The Ktunaxa people have occupied the lands adjacent to the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers and the Arrow Lakes of British Columbia, Canada for more than 10,000 years.
The Traditional Territory of the Ktunaxa Nation covers approximately 70,000 square kilometres (27,000 square miles) within the Kootenay region of south eastern British Columbia and historically included parts of Alberta, Montana, Washington and Idaho.
For thousands of years the Ktunaxa people enjoyed the natural bounty of the land, seasonally migrating throughout their Traditional Territory to follow vegetation and hunting cycles. They obtained all their food, medicine and material for shelter and clothing from nature – hunting, fishing and gathering throughout their Territory, across the Rocky Mountains and on the Great Plains of both Canada and the United States.
The Ktunaxa language is unique among Native linguistic groups in North America. Ktunaxa names for landmarks throughout their Traditional Territory and numerous heritage sites confirm this region as traditional Ktunaxa land.
Shared lands, a rich cultural heritage, and a language so unique that it is not linked to any other in the world make the Ktunaxa people unique and distinctive.
The Okanagan otherwise known as the Syilx people, were self-reliant for thousands of years and well provided for through their own ingenuity and use of the land and resources. They lived united as a nation with a whole economy, travelling the breadth and depth of their territory; hunting, fishing, growing, harvesting, and trading created a sustainable economy that met their needs. From first contact the influx of settlers was slow and yet steady, with both the Syilx/Okanagans and settlers working towards a living arrangement. Through colonization they were divided from one another and from their way of life. At the same time they were dispossessed from the resources they relied upon, and their self-sufficient economy collapsed. As settlement of the Okanagan increased, the establishment of an international border, and the colony of British Columbia joining confederation, put considerable pressure on the Provincial government in B.C. to designate reserves for Indians. This would allow for the settlers to formally own the lands they settled on. Reserves were finally established in the early 1900’s. The Syilx/Okanagan people opposed the establishment of the reserves without first having negotiated a treaty. Nsyilxcən is the language spoken by and distinguishes the Syilx from other indigenous peoples. It is part of the Salish language family which is distinct from their Salish neighbors, like the Spokan, the Nlaka’pamux, and the Secwepemc. nsyilxcən is spoken in all the districts of the Syilx territory with varying dialects.
The Nłeʔkepmxc Nation is one of the Interior Salish first peoples in the Southern interior of British Columbia, The word “Nłeʔkepmxc” means “People of the Canyon”.
The Nłeʔkepmxc traditionally use clothing, face painting and jewelry to express the surrounding landscape, their dreams, and their experiences. Their language is crystallized the intricate knowledge of their environment, their customs, and their history. Their ancestors lived in pit houses during the winter months, and during the rest of the year, they travelled in family groups across the territory, accessing seasonal resources as they became available. Summer villages were special places where family groups came together to socialize, attend to governance matters, and to share, trade and gather resources. These Nlaka’pamux ancestors enjoyed a rich, complex cultural and spiritual life with teachings that structured social life and governance.
When European settlers arrived in Nlaka’pamux territory in the first half of the 19th century, their ancestors willingly entered into economic relationships with these new neighbours. By the mid 19th century, the newcomer population had grown exponentially, which in turn resulted in many changes to daily life in Nlaka’pamux communities. Although their ancestors continued to engage in traditional activities on the land, accessing that land became more difficult as settlers put up fences and privatized large areas of their traditional territory.
In addition to continuing with their traditional activities, their ancestors adapted to this new way of life and the new rules and regulations about accessing lands and resources that were imposed by colonial governments. During this period, their ancestors took on new livelihoods such as ranching, farming and working on railroad construction. Today, agriculture and forestry continue to be popular among their members.