Much of the information on this page comes from Saltwater People as told by Dave Elliott Sr. (citation below).
Have any of you wondered where the name Saanich comes from? If you tell someone who isn't local that you live in Saanich, they often want to know how it is spelled, or if they see it written, they can't guess how to pronounce it. In fact, the word Saanich is an anglicized version of the SENCOTEN word WSANEC which means "emerging people" and is the traditional name for this territory and the indigenous people who live here.
Most of us live in traditional WSANEC territory.
You probably could find Sidney, Pat Bay, Sidney Spit, or Butchart Gardens on a map. But could you find KELSET, SKTAMEN, CUAN, or XEOLXELEK?
The ancestors of the WSANEC people have lived here since time beyond memory. They are part of the Salish peoples - the biggest group of its kind in BC. The Salish peoples can be found up Vancouver Island, down into Washington and up to the southern border of the Chilcotin country and to the Alberta border in the east. Not all Salish people speak SENCOTEN but the WSANEC people and the people of the Cowichan Valley or the KHOWUTZUN people speak similar and related languages. If you are interested in learning SENCOTEN a good place to start is on the First Voices website.
The WSANEC people passed their history down in an oral tradition by telling stories in families and in the long house. By telling these stories, their children learned important lessons about who they were as a people, what they valued, and how they were expected to live their lives.
Think of a story that is passed down in your own family. Why is it told over and over? What purpose does this story hold for your family? Is it funny? Does it honour someone in your family? Does it express an important part of your history? Does it teach a lesson?
Elliott, D. (1990). Saltwater people. Sasnichton, BC: School District #63.