Digging roots at Lytton

In the book, “Our Tellings: Interior Salish Stories of the Nla’kapmx People”, Christine Bobb describes how they went up to Petáni  [Botanie Valley] to gather roots during the month of August. The women dug roots using a special tool known as a pátsa, (pronounced pa´cha in Stl’atl’imx and Secwepemc).

The size of a pátsa ranged from 30 to 120cm (approximately a foot to four feet) in length. It had a curved tip and a cross piece near the top. Depending on the size of the pátsa, a person would use one hand or two to press it into the soil.

First peoples of the Interior made digging sticks from hard wood such as Black Hawthorn or Saskatoon Berry or of mule deer or elk antler.

Stick for digging roots

Stick for digging roots

“My mother dried it [roots] while I watched, but I helped her get through drying and fixing it. Then she stored it away.

When it was almost wintertime, my mother cooked it in the dirt. First she dug the ground, then she put down the wood and, finally, the rocks. When finished, the wood was burnt and the rocks were red hot. Then she buried it with dirt — not too much — and blanketed it with fir boughs, maple leaves, and dry pine needles. That’s how the roots were cooked for putting away.

They made licorice, which they washed in water. It was washed in water until it was clean and had turned white. Then it was put in a basket and taken to be cooked. Everything was cooked this way: sk’ámats [roots of the yellow avalanche lily], tiger lily, cinquefoil, tatúwen [corms of wild potatoes]. When wiýe [black tree lichen] is cooked it’s really good – it tastes just like licorice…”

Annie York wrote that they would “soak the wiýe so many days and wash it clean and then they dig the earth. They build a fire first, and when the earth is hot they dig it out and put wiýe on after it’s washed. And they put it there, put rocks on the bottom, lay sticks side by side, pour the water in, they cover it up good. It has to be there for about twenty-four hours.”