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«Amazay Lake Photo by Patrice Halley Draft Submission to the Kemess North Joint Review Panel May, 2007 Report Prepared By: Loraine Littlefield Linda ...»

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Tse Keh Nay Traditional and Contemporary Use

and Occupation at Amazay (Duncan Lake):

A Draft Report

Amazay Lake Photo by Patrice Halley

Draft Submission to the Kemess North Joint Review Panel

May, 2007

Report Prepared By:

Loraine Littlefield

Linda Dorricott

Deidre Cullon

With Contributions By:

Jessica Place

Pam Tobin

On Behalf of the Tse Keh Nay


This report was written under the direction of the Tse Keh Nay leaders. The authors would like to thank Grand Chief Gordon Pierre and Chief Johnny Pierre of the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation; Chief John Allen French of the Takla Lake First Nation and Chief Donny Van Somer of the Kwadacha First Nation for their support and guidance throughout this project.

The authors are particularly indebted to the advisors for this report who took the time to meet with us on very short notice and who generously shared with us their knowledge of Tse Keh Nay history, land and culture. We hope that this report accurately reflects this knowledge.

We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Grand Chief Gordon Pierre, Ray Izony, Bill Poole, Trevor Tomah, Jean Isaac, Robert Tomah, Chief John Allen French, Josephine West, Frank Williams, Cecilia Williams, Lillian Johnny, Hilda George and Fred Patrick.

We would also like to thank the staff at the Prince George band and treaty offices for assembling and providing us with the documents, reports, maps and other materials that were used in this report. J.P. Laplante, Michelle Lochhead, Karl Sturmanis, Kathaleigh George, and Henry Joseph all provided valuable assistance and support to the project. Thank you to SLV Mapping for assistance with mapping.

Finally, we wish to thank Linda Vanden Berg of Vanden Berg and Associates for making numerous materials from her extensive private library and archive available to this study.



This report has been written on behalf of the Tse Keh Nay to provide the Kemess North Joint Review Panel with details of Tse Keh Nay historic and current use of the Thutade and Amazay lakes region.

The Tse Keh Nay are Sekani speaking people who have lived in the Rocky Mountain Trench for many generations. The Tse Keh Nay represented here are the Kwadacha First Nation, who live at the confluence of the Finlay and Fox rivers; the Tsay Keh Dene, who live at the north end of Williston Lake; and the Takla Lake First Nation, who live in several small communities on and near Takla Lake. These three communities are closely related to each other through kinship and intermarriage.

Traditionally the Sekani were organized into regional bands that were identified with specific territories. Families within the regional bands dispersed into smaller local bands and followed a seasonal round that included hunting, fishing and gathering plants for food and medicines.

The Sekani were primarily hunters and depended upon large game such as caribou, moose, mountain sheep and mountain goats, and small game such as beaver, porcupine, hare and hoary marmots (groundhogs). As well as hunting, the Sekani fished the many lakes, rivers, and creeks for white fish, suckers, Dolly Varden, and trout. Salmon was available at Bear Lake. Plant foods were also an important addition to Sekani diet, particularly at certain times of year.

The journal of Samuel Black, an early fur trader who visited the region in 1824, details “Thecannie” historic use of the Thutade and Amazay lakes region. His account notes the presence of the Tse Keh Nay, specifically Chief Methodiates and his followers who lived in the region. Chief Methodiates advised Black and his party to go to Thutade Lake and wait until the snow melted before proceeding north to the Upper Liard River. Chief Methodiates also suggested that Black establish a fur post at Thutade Lake. Black noted that Thutade Lake was a rich resource area for fish as well as caribou and other game. Black stayed at Thutade Lake with a party of “Thecannies” from Chief Methodiates band for two weeks, and observed several old “Thecannie” encampments and detailed his fishing and hunting experiences while there. He also noted the presence of a small white fish which may have come from Amazay Lake. When he revisited Thutade Lake in the fall he noted that Chief Methodiates and his band were staying on the other side of the mountain of Lake Thutade, possibly Amazay Lake.

Samuel Black’s journal confirms Tse Keh Nay aboriginal use and occupancy of the Thutade and Amazay lakes region.

Current use of the area by the Tse Keh Nay shows that these lakes remain significant to them.

Thutade and Amazay lakes are used by many families on a seasonal basis. In interviews with the Tse Keh Nay it was noted that the area is known for hunting caribou, moose and other large game. Groundhogs are also abundant in this region and fishing remains an important activity on these lakes. Medicinal plants, plants of spiritual importance, berries and other plant foods are also gathered here. Trap lines are maintained and continue to be productive during the winter months. The lakes are a gathering place where families meet, exchange information about resources in the area, trade and intermarry.

ii The Thutade Lake region is rich in oral history and place names. Thutade means ‘water den’ or ‘water hole”, or can mean ‘above the water’, in reference to looking down on the lake from the hills above. Amazay means ‘little mother lake’ or ‘very superior mother.’ At Amazay Lake there is a story about a mammoth that may be linked to the last ice age in this region.

Many of the place names around Amazay and Thutade are linked to this mammoth story. The Tse Keh Nay say that Thutade and Amazay lakes are sacred places. The lakes are known as strong places for dreams and acquiring spiritual power. There are several Tse Keh Nay people who have been buried here, some within recent times. The Tse Keh Nay say that these lakes are at the heart of their territory and for this reason they must be protected.

The Tse Keh Nay have experienced increasing restrictions on the traditional use of their territory since the land was first opened to non-Tse Keh Nay in the late 18th Century. The establishment of fur trading posts, missionary contact, the gold rush, and other mining activities brought many transient visitors to the region whose interests and developments degraded the environment and depleted the wildlife. The subsequent deforestation of timber stands by the logging industry further disrupted wildlife migration and destroyed sensitive habitats. The building of roads and railroads to accommodate the resource extraction industry has accelerated these negative effects. These impacts, however, pale in comparison to the impact of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam which destroyed a way of life for many Tse Keh Nay.

