time on the rivers, within their areas, fishing for sockeye and spring salmon. Drying fish for the winter is the main job.

Pesqelqle’lten ("many salmon moon")
Eleventh Moon - September

Some tribes still continue to fish salmon but most people cache their dried fish and leave the river to hunt. They move into the mountains to hunt deer, elk and mountain sheep.

Pesllwe’lsten ("fall begins")
Twelfth Moon - October

The balance of the year was called Pesllwe’lsten. During this time people travel to the mountains and take meat for the winter. Marmot are hunted for their meat and their furs. They also gather cranberries and soapberries. By late in this moon, the people have descended from their mountain hunting territories. They are laden with the goods which they had gathered during their last outing of the year. Families, separated through the busy summer, are reunited.

"Important Dates" on a Gregorian Calendar

January 1st: New Years Day
January 1st: Kwanzaa Ends
January 15th: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, Birthday
January 21st: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

February 2nd: Groundhog Day
February 12th: Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday (USA)
February 12th: Chinese New Year
February 13th: Ash Wednesday
February 14th: Valentine’s Day
February 18th: Presidents’ Day (USA)
February 22nd: George Washington’s Birthday (USA)

March 20th: Vernal Equinox
March 17th: St. Patrick’s Day
March 24th: Palm Sunday
March 31st: Easter Sunday
March 28th: Passover
March 29th: Good Friday

April 1st: April Fools’ Day
April 7th: Daylight Savings Time begins (clocks forward)
April 22nd: Earth Day
April 24th: Administrative Professionals’ Day

May 1st: Primero de Mayo (Mexico)
May 2nd: National Day of Prayer (USA)
May 5th: Cinco de Mayo (Mexico)
May 12th: Mother’s Day
May 18th: Armed Forces Day (USA)
May 20th: Victoria Day
May 30th: Memorial Day (USA)

June 14th: Flag Day
June 16th: Father’s Day
June 21st: Summer Solstice
July 1st: Canada Day
July 4th: Independence Day (USA)

September 2nd: Labour Day
September 8th: Grandparents’ Day
September 23rd: Autumnal Equinox

October 12th: Columbus Day
October 14th: Thanksgiving Day (Canada)
October 24th: United Nations Day
October 27th: Daylight Savings Ends (clocks back)
October 31st: Hallowe’en

November 2nd: Dia de los Muertos (Mexico)
November 5th: Election Day (USA)
November 11th: Remembrance Day (Canada)
November 28th: Thanksgiving (USA)
November 30th: Hanukkah

December 22nd: Winter Solstice
December 25th: Christmas
December 26th: Boxing Day
December 26th: Kwanzaa Begins

Source: "Good Buddies" 16 Month 2002 Calendar. Leap Year Publishing: Sonoma, CA (2000).

Secwepemc Calendar Activities Student EvaluationName(s):___________________________________

Date: ___________________________________

g (good) = 1 point
s (so-so) = 0.5 point
n (no) = 0 points

(yes) = 1 point
(no) = 0 points

  1. Notes (3 points)
    • complete (at least 3 events listed on each side of page): g / s / n
    • accurate: g / s / n
    • neat: g / s / n
  2. Illustration (5 points)
    • drawing completed: g / s / n
    • includes accurate detail: g / s / n
    • coloured realistically: g / s / n
    • drawing fills the available space: g / s / n
    • no scribbling: g / s / n
  3. Presentation (3 points)
    • student names the month and event: y / n
    • student gives reason for event: y / n
    • student shares his or her ideas as to why the event is important to the people that observe it: y / n
  4. Suggestions for commemorating the Secwepemc months (3 points)
    • records at least 3 suggestions: y / n
    • suggestions are appropriate to the Secwepemc culture: g / s / n
    • neatness: g / s / n
  5. Student supports and shares space, materials, and work with partner: g / s / n
  6. Teacher’s Comments:

Total Score: ___ / 15