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Okanagan First Nations

The State of the Weather

 by Sleem-Teuk (First Among Women)

All through the ages the state of the weather has been a predominant subject of interest.  The farmer, the sailor, the air pilot – all are directly concerned with weather conditions.  To the rest of us it is an all-important subject because our pleasures and interests are as closely involved, even though indirectly.

The Indians learned the sign language of Nature from necessity; to them it often meant life or death.  A hard, long winter must be foreseen and preparations made to meet it adequately.  Strangely enough, Nature herself gives more generously of her foods when a hard winter is to follow.

These are some of the signs the Indians watch for in predicting the winter months.  If it is to be a long, cold season, the birds flock in August instead of September.  The berries are very plentiful and there are hordes of bees busily gathering honey, many more bees than is usual in the summer.  If you will go into the hills you will notice that this year here are many berries and that there is a continual hum of bees working as fast as possible gathering the winter supply of honey.  The signs point to a hard winter.  Also, you will notice, if you have the patience to watch, that the squirrels are busier than usual laying up large stores of nuts.  Through some strange instinct, Nature warns them to fill their larders very full against lean months ahead.

 

The Indians have a name for each of the twelve months of the year.  To them, of course, the year is divided into twelve moons, and each moon has a different name.  The name describes the weather during each moon and in that way is helpful as well as merely naming a month.  These are the names of the moons in the language of the Okanagans.

 

July Cheeacheeatltan Hot month
August Lolow-tan Chokecherry month
September Kickanee-tan Salmon month
October Tukareeskt-tan Change-of-the-leaves month
November Eeak-tan One-moon-to-cold month
December Eestk-tan Cold month
January Spaakt-tan Very white month
February Chaaghlt-tan Cold-month-after-white-month month
March Skneermeen-tan Buttercup month
April Smukaahaan-tan Sunflower month
May Speetlum-tan Rockrose month
June Seeah-tan Saskatoon-berry month

These are the common signs in predicting the weather each day.  When the wind comes from the south it is an indication of rain and the rain will last for some time.  If the wind comes from the west and there are a few dark clouds in the western sky there will be showers during the day.  If the wind comes from the north there will be no rain.  Usually an east wind shifts south and then there is a steady rain.  If the sky is very red when the sun goes down, it will be hot the next day.  If the evening is warm and there is no breeze, it is usually an indication of rain.  In winter a rippled sky means cold weather.

These are some of the signs by which Mother Nature speaks to her children and helps them to prepare for the morrow.