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Spring was a time for trapping beaver, muskrats and otters. As the snow melted and the weather warmed families tended their trails and repaired or built new cabins. Ducks began migrating back to the lakes and rivers, so hunting them and other waterfowl became important. As the waters rose with the snow melt, families fished for trout and white fish.
Fish were often smoked and stored for later use.
In the early summer the families went into the higher mountains to hunt groundhog, sheep, moose, ptarmigan, goat and caribou. Meat was dried and hides were prepared during this time. Berries and other plants were gathered alongside the streams.
During the summer slack time, families traveled down to the stores to trade their furs and replenish their supplies. This was also a time when families might meet in the high mountains at known berry sites or areas close to shared territories. Together they would share stories and catch up on family news. For those families that fished for salmon, the late summer months were spent fishing and drying salmon on Bear Lake.
Many Tse Keh Nay people were born on the trap line. Each family had a number of camps or cabins throughout the region so that they could easily cover their extensive lands. These cabins were always built close to rivers and creeks for access to clean water.
A trapper’s life is a hard one as the following account reveals:
A trapper’s day began as early as 4:00am. He would eat and prepare lunch for the trip, and be on his way by 5:30. His trail might take him through swamps and creeks, where his traps would be set. If he had caught an animal he would set the trap again, and if the animal were large he would sometimes skin it there. Smaller species would be taken back to the camp for skinning. At the end of the trapline he would eat lunch and start for home. He would arrive usually 12 to 14 hours after he began his day. He would light a fire and boil water for tea, tend to his snowshoes and outer clothes by hanging them to dry, and then begin to skin whatever he had trapped that day. The animals would then be put on stretchers to dry. After caring for the pelts he would cook and eat. Many trappers had partners with whom to share chores. Dogs were necessities for packing supplies and for companionship. Animal pelts were stored in a cool spot. (TKD 2002: 33) The traditional use and management of trapping, hunting and fishing areas was distorted by the provincial trapline registration system which was implemented in the early 1920s (see also Jenness 1937:44). This observation is supported by the Tse Keh Nay themselves who make the distinction between the rights to a hunting territory (keyoh) 14 and the rights to a trapline.
This two tiered ownership concept is commented on by family members who own the trap lines around Thutade and Amazay Lake.
Sandra Teegee states:
[O]ur keyoh and trap line are different. The keyoh are sustenance areas which have been handed down to our families from generation to generation. Trap line licenses are issued by the provincial government which can be issued to either the white man or to the Indian person. The trap lines are owned by specific people. (Affidavit 1997: para13)
Peter Abraham adds:
[T]he provincial trap line is something I own personally and is not owned by the Indian people. However, the kayoh in which my provincial trap line exists is in the territory of the Sekani people…. Each Sekani person has a birthright to the land and the succeeding generations have the right to use the land for their sustenance. (Affidavit 1997: para 22) A keyoh is a Carrier term used by some Tse Keh Nay to denote an inheritable subsistence area.
Anthropologist, Doug Hudson, writes that “the term keyoh means, at various times, my land or country, and the ‘place where I get my living from the land’(Hudson 1983:158) William Charlie states that this ownership was linked to kinship and family connections. He
[W]hile our family were the ones with rights to the land, it was also our people’s way that other members of our family and members of neighbouring villages who were connected to us could have privilege to come and use the land for hunting and fishing or food foraging. (Affadivit 1997: para 17) [W]hen a person came into a traditional kayoh, they would have to show the connection to the family members and it was the family that was important and would allow them the use of the land. (Affidavit 1997: para 19) Another use of the land that should be noted here is the spiritual use of the land. The Tse Keh Nay continue to link their spiritual life to the land and the animals on it. Solitary journeys, vision questing and fasting on mountain tops in order to acquire hunting medicine are still practices of the Tse Keh Nay.
It should be stressed that hunting and fishing remain important activities for the Tse Keh Nay.
