Ts’ilʔos Provincial Park is part of the traditional territory of the Xeni Gwet’in, and offers visitors an opportunity to appreciate the area’s cultural history. The park contains historical evidence such as archaeological and burial sites, and areas where traditional uses such as hunting, trapping, food and medicine gathering still occur. Very little information about these resources has been recorded, although a lot is known verbally through the elders. No extensive archaeological assessment has been undertaken in the park, although a heritage overview, directed by the Xeni Gwet’in has been completed.
Ts’ilʔos, the imposing peak also known as Mount Tatlow that dominates the park and gives it its name, is spiritually significant to the Xeni Gwet’in, and is celebrated in the legend of Ts’ilʔos. According to native tradition, Ts’ilʔos keeps watch over the people of the Xeni and their territory. Pointing at or climbing Ts’ilʔos are considered disrespectful, and the Xeni Gwet’in believe that doing so will offend Ts’ilʔos, resulting in severe weather changes. Please respect their beliefs by not pointing at or climbing the mountain.
The Legend of Ts’ilʔos
Long ago, before white settlers moved in, Ts’ilʔos was once a man. Ts’ilʔos had a wife named ʔEniyud. They lived in the mountains south of Konni Lake. Even though they had six children together, they had trouble getting along with one another. One day, Ts’ilʔos and ʔEniyud got into an argument. ʔEniyud threw her baby on Ts’ilʔos’ lap. She left two children with him and took the other three away. Ts’ilʔos turned into a rock, along with the two children, above Xeni Lake. You can still see the baby in his lap today.
ʔEniyud and her three children headed toward Tatlayoko Valley. On her way, she planted wild potatoes. When she arrived on the other side of Tatlayoko Valley, ʔEniyud also turned into a rock. Wherever you find wild potatoes growing, she planted them.
The Elders of Xeni Gwet’in say that if you point at Ts’ilʔos, he will make it rain or snow. He will change the weather, usually when you are on foot or horseback and far from home. ʔEniyud is the same, but meaner. The Elders say that when you try to camp around her, she will change the weather.
The legend of Ts’ilʔos has been maintained through many generations by the Elders of the Xeni Gwet’in. To them, Ts’ilʔos is a place of respect. Ts’ilʔos keeps watch over the Xeni and their territory, and his story is told here with the permission of the Xeni Gwet’in.
Ts’ilʔos Provincial Park is located in an ecologically significant area in BC. It is located in a transition zone where plant life changes from dry interior species to coastal plain species. Because the park is situated atop the juncture of several ecosystems, it offers a great diversity of landscapes.
The special features of Ts’ilʔos include, most notably, Chilko Lake and Ts’ilʔos, or Mount Tatlow. Chilko Lake, the largest natural high elevation lake in Canada, is an outstanding park feature, with its distinctive blue waters, lagoons, surrounding volcanic dyke formations, and mountainous backdrop. Ts’ilʔos is the highest point in the Chilcotin Range; its spiritual significance is celebrated in a Xeni legend. Other special features of the park include numerous river valleys such as the Yohetta, Edmond Creek, and Tchaikazan Valleys. Five glaciers are found within the Tchaikazan Valley alone, the largest of which is the only major glacier on the extreme leeward side of the Coast Mountains.
The park’s diverse landscapes incorporate glaciers, extensive meadows, outwash plains, forests, brightly colored mountains, and river valleys. This diverse landscape protects the habitat of a number of species whose populations are under pressure from human activities, such as grizzly bear, bighorn sheep, and wolverine. Chilko Lake and its watershed also preserve the most annually consistent population of spawning salmon on all the Fraser River tributaries.
The mountainous terrain of Ts’ilʔos Provincial Park provides for a diversity of wildlife habitats ranging from Douglas-fir forests at lower elevations to dry alpine areas at higher elevations. Wildlife species include black bear, mule deer, moose, mountain goat, cougar, and beaver. Ecologically sensitive animal populations found in the area include California bighorn sheep, grizzly bear, fisher, wolverine, bald eagle, and amphibian species. The adjacent lands are also important habitat for Vaux’s swift, Peregrine falcon, and Townsend’s big-eared bat.
Chilko River and Chilko Lake support significant populations of sockeye, chinook, bull trout, rainbow trout, and steelhead. Various other streams and rivers feed the Chilko and Taseko systems, and support whitefish. In the fall, spawning salmon can be observed struggling up the Chilko River at the north end of Chilko Lake.