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…that they did not want in Summer there being Fish & towards the fall plenty of fat Siffleu & some Carribou [sic] say Rein deer & Sheep & Goats in the Mountains, but in Winter it was hard, they kept moving about in the Vallies [sic] & some times fell in with a Deer a sheep or a Goat or a Partridge…. (Rich 1955:51-52) When Black enquired about the fishing, Chief Methodiates told Black about the best fishing
lakes in the area, one of which was Thutade Lake. Black writes:
…that he knew only of 3 Fishing Lakes in this quarter Bears Lake a small round Lake in which they take Sapa or Trout Testlé another kind of Trout Tadzil a kind of Carp not many Indians can live here. That Thutade Lake on the Source of this River is the best place for living, it’s a long Lake & plenty of Trout and Carp but no white Fish, that Thucatade the Place he is come from is the next best its up a River that falls into this River about one days march before us it goes through the Mountains Westward…. (Rich 1955:52) Black discovered that fish was plentiful in the lakes and rivers if the right fishing technique was used.
This morning we had the mortification not to take a single Fish. The Indian however took five small Fish and kind of white Fish & Trout the same size as in MacLeods Lake W Caledonia…the Indians take plenty of Fish at this season in these Lakes… (Rich 1955:42) Chief Methodiates told Black to proceed to Thutade Lake and wait until the snow melted before proceeding north. He was then to come to Thucatade [Toodogone River] where he would wait for him and introduce him to the Thloadennis who were regular summer visitors to that region. It was on this advice that Black made his way to Thutade Lake. At Delta Creek he met two “Thecannie” people from Chief Methodiates band and together with their families they joined Black and his party at Thutade Lake. They stayed at the lake together for two weeks, hunting and fishing.
During these two weeks, Black complained about the fishing on this lake even though he reportedly caught 7 trout of good size and 10 carp of good quality on his first day. One trout weighed 14 lbs and on average they weighed 4 to 8 lbs (Black 1955: 71). He observed that the “Thecannie” were more successful at using hooks and nets so Black adopted this technique and followed them around the lake. On one occasion he observed the “Thecannie”
catching a small white fish which he thought was like the fish on McLeod Lake. He noted:
…the Indians say this Fish comes from a Small Lake on the River that comes in the other side opposite before mentioned… (1955:77) This lake may be Amazay Lake.
While at Thutade Lake, Black (1955:82) saw three old Indian encampments, evidence that the “Thecannie” were frequent visitors to this lake. Here his party was more successful at hunting and killed ‘two small grayish ducks”, “a large Buck Rein deer [caribou]”, “5 young Rein deer”, and “some partridges and Ptarmigans.” However, they missed a herd of mountain goats, which quickly climbed out of range.
It was at Thutade Lake that Black observed a large colony of groundhogs (Siffleu). He noted throughout his journal the importance of this animal for food and clothing. When he finally
caught up with Chief Methodiates he wrote:
They have brought the meat of a good many Siffleu fresh & half dried which seems to be their best resource or only resource at this season & appear fat… (Rich 1955:186) From Thutade Lake he went overland to Thucatade, or Toodogone River. Here he found
more “Thecannie” encampments and evidence of more intensive fishing. He wrote:
…across these streams the Indians have throwen[sic] over Wooden Bridges, at one stream or River assisted by a large pile of drift wood, more over they have cleared the Roads of underwood & assisted by nature, for this Valley is the most civilized looking place I have seen in the Rocky Mountains (Rich 1955:98) However, he missed Chief Methodiates and his band, who had moved on to fish Meedzinitoede Lake, or Metsantan Lake, their meeting place with the Thloadennis (Rich 1955:107). Black followed him and, eventually, with Chief Methodiates, met the Thloadennis. Black was disappointed that he could not entice any of them to guide him further north to the upper Liard River but he continued on his own to Turnagain River before retracing his steps to Thutade Lake.
