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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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Canada 1943 Schedule of Indian Reserves in the Dominion of Canada, Part 2, Reserves in the Province of British Columbia, Ottawa: Indian Affairs Branch n.d. First Nation Profiles in http://sdiprod2.inac.gc.ca/FNProfiles/, accessed October, 2006 Canada and British Columbia 1915 Transcript of Evidence, Stuart Lake Agency, for the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs for the Province of British Columbia, typescript held at Specific Claims Branch, INAC, Vancouver 1916 Report of the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs for the Province of British Columbia. Victoria: Acme Chapman, J.D. and Turner, D.B. (eds) 1956 British Columbia Atlas of Resources. British Columbia Natural Resources Conference, 1956: Vancouver.

Charlie, William 1997 Affidavit of William Charlie, sworn June 11, 1997 and filed June 13, 1997, Supreme Court of British Columbia, Victoria Registry No. 97 0723, Tsay Keh Dene Band and Takla Lake Band versus Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks Minister of Employment and Investment, Minister of Forestry for the Province of British Columbia, and the District Manager, Mackenzie Forest District, Kemess Mines Inc., Duz Cho Logging Ltd., and Roga Contracting Ltd.

Denniston, Glenda 1981 Sekani. In Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 6, The Subarctic, June Helm, editor, pp. 443-442. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Dewhirst, John 1995 An Aboriginal Sustenance Impact Assessment of the Kemess South Gold-Copper Project: A Status Report. Prepared for El Condor Resources Ltd. Vancouver, B.C.

September 1995 Dewhirst, John 2006 A Literature Review of Potential Aboriginal Interests in the Kemess North Mine Expansion Area, Duncan Lake, North Central British Columbia. Prepared for Northgate Minerals Corporation. Smithers, B.C. February 2006.

Duff, Wilson 1965 The Indian History of British Columbia. Vol. 1, The Impact of the White Man.

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1917 On the Headwaters of the Peace River, a narrative of a thousand mile canoe trip to a little known range of the Canadian Rockies. C. Scribner’s Sons, New York.

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Sekani people are known as hunters, and as with most hunting and gathering societies, researchers and historians have focused on their hunting methods, practices and beliefs. In part, this is because hunting is held in such high esteem. However, in most hunting societies, the role of plant foods is very important in maintaining the health and nutrition of its members. Aboriginal hunting peoples of the interior of northern British Columbia are no different and use plants for food, medicine, technology (MacKinnon 1999:7) and spiritual purposes. This use “was and is, selective, being neither random nor all-encompassing” (Peacock and Turner 1999:146) and was based on complex management strategies. For the Sekani “[p]lant foods were… an important element within the… diet” (Davis 1993:11). “The Sekani acquired much of this plant knowledge through animal observation as well as through cultural diffusion, and have passed this information on generationally until the present day” (Davis 1993:11). In fact, “the knowledge of particular plant species and their medicinal or other uses cannot really be separated from the larger knowledge systems that include the specific locations where plants have been traditionally harvested, certain seasons for harvest, and the belief systems (of which animals are key) that underlie the power and usefulness of the plants. Thus, it is important to realize that impacts to any one of these interrelated components are seen as impacting the whole” (Bannister 2006:42).

To date, very little research has been conducted to document Tse Keh Nay knowledge and use of plant foods. In 1993, Alison Davis, in cooperation with the the Tsay Keh Dene, Fletcher Challenge Canada, Finlay Forest Industries Ltd. and Ministry of Forests, conducted a study to begin to document this use, but little has been done since. Other sources are the plant books by MacKinnon and Pojar, but the information is limited. These books include a section on ethnobotany: a discussion of how First Nation peoples utilize plant resources. For the current project, time and resources do not allow for an in-depth study of ethnobotanical uses and knowledge of Tse Keh Nay people. For this reason, Davis’ 1993 report and MacKinnon and Pojar’s book, “Plants of Northern British Columbia,” are relied upon for the majority of information. Other information is taken from ethnobotanical studies conducted among Tse Keh Nay neighbours. All of this is supplemented by information gathered by researchers for this submission.

