Smum iem is the traditional governance body of Autonomous Sinixt. This means we retain the right to make decisions for ourselves rather than the governments of Canada, British Columbia, the USA or the Band Council systems created by these colonial governments.
We were tasked by the Creator to look after our unceded, ancestral təmxʷúlaʔxʷ (homeland) and all within it for future generations. We have carried out this duty for thousands of years. We continue to uphold our traditional laws of whuplakn and smum iem by working to protect and preserve the land and water, cultural sites and the distinct dialect – Snslxcin spoken by our ancestors. We also work hard to protect our ancestors themselves.
Eva Orr (1910-2006) was the Smum iem Matriarch who led Sinixt to return to the Canadian portion of their təmxʷúlaʔxʷ in 1989 in response to road building through a traditional village and burial site in the Slocan Valley. Nk̓ʕáwxtən, “a place for praying,” (Vallican) has been the site of a peaceful occupation of “Crown” Land ever since. Eva directed Marilyn James to work on repatriation of the ancestral remains taken from nk̓ʕáwxtən and elsewhere as well as guiding the resurgence of Sinixt in Canada until she dropped her robes/ joined her ancestors.
Alvina/Lavina Lum (1916-2003) was a Smum iem Matriarch who accompanied other elders in the Sinixt return to the northern portion of sinixt təmxʷúlaʔxʷ. She was the mother of nine children, including Marilyn James, who was appointed Sinixt Nation Spokesperson and later, Smum iem Matriarch by Eva Orr. Alvina was a key member in leading the Sinixt resurgence in what is now known as Canada.
Annie Krueger (1934-2003) was a Smum iem Matriarch who was known as a fire-keeper. Even though she lived in the Okanagan territory most of her life, she honoured and claimed her Sinixt ancestry. She was another key member of Sinixt resurgence work in the Sinixt təmxʷúlaʔxʷ.
Marilyn James is a Smum iem Matriarch appointed by her Sinixt elders (e.g., Eva Orr) to uphold Sinixt protocols and laws in the Sinixt təmxʷúlaʔxʷ (homeland) under the laws of whuplak’n and smum iem. Her work has included the repatriation of 64 ancestral remains from museums and collections back to their rightful places in Nk̓ʕáwxtən, “a place for praying,” (Vallican) . She was the appointed spokesperson for the Sinixt Nation in Canada from 1990 to 2013. She continues her work as Smum iem Matriarch and knowledge-keeper for Sinixt. She is an accomplished storyteller of traditional and contemporary Sinixt stories as well as the co-author of Not Extinct: Keeping the Sinixt Way (Maa Press, 2018, 2021). Marilyn holds a Masters of Education from Simon Fraser University and has worked extensively in the field of curriculum development. She is an ardent advocate for her ancestors and the land and water of their təmxʷúlaʔxʷ.
Taress Alexis is a Smum iem Matriarch appointed by her elders to uphold Sinixt protocols and laws in the Sinixt təmxʷúlaʔxʷ (homeland) under traditional laws of whuplak’n and smum iem. As a knowledge-keeper for her people, she works as an Indigenous Advisor to School Districts in Sinixt təmxʷúlaʔxʷ. She is also a storyteller and the co-author of Not Extinct: Keeping the Sinixt Way. She is a founding Board member of the Sinixt-settler collaborative group, The Blood of Life Collective. Taress in an early childhood educator and currently works with School District 51.