Once he returned to Thutade Lake he was greeted by a “Thecannie” hunter that Black had not seen before and whom he assumed was from further south on the Finlay River. He called him a McLeod Lake “Thecannie”. This hunter informed Black that Chief Methodiates was on the
other side of the mountain. This is possibly the Amazay Lake area. Black wrote:
...got into view of Lake Thutade, the woods are on Fire near the Lake in the Valley, but not near our Property, heard a shot & a Thecannie hallooing from the Top of the mountain near us he joined us & says Methodiates & followers except some not yet arrived are on the otherside of this mountain: this is a new face & a MacLeods Lake Thecannie…. (1955:185) Black noted that the water level had fallen in the lake since his stay there two months before.
His party fished the lake and again noted the presence of a small white fish which they were
told came from a smaller lake nearby:
To day made a poor Fishery; the same as yesterday but 3 small white Fish in a Net set at the enterence [sic] of the Small River & which the Indians say comes from a Small Lake some distance up it (1955:187). 11 Black also made observations about the plant life. Throughout his journal he noted the abundance of a variety of berries, roots, shoots, flowers and mosses in the region. Crow berries were particularly abundant around Thutade Lake. Another plant food of great
importance was mountain sorrel. He observed:
…not neglecting the Herbs of the Fields, for in all the Thecannie & Thloadenni Tents, we find Kettlesful, Vessels ful [sic] of a Sour herb like salade which they boil & gobble up with great avidity drawing the stalks through their teeth & throwing away the stronger fibres … (1955:117) As far as Black was concerned this region had limited potential for the fur trade. He noted that the lower reaches of the Finlay River were very productive for beaver but that the upper Finlay was much less productive. This discouraged him from recommending that a fur trading post be established in the area. Another concern was the amount of food available. A fur trading post must not only feed a number of men at the post but also the visiting bands that come to trade their furs. Because the river could not be used to transport goods and food, the post would have had to rely on local resources only. Black’s experience told him that local food would have been too scarce for the demands of a trading post. He wrote of Thutade
That there are Trout in this Lake is certain, but not in quantities & it would require time to prove it thorrowly [sic] as well as the resources the Smaller Lakes might produce: — but I am sorry to give an opinion that little dependence can be put in the Fisheries of this Lake to support an establishment & as to Animals of the large kind I am afraid it would require better Hunters Black has made other references to this lake. Although he does not name it, it is possible that this is Amazay Lake.
than the Thecannies to Feed a Fort in this quarter, for they can scarcely feed themselves in winter even by moving about from Valley to Valley far & near & in Summer when these Mountain Tribes generally make a little dried Provisions the Thecannies here depend more on Fish & Herbs than any thing else. Now & then killing a Deer or a Sheep & in the latter part of any time there great resource is Siffleu (1955:187).
Black's comments that there was a scarcity of resources and that the “Thecannie” “can scarcely feed themselves in winter” contradicts the statement of Jenness and the Tse Keh Nay people themselves that the area was "one of the finest game areas on the continent.” Possibly Black was mislead by his “Thecannie” advisors who, by the end of his exploration of the Upper Finlay River, were not eager for him to return. After carrying 120 pound packs, witnessing the destruction of their lands from fires, and experiencing Black’s miserly behaviour in sharing trade goods 12, Black was no longer welcome and he was told that there was very little game around Thutade Lake and in area to the north. A careful reading of the journal does in fact reveal that the “Thecannies” and “Thloadennis” were catching game to feed themselves and not sharing with Black. More than once, Black himself questions the honesty of the “Thecannie” people (Rich 1955: 115, 118) and begins to wonder if it is not that “the whole are combined against the voyage” (Rich 1955:118).
Furthermore, ethnohistorians studying fur trade journals have noted that the concept of ‘starvation’ is part of the fur trade rhetoric and can have both literal and symbolic meanings (Black-Rogers 1986). At the literal level, the inability to obtain enough food to survive could be brought about by a lack of game. However ethnohistorians have noted that statements about ‘starvation’ were commonly used by aboriginal people as an opening gambit to establish a relationship with people or spirits who had benefits to impart (Rogers 1986).