‘Country’ food is not only a desired food but a necessary one as many families cannot afford to live off store bought food. The freight costs added to imported foods make them prohibitive to families on limited incomes. The importance of using ‘country’ food to supplement bought food was noted by Harris in her study of the Kwadacha in the early 1980s.
Tse Keh Nay current land use is clearly illustrated on maps of the many hunting and trapping trails throughout their territory. These trails are known and travelled today by Tse Keh Nay hunters, often by snowmobile or quad (see Appendix G). As Black had noted, trails are used by the Sekani and animals alike and are usually found to be the quickest and simplest path between locations. For the Tse Keh Nay it is obvious that both humans and animals would use the same trails. During the research for this study, Tse Keh Nay advisors also explained that it is not possible to use the presence of blazes to distinguish an animal trail from a human trail because not all Tse Keh Nay trails were blazed 15. There was often no need to blaze trails within a transportation network known to those who had traveled it since infancy (see Appendix G for more information on the extensive trail network around Thutade and Amazay that connects to the rest of Sekani territory and beyond).
This is supported by Samuel Black (Rich 1955: 98).
2.3.1 Thutade Lake and Area Photo 11: Thutade Lake, by Patrice Halley Thutade Lake is derived from the Sekani word Chuu dade, which means ‘water den’ or ‘water hole”, or can mean ‘above the water’, in reference to looking down on the lake from the hills above.” As Samuel Black noted in 1824, it was an important area to the Tse Keh Nay for hunting and fishing. It remains so today.
William Charlie says:
[T]he best hunting in the area was always thought to be at Thudade Lake.
This was an area that remained good hunting and fishing for many years.
(Affidavit 1997: para 37)
He also makes the point:
[T]he Thudade Lake area and the mountains around Thudade Lake…is our last area in our traditional lands where we can go to hunt…in the traditional way. (Affidavit 1997: para 53) One of the factors that make this a good hunting area is that Thutade Lake is on the seasonal migration route of the caribou herds as they move south into Moose Valley.
William Charlie remembers:
Thudade Lake is also on the seasonal migration pattern of the caribou. That is why the hunting of caribou was particularly good in September. (Affidavit 1997: para 42) The area is known by Tse Keh Nay hunters as a favourite caribou area 16. One Elder was told by his grandmother that one August she saw 40 caribou swimming across the lake. (Tse Keh Nay 2006) A hunter from Takla Lake recalls meeting a Tsay Keh Dene hunter on the west shore of Thutade Lake opposite Attychika Creek. They maintain that this part of the lake was always a good place to find caribou. It was in fact the same place where Black saw a herd of caribou “frisking” in the water (Rich 1955:82). Another Tse Keh Nay who hunted the region regularly for caribou was Alex Masatoe. A Takla Lake man recalls a time when he was young and camping at Thutade Lake at Attichika Creek that he and his father heard a 30:30
rifle shot. He remembers:
My Dad says, ‘no danger, they’re my people.’ It was Alex Masatoe from Fort Ware[Kwadacha]. Every year he came in up the Finlay from Fort Ware—but not since my father died. 17 (Tse Keh Nay 2006) William Charlie noted that other game, aside from caribou, could be found at Thutade,
particularly in September. He states:
[T]here were many different species of animals that we have always hunted and trapped which included mountain goat, caribou, moose, beaver, and bear.
The best hunting for caribou, mountain goat and groundhog was in September up at Thudade Lake. (Affidavit 1997: para 41) The importance of the groundhog, or dəje, at Thutade Lake is also noted. Groundhog meat and fur were both important resources for the Tse Keh Nay.
[T]he area was the best area for groundhog which provided for our clothing and food. The groundhog meat was a delicacy. (Affidavit 1997: para 40) It should be noted that the species of groundhog (marmot) at Thutade Lake is a darker species and known as Marmota caligata oxytona. It differs from the species found in northern British A recent study conducted by Roberts & Turney for Northgate Minerals Corporation confirms that throughout the area there are known trails used by caribou but they are not considered migratory corridors for large herds (2006:95). Twenty caribou nevertheless, regularly winter at the north end of Thutade Lake and evidence points to a year round occupation of the region by as many as 100 caribou (Roberts & Turney 2006:97-99).
