This afternoon, I drove home through Tum Tum and Suncrest. As I passed the pictographs at the base of the hill, I felt the urge to stop. I've probably seen these rock paintings a hundred times, but I always feel drawn to return.
Years ago, the parks department posted a sign with the name sumix near the entrance of the site. Presumably, the name had some reference to the spiritual nature of the rock paintings. However, it was strange that they used a Colville-Okanagan word rather than a Spokane word, considering that the paintings reside well within Spokane territory. In the Colville-Okanagan language, sumix means something like "spirit power." We have a similar word in the Spokane language: sumeš. It makes me wonder who originally created the name. Did a park ranger from 50 years ago simply pick a name that seemed "Indian"? Did someone consult a Colville-Okanagan speaker to name a Spokane historical site? In short, how did a cultural site within the Spokane territory get a Colville-Okanagan name? Does anyone know the story?
In any case, the sign has since been removed.