Wild Roses

Secwepemc name: hips: sek’wéw’ (or the flower, as well as the fruit); bush: sk’eplé7llp (lit. “prickly plant”; “big rose sticks”)

wild-rose-hipsWild roses are known to almost everyone. The outer rind of rose hips was, and still is, eaten by Secwepemc people; they were the last fruits to be picked in the year. Mary Thomas said that rose hips make a good tea. The hips are also used to make jelly, and were eaten for vitamins. Deer like to eat rose shoots. Mary Thomas described how straight rose branches were obtained for arrows: “They [wild roses] were used for arrows too [like yew branches].  They always looked around for a great big tree, and if a rosebush grew right along a tree it was almost perfect — they grow straight, and those were what they looked for. You cleaned them and tied them really tight — they couldn’t move, they’re so tight — and then you just take the crooks out of it, lay it on a straight surface and by the time they’re dry they’re just perfectly straight.”

rosesRose sticks were placed in the bottom of the pot, in a layer 4 to 6 inches [10-15 cm] thick, when people were steaming food. Rose branches were also used to surround the food in pitcooking. Perhaps the most important medicinal use, which was also spiritual and protective, was the use of wild rose branches is a cleansing agent and disinfectant, especially at times of illness and death in a household. Many people remember this use, and some still practice it. When people were widowed, they drank a tea of rose branches. This was a spiritual medicine. Prior to starting fishing for the first time, the fishing net would be wiped down with rosebushes to help get rid of the human scent on the net. Mary Thomas said that the hips and branches could be boiled together or separately to make a tea for colds.