Traditional Resource Management

The Tse Keh Nay Dene were there, the Creator put us there with … all the other life forms. We are there to be the caretakers of this life. In return, we pass respect to every species that’s in our area…. Our laws met the ecosystem laws, and that’s the way we’ve guided ourselves in being the caretakers of that vast area that belongs to us and we’ve been that way since time immemorial.

(Tse Keh Nay 2006) With their close bond to the land, Sekani people managed the resources. As the quote above indicates, this management was based on the needs and best interests of the ecosystem.

According to Peacock and Turner (1999:134), “a growing body of ethnobotanical evidence from British Columbia… suggests indigenous peoples actively managed the resources of their environment to ensure a reliable, predictable supply of culturally significant plants….

Management decisions were not solely economic ones, but were embedded in social contexts and encoded in religious philosophies and oral traditions.” Some management strategies

employed by Sekani are summarized by Alison Davis in her 1993 report:

Like other Indigenous groups of British Columbia… the Sekani are aware of ecological variation within their environment (Turner, 1990). In order to ensure a relatively constant supply of subsistence foods, the Sekani adapted conservation measures to guarantee the sustainability of their resources. In addition, various methods of resource management were also employed, such as landscape burning, rotational harvesting, and careful harvesting techniques.

The ancient practice of landscape burning usually took place during the spring thaw when the brush was dry enough to burn, and the forests too humid to pose any real threats of a wild fire. When traveling through the region in 1924, Diamond Jenness observed that: “Along the riverbank and on burnt areas are many blueberries and Saskatoon berries…” (1937:2) 22. There are three main motives behind landscape burning: first, to enhance various human food plants 23 ; second, to create and/or intensify game animals’ foraging grounds;

third, to keep game animals at a close proximity to the village site (Hunn, 1990; Turner 1990; Cohen, 1989; J. Isaac, 1993). Francis Isaac remembers that his father-in-law, Thomas Toma, used to landscape burn: “How do you think they’re [past generations] going to live? If you don’t burn an area and create good grazing, the animals will just pass on through.” (F. Isaac, 1993) Another method of resource management is that of rotational harvesting. Jean Isaac states: “We have various gathering grounds because we like to rejuvenate the area we picked one year and [so we] let it rest the next [year].

This causes larger, better berry crops and also creates a richer top soil.” 24 When plant foods are harvested, care is taken to avoid damaging the plant and its surroundings. For example, digging sticks made from goat horn or Frank Swanell, a surveyor in Tse Keh Nay territory in the early 20th century noted a number of burns in the Thutade area. On a 1932 map attributed to Swanell, there are numerous areas marked as either “new burn” or “old burn.” Each of these is along a lake or riverbank, in a confined area. Although time did not permit research of Swanell’s journal, it is believed that these areas are sites managed and cultivated by Tse Keh Nay, confirming the practice of burning in resource management to the very recent past. Importantly, as Davis points out, these burn areas ensured that resources stayed close to where people were living. This further suggests that the Thutade area was well known and utilized by Tse Keh Nay.

One Elder interviewed for this study noted that as a child, she and her family picked berries “in the burned areas” in the vicinity of Amazay Lake (Tse Keh Nay 2006).

This statement is supported by Sandra Peacock and Nancy Turner (1999) who write: “It has always been puzzling to us that the most productive, prolific areas to find particular edible or useful plants, especially wild root vegetables, are invariable in those localities where they have been traditionally harvested in immense quantities. One might logically assume that such populations, having been intensively exploited, might show decline compared to places where they were not harvested, but this does not seem to be the case” (133) Later, they state “specific root digging beds, once harvested, were left to develop for a few ‘fallow’ years” (153).

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