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

Grade: 6
Lesson 2: Two Forms of Shuswap Government - Traditional and Contemporary
Time: 40 minutes

Topic: These lessons will focus on the comparison between two forms of First Nation Government. Students will learn to compare and contrast the different forms. Students will identify and construct written preference between the two types of Government.

Rationale: In defining Government, students will be able to understand their own community. At the same time, students will begin to understand the complex structure of Government and how it shapes the world around them. Students will understand how Government affects an individual both directly and indirectly. Students must then choose one, from a choice of two First Nations examples to compare and/or contrast with the other based on a personal choice. Students will learn to balance their own thoughts and expressions, while the same time learning to weigh the pros and cons of decision making.

Materials and Resources

  • Briefing Sheets (1 & 2): class set
  • Data Chart: class set
  • Data Chart Assessment Sheet
  • Pencil and eraser

Main Concepts
  • Compare and Contrast two forms of Shuswap Government
  • Define Government, Traditional and Contemporary

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Students will interpret and use graphs, tables, aerial photos, scales, legends and various types of maps
  • Assess settlement patterns and population distributions in various countries
  • Compare systems of government in selected countries
  • Compare individual rights and social responsibilities in various countries
  • Assess the relationship between cultures and their environment
  • Describe ways social and economic organizations satisfy needs and wants in a variety of cultures
  • Research information using print, non-print, and electronic sources


Prior to contact. Something that has been passed down from parents to children; customs, beliefs, or other knowledge.
A system more recent; modern.

Planned Learning Activities

  • Hand out briefing sheets to be read
  • Students discuss the key points that they read in each Briefing Sheets.
  • They will then compare and contrast with a partner or in groups, each form of Shuswap Government discussed in the Briefing Sheets
  • Discuss each of the criteria.
  • In large group discussion ask the students to point out the responsibilities that each form of Government would have.
  • (Teacher's Note: Provide students with background information that will enable them to make a conclusion of how decisions were made in each type of Government)
  • Hand out the Data Chart to each Student.
  • Students will fill out the Data Chart
  • Students work independently to complete the chart.
  • Data Chart can be assigned for homework.


  • Interaction in discussions
  • Group involvement and participation
  • Data chart


  • Challenged students might discuss their findings with the teacher rather than making a written journal entry.

Other Integration Opportunities
  • Challenged students might discuss their findings with the teacher rather than making a written journal entry.

Resources Used and Supplementary Materials Available

  1. Boas, Franz, 1975 The Jesup North Pacific Expedition Part V11 - The Shuswap, ISBN 0-921-235-25-9
  2. Caron, Mabel, 1986 Shuswap Homes, Henry Grube Education Centre FN970
  3. Coffey, J, Goldstrom, E 1990 The First 100 Years of Contact ISBN0-921235-20-8
  4. Dawson, George, 1891 Notes on the Shuswap People of British Columbia, Henry Grube Education Centre FN 970,4117
  5. Cropped Eared Wolf, Annabel, 1996 Shuswap History: a century of change, Henry Grube Education Centre FN970,4117
  6. Harrison, J, Smith, N, and Wright,I, 1999 Critical Challenges in Social Studies for Upper Elementary Students ISBN 0-86491-192-0
  7. Jack,R, Matthew, M, Matthew, R, 1993 Shuswap Community Handbook ISBN 0-921235-24-0
  8. Matthew, M, 1986, Introduction to the Shuswap People, Henry Grube Education Centre, FN 970
  9. Smith-Siska, Heather, 1988 We are the Shuswap ISBN 0-921235-18-6
  10. Waters, Anne, 1988 Donna Meets Coyote, Henry Grube Education Centre, FN 970


  1. www.secwpemc.org

Briefing Sheet 1
Traditional Shuswap Government
The Secwepemc or Shuswap Indians live in the Interior Plateau of British Columbia. They have lived in this part of B.C for thousands of years. Shuswap Elders say that the Shuswap have lived on the land forever. The history of the Shuswap is told through hundreds of legends passed down from generation to generation. These legends describe how the Shuswap believe that the land was made for the people by mythological creatures and a variety of animals.

The Traditional Shuswap Territory covers approximately 90,000 km2 and has been divided in contemporary time to 17 different bands. The bands each had leaders who governed the day to day life of the community. A hereditary chief made many decisions and assumed the overall care of the people. This position was passed from father to son as soon as the son became an adult within the community.

Each band had several types of leaders, such as hunting, fishing, dance, and war chiefs. The members elected the best hunters, fishers and warriors to each of these positions. Their role was to ensure that each area was taken care of to the best ability of the male participants. They also decided on where the hunting parties would hunt and at which time during the season was best. The same pattern of the other chiefs would be necessary.

Elders and Shamans were considered leaders in the Traditional Shuswap community. They would be looked upon to decide on issues such as family disputes, tribal connections, warfare and general advice of other leaders.

The land was not owned, as it is today, but specific groups such as the Shuswap lived in a certain area and used certain food gathering grounds for berry picking, hunting and fishing. Only those within that tribe used these grounds, usually as a group.

