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1830 – 1873


Homesteads are beginning to be seen throughout the Columbia Basin, which until now has been quite isolated. The trading posts are providing the Ktunaxa with many new items and guns begin to replace traditional hunting methods. Alcohol is introduced as a trade item and social disobedience from a traditional Ktunaxa perspective is becoming more common. Traditional Ktunaxa society is now being impacted dramatically.

The male’s tribal significance as provider and protector is being diminished. The woman’s role as family supporter is still intact, but is also changing as a result of the influence of new foods and preparation methods. Traditional skills and their value to community are disappearing. The ways of this new, aggressive society reduce the relevance of the Ktunaxa culture and traditional knowledge to the young.

The Lower Canada Indian Act provided for the enfranchisement of any male Indian over the age of 21 who is educated and able to speak and write English or French well. The Indian laws of Canada have had little impact on Ktunaxa jurisdiction in their isolated Traditional Territory; however, the social impact of settlement is becoming evident.

The healthy, well-balanced Ktunaxa diet, consisting of roots, berries, plants, meats, nuts, seeds, grains and mother’s milk is supplemented by processed flours, salts and sugars and fatty meats such as bacon. Today there is a high rate of heart disease and diabetes among the Ktunaxa.

Jesuit priests have reached the Ktunaxa through the south, and a new perspective on religion is introduced. The Jesuits promoted an integrated approach to converting the First Nations and did not force religious instruction. They often learned the First Nations’ languages. Other First Nations, already converted, assisted in ‘spreading the word’.

The 49th parallel is being considered for the US boundary. This boundary line essentially divided the Ktunaxa Nation and, in some instances, immediate family, into American or Canadian Indians. A customs house is established in the area and the Ktunaxa are restricted in their access to resources located within their southern territory, as it is now within United States jurisdiction. The American Ktunaxa are being settled onto reservations.

Gold is discovered on Findlay and Wild Horse Creeks and the rush is on. Marriages between Ktunaxa women and non-Ktunaxa settlers begin to occur. The current Indian laws discriminate against women. They lose their Indian status when they marry non-Indians. Their children are also denied status as Indians. However, a non-Indian woman would gain Indian status upon legally marrying an Indian man. (This law remained in place for over one hundred years, a policy designed to reduce the number of Indians through assimilation).

The influx of fortune seekers drives the non-aboriginal population of the area up significantly. New reaches are opened up with the introduction of a modern ferry system on the rivers within the Ktunaxa territory.

The Ktunaxa lifestyle that had evolved in concert with the seasons is now interrupted by the convenience of the ‘provisions’ that the trading post had to offer. The extended family units that formed bands, governed as part of the Nation, were now breaking up, as individual families sought the new wealth that the foreigners brought.

The political activity on Vancouver Island and the establishment of another colony, leads to the negotiation of the Douglas ‘treaties’ (named for the negotiator, Governor James Douglas of the Hudson’s Bay Company), which are meant to clear the way for settlement. These are the last treaties to be signed in this early part of Canadian history.

Another British colony is established on the mainland. American Indian wars prompt the Canadian government to continue ‘peaceful’ treatment of the Indians for fear that the violence could erupt locally. The current federal policy is to allot 80 acres of land per head of house when establishing reserves.

James Douglas, who is virtually responsible for all of the federal administration in British Columbia, takes his own position on dealing with settlement in this region and signs no more treaties with the First Nations. The colonial government acknowledges aboriginal jurisdiction and wishes to arrange the purchase of title to the land, but Douglas’ personal opinion seems to drive the political agenda and he does not acknowledge the need to purchase title. When Douglas retires, Joseph Trutch is appointed governor.

The British Colonies are united into one country in 1867 and Canada is formed. Section 91(24) of the British North America Act (Canada’s first constitution) gives the newly established federal government of Canada constitutional authority to make laws regarding Indians and lands reserved for Indians.

The military alliances with First Nations that were so important initially are no longer required by the federal government and its policy direction changes substantially to accommodate economic growth of the country.

Up to 320 acres of Crown land could be legally pre-empted by settlers under law.

“… Provided that such right of pre-emption shall not be held to extend to any of the Aborigines of this Continent…”[2]

The new reserves that are now being established are being surveyed at a standard of 10 acres per head of house, down considerably from those in other parts of the country.

The Catholic Church is showing a presence within the territory. Father Fouquet of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate Catholic Society settles in the area and begins to convert the Ktunaxa. The Ktunaxa and Catholic religions are very different, but the strictness of the Catholic lifestyle is similar to that of the very disciplined Ktunaxa society. Catholic rites begin to be incorporated into Ktunaxa ceremonies. The former tribal disciplinary positions are engaged as church disciplinary positions, and whippings replace public humiliation as punishment for social disobedience. The ability to sin and then, through confession, relinquish responsibility for sins is a new concept. The once strong Ktunaxa moral values are now giving way to the more forgiving Church ways.