This dam caused the flooding of 640 square miles of productive Tse Keh Nay territory, villages, grave sites, and trap lines. It created Williston Lake, a health hazard due to the dust it creates and a transportation barrier to movement in the territory. The flooding has resulted in high levels of mercury in fish, so that the Tse Keh Nay cannot eat fish caught in Williston Lake.

The Tse Keh Nay fear that unsustainable mining and forestry practices in their land will ultimately end their ability to hunt, fish, and gather as they have always done. These industries have polluted the environment to such an extent that it is no longer safe to eat foods or drink water in the vicinity of these activities. The Tse Keh Nay have seen the evidence of this in their caribou, moose, groundhog meat and fish. They are gravely concerned over the threat to Thutade and Amazay Lakes which form part of a watershed that affects all of Tse Keh Nay territory.

This report substantiates the historic and current use of the Thutade Lake and Amazay Lake area by the Tse Keh Nay. The area has great historical and spiritual significance and the Tse Keh Nay have a strong interest in its protection. The Tse Keh Nay do not want Amazay Lake to be used as a tailings pond.

Due to time and funding constraints, this report is a draft report only. It is strongly recommended that further research be conducted so that the Tse Keh Nay can have a full voice in these hearings.

–  –  –



1.1 Introduction

Tse Keh Nay Overview Map

1.2 A Word From The Lawyers

1.3 Preparation of this Report

1.4 Tse Keh Nay People

1.5 The Communities

1.6 Regional Bands, Kinship and Marriage

1.7 Early Contact

1.7.1 Explorers and Fur Traders

1.7.2 Reserve History

1.7.3 Residential Schools


2.1 Historical Use of the Land

2.2. Samuel Black’s Journal

2.3 Current Use of the Land

2.3.1 Thutade Lake and Area

2.3.2 Amazay Lake


3.1 Early Mining

3.2 Early Forestry

3.3 Roads and Railways

3.4 W.A.C. Bennett Dam

3.5 Current Impacts of Forestry and Mining

3.5.1 Forestry

3.5.2 Mines in the Area

3.5.3 Kemess South Mine

3.5.4 Final Comments







–  –  –

APPENDIX D: HEALTHY LAND HEALTHY FUTURE: Interim Report 2006............... 105 Healthy Land Healthy Future: Preliminary Results




–  –  –

We are the Tse Keh Nay. We live in three communities known as Kwadacha, Tsay Keh Dene and Takla Lake. Our oral history and our people go back as far as the ice age and to a time of large wolves, big-eared foxes and mammoths. Our territory includes that part of the Rocky Mountain Trench that is drained by the Finlay and Parsnip rivers, north to the confluence of the Kechika and Gataga rivers, and to the west of Takla Lake, Bear Lake, Tatlatui Lake and Kitchener Lake. The territories of all Sekani peoples extend further, in all directions, from our territories. Our oral history tells us who we are as Sekani people. Early European explorers and historians who traveled to our home did not know us, our ways or our language. For this reason, they wrote many assumptions about our people and our ways. No one wrote down our Tse Keh Nay history. We are now only beginning this process.

Currently, our territory is under threat from mining, logging and other industrial activity. We do not oppose development. We need jobs, training and revenue for our people. However, we do not support unsustainable development that destroys our lands and waters.

Northgate Minerals is proposing to destroy Amazay (Duncan Lake) to make a waste dump for its Kemess North mine. We do not have the time or resources to prepare a full response.

However, this draft report will give the Environmental Assessment Panel, Northgate Minerals and the governments a small window into our history, our culture and our vision for the future. Hopefully, this will help everyone understand why we cannot allow Amazay to be destroyed.

Amazay Lake is part of our territory and is an important place to our people. Amazay means “little mother”. We believe it is a birthing place for animals that are important to us. It is a place that we have used, managed and protected since time immemorial. It was and continues to be actively used by our people for hunting, trapping and fishing. It is a place where plants are gathered for food and medicines. It is a sacred place. Some of our ancestors are buried here and we have stories about this place. It is a known gathering place for all three communities.

The following report will give some detail about how we use Amazay Lake and the surrounding area. It will explain a bit about who we are, our history, our past and present use of the land, and our concerns about the destruction of this lake and the area around it.

We want people to know how important this area is to us. It is not a remote and insignificant area. On the contrary it is the heart of our territory. It is the centre, where the territories of our three communities overlap, not only physically, but through kinship and marriage. It is known to us all. We feel responsible for this land. It was given to us by the Creator and we must protect the land and the animals that live here. These are not empty words. It is what our ancestors have taught us. When we move across the land we must leave it as it was created. We know this view is not shared by everyone but it is an integral part of who we are as Tse Keh Nay. We are connected to this world through our lands. This connection is spiritual, joining us to our territory, our animals, our plants, our resources, and to each other. Through this connection we are shown the powers of the plants and animals. Any negative impact on Tse Keh Nay territory has an immeasurable impact on our spirituality and on who we are as a people. Using Amazay as a toxic waste site scares us. If allowed, it will not only destroy a pristine sacred site, but it will be another blow to Tse Keh Nay people and our spiritual relationship to our lands and waters. Water is vital to our well-being as it cleanses the spirit. The waters from Amazay and Thutade are at the heart of our territories and their waters cleanse and replenish as they flow through our lands. We are responsible for this land and we must work together to protect it. Unlike others who come here, we are not transients on the land. We have lived here since time immemorial and this will always be our home.

Tse Keh Nay Overview Map

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