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1900 – 1920

The railway is making its way through the Ktunaxa Traditional Territory, and reserve lands are expropriated for this purpose. These lands are later not needed and they revert back to reserve status. The railway opens up this territory for settlement and further commercial activity. The Ktunaxa are settling into villages and small homesteads on the reserve.

Indians are required to obtain passes from the Indian Agent to travel beyond the B.C. boundaries of the Traditional Territory and, in many instances, even to leave the reserve. The traditional leadership is still intact; however, cultural integration with foreign principles is noticeable.

The McKenna-McBride Commission holds hearings throughout the province regarding B.C. reserves. The Commission recommends that adjustments to the reserves be permitted. First Nations across the province are organizing politically to challenge the government’s approach to land allocations. The Ktunaxa join forces with these other tribes. A petition is filed with Ottawa, protesting the land expropriations and cut-offs that had resulted in approximately 36,000 acres of land being taken away from existing Indian reserves.

The influence of ‘civilization’ has resulted in the near complete dismantling of the traditional Ktunaxa society. Other governments are regulating traditional activities but many Ktunaxa practices continue in secrecy. The Church has a fairly strong hold on Ktunaxa education. The Ktunaxa language is still the first language spoken in most Ktunaxa homes, but the children are not able to continue learning in and speaking the Ktunaxa language because of residential schools. Disease continues to reduce the population of the Ktunaxa Nation, with tuberculosis being responsible for many deaths.

1876 – 1900

The Indian Act is created by the amalgamation of all of the previous laws dealing with Indians and Indian lands. The three main areas addressed by the Act are lands, membership and local government. The federal government is concerned with preparing the First Nations for integration into the mainstream of Society by introducing them to New World religion and teaching them how to farm. Federal policy encourages assimilation of the Indian into Canadian society, by providing the children with an education designed to civilize them. The federal government makes provisions for the purchase of educational services from the provinces or religious organizations to assist with this process of civilization. The enfranchisement (right to vote – become a Canadian citizen) of educated Indians remains a goal. The Act also prohibits First Nations from practicing any traditional forms of government, such as the Potlatch and the Sundance. The Act now requires First Nations or Indian Bands, as they are legally described, to elect their Chief and Council, under the terms described within the Act. Traditional leaders are forced underground or out of office. Corruption within some communities is now becoming evident, as local, traditional laws are no longer enforceable and cultural moral values are being weakened. The Ktunaxa Chiefs meet with P. O’Reilly, Indian Reserve Commissioner, to discuss the boundaries for the reserves. These reserves are later surveyed, with adjustments, and the boundaries set. Local land disputes arise when the Ktunaxa are forced to leave the lands that they have camped on for generations and settle on the reserves. The Ktunaxa oppose the establishment of the reserves. A church is built at the St. Eugene’s Mission with money from the Moyie silver mine; that is founded by a Ktunaxa and staked by Father Coccola. A wooden day school building offers education to the local Indians but residential schools are becoming the generally accepted method of providing an education to Indians. Most of the schools are operated by religious orders. Locally, the Catholic Church receives the federal contract to provide educational services and plans are made for the building of a school. The St. Eugene’s Mission Residential School opens and Ktunaxa children are now required by law to attend. This school is attended by children aged 6 through 18 and the focus of instruction is on religion, farming and household chores. The academic program is secondary to the teaching of ‘civilized ways’. Children are forbidden to speak their own language and are punished when they do. In some instances, children are taken from their homes without the knowledge or consent of their parents. Parental consent is not required. Children from as far away as the Yukon Territory attend the St. Eugene’s Residential School during its nearly one hundred years of operation. Of all the legislation that exists, this single federal policy, compulsory residential school attendance has the most lasting and detrimental effect on the Ktunaxa language and culture. The forced removal of the children from home and community collapses what is left of the once secure family and extended family structure that made up the Ktunaxa Nation. Inherent jurisdiction still exists, but the validity of Ktunaxa social and cultural values is put to question in the minds of the youth. The traditional education system no longer exists. The Nation’s adults and elders lack purpose. The government believes the adult Indian to be a hindrance to the civilization of the children and their influence is not wanted. Within these residential schools, generations of Indian children are subjected to mental, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse. Their very existence is put to question and their rich culture and history treated as insignificant. Thousands of years of cultural evolution within natural synchronicity is halted. The Ktunaxa society ‘goes to sleep’ as the transmission of traditional knowledge is interrupted. The Indian Agents are taking census of the Ktunaxa populations and many people are not included on the lists. Women who marry non-Indians are removed or not included. Many people who are visiting in the U.S. portion of the Ktunaxa territory or who are out on the land are also excluded from these lists which would later provide the foundation for Band Membership and Status lists. These federal population statistics determine who is eligible for benefits as an Indian, under the Indian Act. Other commercial activities are now springing up all over Ktunaxa territory, with lumber mills and logging camps dotting the landscape. Mining is also expanding at a rapid rate. The First Nations of the Peace River area of northeastern B.C. sign Treaty 8 with the federal government. This treaty extends into B.C. from Alberta.


