THE TSEK STORY
A Place of Traditional Healing
Adjacent to the Lillooet River, in the Pemberton Volcanic Belt, you will find Tsek Hot Springs and the sacred location of the In-SHUCK-ch and St’át’imc people (nkúkwtsa) of British Columbia. The nkúkwtsa established a permanent village of (s7)ístken (pit houses) and plank houses along the banks of the Lillooet River, and a series of trails through the nearby forests to hunting grounds and neighbouring villages. The mineral hot springs at Tsek provided our ancestors with physical and spiritual wellness, while the loose, sandy nature of the soil made the cedar tree roots grow long and straight.
Tsek’s hot and cold springs became the most important spiritual site in the lower Lillooet River Valley. It is said that the cool spring served as a healing pool where the Elder mothers trained men to be chiefs, watchmen, and other important positions in the In-SHUCK-ch Nation. Pronounced “chick”, Tsek Hot Springs (also known as Skookumchuck Hot Springs and St. Agnes’ Well Hot Springs) has continuously been occupied and utilized by the St’át’imc people as a location to heal and cleanse the body and spirit centuries before Europeans arrived along our shores.
The nkúksta lived at Tsek in a permanent village of ístken (pit houses) and plank houses beside the hot springs. The people depended on the springs for their physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental wellness. The hot and cold springs became the most important spiritual site in the lower Lillooet River valley.
The hot spring is valued for the healing properties of the mineral water. The cool spring was a healing pool where the elder mothers trained men to be chiefs, watchmen, or other important positions.
Travel to, from, and through Tsek was by foot and canoe. Trails from Tsek into and over the mountains were used for hunting and trading. Trails headed up-river and down river connecting the villages of the valley.
Notable contact with outsiders began in 1858 with the Lillooet River Valley identified by colonial powers as a travel route to the gold fields of the interior. Work commenced ona pack trail which by 1861 was capable of accommodating wagons. William E. Stein pre-empted the land at Tsek and build a bath house and road house referred to as 20 Mile House or Hot Spring House.
With gold field traffic diverting to the new Fraser Canyon route, use of the Lower Lillooet route was almost nil by 1866. William Stein moved on and 20 Mile House closed, but Tsek continued to be occupied by outsiders and nkúksta. Goodwin Purcell, an Irishman from County Cork, married into the family at Tsek and the location became known as Purcell’s land. The land was not designated a reserve in the 1880s when other reserves in the area were established and Goodwin Purcell purchased title in 1897. His descendants sold the land to the Trethewey Logging Company in 1956.
The Trethewey’s established a vacation property and over the years made improvements to the hot springs site. It has been operated as a public campground for many years although St’at’imc people have always been welcome at no charge.
As mentioned above, the property is now owned by Canada and held in trust for In-SHUCK-ch Nation and to be treaty settlement land following final agreement.