views updated


ETHNONYMS: Chin Nation, Lilowat, Lil'wat

The Lillooet were one of the four principal tribes in the interior plateau of British Columbia. They are sometimes referred to as the Lower Lillooet, including the Douglas and Pembroke Meadows bands, and the Upper Lillooet, including all other bands. They occupied the southwestern part of the province in the basin of the Lillooet River, the upper part of Harrison Lake, and environs.

In the early 1900s there were thirteen bands, with the number reduced to ten today. There were many villages, each governed by a hereditary band chief. Today there are about twenty-five hundred Lillooet living on reserves in their traditional territory and in nearby cities. The Lillooet speak an Interior Salishan language related to the languages of the Okanagon, Shuswap, and Thompson Indians.

Lillooet culture displayed many features typical of Northwest Coast groups: the potlatch, clan names, mythology, prestige afforded the wealthy and generous, and totem poles in some areas. They had several types of dwellingslong plank houses, winter earthlodges, and summer bark- or mat-covered lodges. Salmon and other fish were the basis of the economy, and numerous animals (bear, sheep, caribou, deer, and small mammals) were hunted and trapped, and berries and fruit were gathered. Warfare with other groups was unusual, with intensive intertribal trade the more typical state of affairs. The guardian spirit vision quest was important, as was a long training period for adolescents in preparation for adulthood.


Stryd, Arnoud H., ed. (1978). Reports of the Lillooet Archaeological Project. Number 1. Introduction and Setting. National Museum of Man, Mercury Series, Archaeological Survey of Canada, Paper 73. Ottawa.

Teit, James A. (1906). The Lillooet Indians. American Museum of Natural History, Memoir no. 4, 193-300.

Teit, James A. (1912). "Traditions of the Lillooet." Journal of American Volklore 25:287-371.