The two British Colonies on the coast are united to form British Columbia, which then joins Canada. Provisions are made for the completion of the reserve system in British Columbia with the federal government maintaining responsibility for Indians and their lands within the British Columbia boundaries.

District Lot 1 Kootenay District is surveyed and the land is pre-empted by Father Fouquet. He establishes the St. Eugene’s mission. This mission becomes the prevalent religious force in the modern Ktunaxa society.

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.

1800 – 1830

Trading posts are established within Ktunaxa territory and foreigners are beginning to be seen regularly throughout the region.

The buffalo on the prairies are hunted almost to extinction for their hides. This loss of a primary food source meant that the First Nations are becoming more reliant on alternatives, such as fish. At the same time, a commercial salmon fishery is being established at the mouth of the Columbia River and the Ktunaxa begin to notice a decline in the number of fish returning to spawn. The Columbia River salmon are a major food source to many tribes.

1763 – 1800

The North West Company, a partnership of American and Scottish investors who took advantage of French alliances with Native populations, establishes numerous trading posts throughout Canada.

The fur trade reaches the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains and foreign disease appears amongst the Ktunaxa. Smallpox claims a high percentage of the population.

David Thompson is the first non-aboriginal person to be encountered by the Ktunaxa. Two Ktunaxa men meet him near the present site of Fort Edmonton. The Columbia River is of major interest to the explorers. It forms one of the natural boundaries of the Ktunaxa Traditional Territory and has until now helped to keep settlers out of the Columbia Basin. Thompson would be one of the first explorers of the Columbia River system. The Ktunaxa are described as ‘Kootenay’ Indians by Thompson.

The Ktunaxa are introduced to the fur trade and modern commerce. The traditional lifestyle continues for the most part, and the introduction of modern tools and implements has only a slight impact on Ktunaxa society. The attachment to the land is still maintained.


The Royal Proclamation of October 1763 is Britain’s first declaration of jurisdiction over this new land (which eventually became Canada). The proclamation recognizes the Indians as being Nations that hold ownership of lands and territories. The British acknowledge that the title to these lands must be purchased or otherwise given up by the First Nation, should the Crown wish to acquire rights to it.

The Royal Proclamation acknowledges aboriginal title to the lands and the resources that flow from them, and further, that the British Crown is asserting its jurisdiction (foreign) within the existing framework of First Nations’ jurisdiction (inherent). The two jurisdictions co-exist at this time, as there is no evidence of a threat being made by either party. Treaties are to be signed with First Nations to access resources.

“Indian title would be a continuation of pre-existing aboriginal arrangements; quite unlike the settlers’ fee simple title, Indian title was being recognized rather than created by the Crown.”[1]


The French are losing control of their territory to the British and those fighting to control the southern states. Political unrest is resulting in migration of English-speaking colonists to eastern Canada. African slaves migrate north to escape bondage.

The British take control of Quebec and hold ‘power’ over the whole east coast and the inland fur trade. The Hudson’s Bay Company is the British Crown’s agent in this new land at this time. The British Colonies are being strengthened.

The British establish an official position to assume responsibility for Indian Affairs; this post is military in nature. The fur trade, led by the Hudson’s Bay Company, follows a strong and steady course westward.


Foreign explorers continue to make their way to North America. The British reach both the east and west coasts of what is now Canada, but focus on the east and its furs, where the French are making a great effort to exert jurisdiction. The French have been exploring the St. Lawrence River for some time and New France has been founded. Foreign wars are carried over to the colonies in attempt to gain control over these new lands.

Both the French and British are enlisting the eastern tribes as military aides. They are also being used as harvesters for furs in the fight to establish the Colonies.

The concept of foreign commerce is still not understood by many of the First Nations, but their skill and knowledge in accessing the resources of their traditional territories is unchallenged. The involvement of the local First Nations is of utmost importance in the expansion of the fur trade and in the fight by foreign governments to exert jurisdiction. The fur trade promoted settlement from the East Coast westward.

12000 BC – 1500 AD

The Ktunaxa prophets forecast a time when there will be fair-skinned people amongst them. The Ktunaxa are told to prepare for big changes.

Stories of the new people’s arrival in North America begin to make their way into the interior through the inter-tribal trade routes. The horse is introduced to the Ktunaxa through their southern territory, but there is not much of an impact on the traditional lifestyle, with the exception of increased ease in hunting and warfare with the added mobility.

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