Because of their need for food the Shuswap were called semi-nomadic people, travelling during the spring and summer to replenish their food supply. During the winter they lived in permanent villages in underground homes, called Keekwillis or Kekulis.

The leaders made decisions together as a council. They each voiced their opinion or concerns. Their decisions would generally affect the whole community. The meetings held were often about where to move the village next or how the food would be divided between the members after it was gathered and prepared by the women. Seldom there would be meetings that discussed warfare. At these times discussions took place about whether or not to invade neighboring tribes in disputes over hunting boundaries or fishing rights on a river or stream.

The Hereditary chief had final say over a personal dispute between community members and sometimes families. He decided this by remembering what would be best for the community as a whole. Shaman, or Medicine men often were as highly respected as a chief, but he had extraordinary status because of his knowledge in medicine and the spiritual world. Because of this knowledge he became the advisor at the time of death or when illness surrounded any of the community members.

Women decided on suitable partners for the young men and women in the community. While at the same time they were relied upon to keep track of family lineage and connections to other tribes. Women keep track of plant food gathering sites, which would prompt the village to move from place to place in early spring and summer. Their role was to prepare foods, maintain the family history and take care of day to day activities for the children.

The Elders in the community were highly respected advisors by leaders and members alike. They were considered teachers and provided the children and young with stories that taught about Shuswap life. The focus of a Traditional Shuswap community was to ensure day to day survival throughout all seasons and provide food, clothing and shelter for all the members.

Briefing Sheet 2
Contemporary Shuswap Government
Presently the Shuswap people live on 17 different reserves or bands within the territory used in the past. Indian reserves were mapped out under the Colonial and Provincial Governments in the 1860's and 1870's. Today, the reserve land is only a small percentage of what used to be their land base. (See Map, First 100 Years of Contact)

Today, Shuswap people live both on and off these designated reserves. In search of education, training or employment, the Shuswap people leave the reserves to live in cities and towns that can provide these services. Technology and economy, introduced by larger society has challenged the Shuswap communities and created several changes to happen. The largest change to their way of life has been how decisions are made for the community members.

There is still no ownership of land on reserve. The land is called "Crown land", which means it is owned and controlled by the Federal Government. Any decision regarding land or land issues must first be approved by the Minister of Indian Affairs in Ottawa. The Department of Indian Affairs is a Federal Government department that is assigned to look after the reserves. The bands now operate under the Federal Government Indian Act. This Act states that Chief and Council are elected every two years. Those who are "Indian Status" are given a vote or can run for a councilor position. The Indian Act also states that a Chief does not have to live on reserve or even be a Shuswap person.

Upon being elected, Chief and Council have the right to administer programs for the community. Most Shuswap communities have their own education, social, housing, economic, maintenance and health programs. These programs provide employment for band members. There are limits defined by the Federal Government. For example, Traditional hunting, fishing and food gathering practices are more structured and restricted due to Federal and Provincial Laws.

Shuswap bands Chief and Councils, usually meet once a month to discuss operations with their band programs. A band manager is hired to look after administering these programs on a day to day basis. Each program has a department head that over looks the program for efficiency and equality.

Band meetings are usually made up of all the department heads, the council members and the chief. Sometimes individual band members can join to relay information regarding an issue that is being brought up at the meeting. There is only one Chief in the community. There is usually one council member for every 100 Band members. For example if there were 600 band members then there would be 6 councilors.

At any time throughout the year the Chief and Council may call a General Band meeting. This type of meeting can be held so individual members could voice their ideas or concerns about any of the programs in the Band.

The Band has an office building on the reserve called a Band Office. Every day, with this office, the Head of Departments and workers provide services to all their band members. The Band Office Staff contact the Federal Government and the Department of Indian Affairs as a part of their job.

Shuswap community members vote in Provincial and Federal elections. They often make partnership decisions with neighboring towns and businesses that benefit their people. The Shuswap communities have committees that make decisions for the whole tribe as well as working with other bands in partnerships.

Elders hold much knowledge and expertise in Shuswap history and language. They are looked up to for advice when organizing cultural elements into the programs. They are valuable keepers of the Shuswap culture, today. They maintain a strong leadership in reviving cultural education programs and handling political and social situations. Today, there is a sense of urgency in recording and documenting the Elders' knowledge for future use in Shuswap communities.


Data Chart 1: Comparing Forms of Shuswap Government

Land Use    
Territory Boundaries    

Summative Criteria - Lesson #3
Data Chart - Assessment 1
Criteria Below Meets Above
Relevance of evidence to criteria set out at beginning of exercise Few ideas related to criteria Many ideas are related to criteria All ideas are related to criteria
1 2 3
Provides specific information based on Briefing Sheets and discussions Much of the information is vague Some of the information is vague Provides much detailed information
1 2 3
Covers the important points Mentions few important points Mentions some important points Mentions most of the important ideas in the Briefing Sheet and discussion
1 2 3
Total: /15