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Seasons of the Moon

(Coqualeetza Cultural Education Centre and Brent Galloway, 1977)

The Stó:lō year follows the lunar year.  The dates change from year to year.  Before the coming of the white man, the Stó:lō  people of the Fraser Valley had names for the months and the seasons.  In Upper Stó:lō  dialects of the Halq'emeylem Language the year, syilolem, began around the month of October.  Fall was called temhilalxw, winter was temxeytl' - cold time, spring was temqw'iles -  time for things to come up, and summer was temkw'okw'es - hot time.

The month was one complete cycle of the moon, about 29 days, and so it was called by the same name as the moon, skw'exo:s (in some dialects, lhqa:lts').  Each month or moon was said to begin on the first sliver of the moon that appeared after the "burnt out moon".  There were one or two people who kept track of the days and the months at Yale, B.C.  One man tied a knot in a string each day and a larger knot for each month.  Another man kept track by putting sticks in the ground.  Though the same quarter of the moon reappears every 29 1/2 days, the Stó:lō people probably took the events described in the names of the months as more important than rigid mathematical periods.  If the salmonberries weren't ripe till late May or early June of the year,  the moon of tem'elile (salmonberry time) might start on the closest first-sliver moon to that time rather than the first first-sliver moon in May.

Tempó:kw   October 26 - November 24 
Time for Chehalis Spring Salmon

Xets’ō:westel   November 25 - December 24  
Time to store away paddles for the winter

Meqó:s   December 25 - January 22 
Fallen snow season

Peló:qes   January 23 - February 20 
Torch Season

Temtl’i:q’es  February 21 - March 22 
Time when ice forms

Welék'es   March 23 - April 20 
Little Frog Season

Temkwikwexel   April 21 - May 19 
Time for baby sockeye salmon

Tem'elile   May 20 - June 17 
Salmonberry time

Temt’á:mxw   June 18 - July 17
Gooseberry Time

Temqwá:l   July 18 - August 15 
Mosquito Time

Temthéqi   August 16 - September 14 
Sockeye salmon time

Temkw'ó:lexw   September 15 - October 25 
Dog Salmon time

The names of the months each have a meaning.    The first month is Tempó:kw which means "time for Chehalis Spring Salmon"; tem means time or season and pó:kw means Chehalis River spring salmon.  This type of salmon begins to run about October and is smoke dried in smokehouses during this month.

The second month is Xets’ō:westel which means "time to store away canoe paddles"; xets' means store away (for winter), ō:wes means canoe paddles and tel means a device for doing something, in this case, time.  At this time, around November, the ice and snow is starting to make river travel by canoe hard or impossible, so the Stó:lō  store away their canoes by turning them over or putting them in sheds; the paddles are usually stored under the canoe or inside.  Another name for this month is Telxits which means leaves are falling.

Meqó:s, around December, means fallen snow season; máqa is fallen snow and es means a periodic cycle of time.

The fourth month, around January, is called Peló:qes which means torch season.  This is a time when torches, peló:qel, are made out of dried sockeye salmon heads and used at night when spearing fish from canoes (torch lighting).  The fish can be seen by the light reflecting from their scales when the water is real clear, as it is in the end of January.  Today pitch torches or lanterns are used.

Very few elders know a name for the fifth month, around February; those that do call it Temtl’i:q’es as time to get jammed in (as a trap, a box, etc.) or Temt'elemches - time one's hand sticks to things (from the cold), tl'i:q' means get jammed in, get wedged in, get stuck, es means a periodic cycle of time, t'elem means stick to something, tses means on the hand.  Temtl’i:q’es probably refers to getting jammed in one's house because of snow and ice.

The sixth month, around March, is called Welék'es, little frog season because the welék' - little frog begins to croak about this time.  The same month is also called Qweloythi:lem - making music, because the birds start singing then.

The seventh month, around April, is called Temkwikwexel - time for baby sockeye salmon, by some people, kwikwexel is baby sockeye salmon.  Some call the month Lhemt'oles, which means spring showers in the eyes.

The next month is around May, is salmonberry time, Tem'elile.  These are the first berries out and signal the beginning of six or seven months of berry picking time.

The ninth month, around June, is Temqoqo: - high water time, when the rivers are high with melted snow water.  Another name, less common, is Temt’á:mxw - gooseberry time.

The tenth month, around July, is called by any of three names:  Temqwá:l - mosquito time; Epolestel - the tenth month; and at Yale it can be called Temchalhtel - time to wind dry fish.  Every year Stó:lō  families would travel to Yale and camp for several weeks between Yale and Spuzzum to wind dry fish at this time.  Some families still do this.  This month is also the time when mosquitoes appear; it is said they appear when the thimbleberries appear.  The third name for this month, tenth month, proves that the year is counted beginning from about October.

The eleventh month, around August, is called Temthéqi - sockeye salmon time because of the run of sockeye salmon bound for the Adams River which passes the Upper Stó:lō  area in August.  The word sockeye comes from the Halq'emeylem word for sockeye salmon, stheqi, or the Halq'emeylem word for fish, sth'oqwi.

The last month is Temkw'ó:lexw - dog salmon time, around September.  This month is called that name every year even though the kw'ó:lexw only run every other year or every fourth year in great quantity.

The Stó:lō month was broken up into the phases of the  moon instead of weeks; we haven't found a word for week.  The phases of the moon which are given dates in the white man's calendar could be described as follows:

1. new moon - when the moon is all black
2. first quarter - when the left half is black; actually a half moon whenever a date is given for it
3.  full moon - when the moon is all lit up completely
4.  last quarter - when the right half is black; actually a half moon whenever a date is given for it