Thus, they could also be said to be ‘starving’ for a relationship, a relationship that involved trade and much more. It does not necessarily imply tha they were physically ‘starving’ and in fact, Black notes throughout his journal that the Sekani depended upon groundhogs and plant foods which were in abundance.
While Black did not see the region as suitable for a fur trading post he did observe the extensive use of the region, and in particular, the Thutade Lake region, by the Tse Keh Nay.
He observed several campsites around the lake and witnessed the Tse Keh Nay hunting and fishing in the summer months. He noted that there were extensive trails in the area and that the Tse Keh Nay were very knowledgeable of the area. Black’s journal is a record of aboriginal use and occupancy at Thutade Lake, as well as for the Finlay and Toodogone rivers.
On many occasions the “Thecannie” tried to trade with Black but he was reluctant to part with his goods. He was concerned for his own needs but also believed that he should “keep them short [of his trade items] as I want them to carry for us by & by & its [sic] only this article that will induce them to take our burdens on their backs” (Rich 1955: 84).
2.3 Current Use of the Land 13
My generation have only the stories of how our territory used to look. But we can never view what their eyes saw, we can only try to imagine how it looked through the stories.
Through my early teens and adult life, we were still able to trap, hunt and fish. These activities are still a big part of our life which most of us still practice and teach to our children.(TKD 2002: 8) Hunting, fishing and gathering plants for food and medicine still remain important to the Tse Keh Nay people.
Today Tse Keh Nay families continue to travel by boat on the lakes and rivers, but they also use four wheel drive trucks, snowmobiles and quads to get to their hunting and trapping lands. Many Tse Keh Nay recall a life that was always on the land. Each family had a seasonal round that linked them to land in a way that best utilized the resources in the region.
For example, a Kwadacha Elder talks Photo 5: By Chief John Allen French
about his family’s summer activities:
He goes on to state how important it was to prepare for the winter:
Elders names are only included in public documents such as the affidavits of 1997..
[E]verthing was saved up for the winter, bear grease, groundhog fat, all types of dried meat, berries and smoked fish…. The moose, deer and caribou hides we sewed into mitts, moccasins, gloves, jackets and stripped some for babiche for snow shoes. The groundhog hides we used them for liners for mitts and moccasins, also sewed them together groundsheets, they were quite warm and comfortable. (TKD 2002: 50)
Another Tsay Keh Dene, born at Fort Graham in 1922, recalls his life as a child:
My father taught me how to hunt, when I was eleven years old…. My parents use to always stay at Collins Creek, we hunted and trapped and fished there….
We hunted on the mountains, in the valleys, all the way around the mountains, as I grew older I went here and there, up and down the Finlay River, mostly hunting, making dried meats, when we hunted in the mountains we dried groundhog, moose, caribou, and packed it out everybody packed including our dogs and the dogs always packed too… for hunting we hunted all along the this Finlay River and all the mountains along that river. (TKD Report 2003:44-45)
A Tsay Keh Dene woman says:
When it was Fall we’d go up the Zekedene near Pelly Lake and up to the head of Caribou creek to a lake to dry meat and fish. Spring was the time for beaver trapping in Tucha. Also we climbed mountains in July and August, such as Teapot Mt., Chase Mt., Mt. Melvin and many more along the Ingenika and Finlay Rivers. (TKD 2002:54)
Another described her family’s seasonal round:
An important part of the seasonal round was the opportunity it provided for families to gather together during slack times. One man spoke of how groups gathered together in June and
then separated off to their individual hunting areas or trap lines. He states:
The people used to live only in tents all summer until around the 20th of June, then everybody would go their separate ways again until next June.
Everybody those from Ingenika, Akie, Aken Lake those from further down the river, Finlay Forks, every family went to their trapline on their own way until next June…. (TKD Report 2003: 45) The seasonal round is described more fully in the interviews in the Tsay Keh Dene Traditional Use Study. The following summary is based on those interviews.