This story illustrates the right of Tse Keh Nay people from different regions to use the Thutade area for hunting. It further exemplifies the important difference between family rights to a hunting territory and rights to a trapline.
Columbia (Cassiar, Dease Lake and McDame Creek) which belong to the subspecies Marmota caligata caligata (Youngman, 1975) 18.
Fishing has also remained an important activity at this lake. William Charlie commented on
the good fishing at this lake:
[T]he dollivarden at Thudade Lake are very special because they grow up approximately thirty inches long. They have always been an important fish to our people and one of the reasons we go to Thudade Lake. I have never seen dollivarden that large in any other portion of the country that I have traveled.
I am also told that it is a species of dollivarden found nowhere else in the world. (Affidavit 1997: para 44) [I] still hunt and fish every year up at Thudade Lake. This year, in April, we went up there for food and were able to get fourteen dollivarden…(Affidavit 1997: para 57)
Amelia Bob Patrick states:
[I] used to set nets for fishing in Thudade Lake when I was young and continued to do that all through my life. (Affidavit 1997: para 5)
An elder from Takla Lake confirms the good fishing at Thutade:
Yeah, we go fishing there, they set nets in them little creeks. They catch…lots of fish, they get trout and suckers and all that, they catch dollies. (Tse Keh Nay 2006) Thorne Lake was another important fishing lake.
Other resources at Thutade Lake are the berries and other plants that are harvested during the summer months (see Appendix A).
Trapping at Thutade is also highly productive. Thutade Lake and the surrounding area is the registered trap line of Joe Bob Patrick. His trap line includes Thutade and Amazay Lake and extends south to Moose Valley. Joe Bob inherited the use of this area from his father and his Tsay Keh Dene grandparents, Ooschayta, known as Farther Marten, and Lootsma, or Mary (both of Fort Grahame). After the death of Ooschayta, Lootsma divided the land between her son Robert Bob Patrick and her daughter Amelia Charles. Peter Abraham is the registered holder of the adjacent trap line.
Evidence of cabins and trails at Thutade were also recorded by Frank Swanell, a surveyor in Tse Keh Nay territory in the early 20th century. On a 1932 map attributed to Swanell, an Many Tse Keh Nay people interviewed for this report commented on the lack of scientific research on the groundhog. It was said that the Tse Keh Nay have requested and proposed indepth studies of marmot population, habitat, health, etc. but that these requests have not been fulfilled.
“Indian House” is noted at the mouth of the Niven River. The Tse Keh Nay have many cabins around the Thutade Lake area. There is one cabin at the north end of Thutade Lake, one on Thorne Lake, another at the south end of Thutade Lake and one at the confluence of
the Firesteel and Finlay River. Fred Patrick states that all his extended family uses the area:
I have seven sisters and two brothers. All of them use Thutade Lake and are registered up there. We protect each other in the bush. (Affidavit 1997: para 19) The women in his family are also good trappers. Fred plans to take his daughter out of school for a year to teach her how to live on the land. (Tse Keh Nay 2006)
Photo 12 Cascadero Falls by Patrice Halley Relations between the Tse Keh Nay and the Gitskan were often hostile and the Tse Keh Nay tell stories of a great battle that took place at Thutade Lake. There are several variations of this story.
Another story speaks of how the Tse Keh Nay and the Gitksan made peace.
There was a dispute with the Gitksan people in this place [Thutade Lake] over territorial rights and there was [a] fight. Before there was too much bloodshed the elders told me and it was agreed that one woman be given to the [Tse Keh Nay] as a peace offering. This woman married a [Tse Keh Nay] man and after he died the woman was returned to her family. (Tse Keh Nay 2006) There are sites linked to these stories: the place where the Tse Keh Nay were camped at the time of a battle; the site where the battle took place, and a burial site.