On March 27, 2013, the Ktunaxa Nation signed an incremental treaty agreement with the BC Provincial government giving them 242 hectares of Crown land on Wensley Bench across the highway from Box Lake just south of Nakusp in advance of a treaty agreement.
The news release stated that the agreement brings opportunities for Nakusp residents to partner with the Ktunaxa in business ventures. This news is shocking and appalling on many fronts.
There is no archaeological or historic record of the Ktunaxa (Kootenai) peoples ever living in the Slocan or Arrow Lakes Valleys. All archaeological evidence points to these two valleys having been occupied by the Interior Salish peoples known as the Sinixt.
The first fur traders and Jesuit missionaries all confirmed that the inhabitants first encountered here were Interior Salish people. Original Hudson Bay records show that the Sinixt people lived here and that they were considered by the company’s employees as the finest of all the fur trappers in the region.
The Sinixt were declared extinct in 1956, not because they did not live here (they did), but because negotiations for the Columbia River Treaty were about to begin. Sinixt people were living at Burton and Edgewood as a matter of historical record. It is quite obvious to anybody who has studied the history of the Sinixt and these valleys, that their extinction was a purely political move to eliminate them from the treaty process.
The Sinixt people intermarried with the Ktunaxa people during the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries and the claims of having any association with these valleys comes from those Sinixt people who went to live in the East Kootenays with their Ktunaxa spouses. The Indian Act of Canada, one of the most discriminatory documents ever written, states that if a person from one tribe moves to the territory of another tribe, they become members of that tribe.
The Ktunaxa Nation does not have any legitimate claim to the Slocan and Arrow Lakes valleys. Their culture does not show up here in any of the archaeological or historical documents except that they did raid Sinixt villages along the Kootenai and Columbia River valleys in the 19th century. A minor war was fought over the salmon fishery at the mouth of the Slocan River where an ancient Sinixt village existed at the time. The Sinixt won that war.
The Ktunaxa never built pit houses that make up the remains of most of the permanent settlements found in this area. They did not make pictographs and they did not invent the sturgeon nose canoe. All of the old Hudson Bay maps have Sinixt place names in these valleys. There are none in the Ktunaxa language, that is distinctly different from Interior Salish.
As far as I can see, the government has intentionally given this land in Sinixt territory to the Ktunaxa Nation to continue the lie perpetrated in 1956 that the Sinixt are extinct. It is not only a slap in the face of the Sinixt Nation but to all residents of these valleys.
The Ktunaxa Nation are only interested in the financial gain this land will afford them. The Sinixt people have laboured tirelessly for the past 25 years to protect the land and its wildlife from extinction at the hands of the government and industry. For this they have been handed another insult by this agreement with the Ktunaxa that went on behind closed doors. I think all residents of this area should be insulted too.
Many books have been written in the past 25 years about the pre-history of these valleys:
Keeping the Lakes Way – Paula Pryce
Geography of Memory – Eileen Pearkes
Ghost Peoples – Cliff Woffenden
A Twist in Coyotes Tale – Celia Gunn
Several ethnography reports by Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy