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There is another burial site at Thutade at the north end of the lake, on the eastern side just before the mouth of the Finlay River. Other burial sites at the source of the Finlay River have been recorded in the Tsay Keh Dene Traditional Use Study. Burial sites are considered sacred areas by the Tse Keh Nay.
Thutade Lake is also known as a very strong place where dreams and spiritual powers can be acquired. One Elder tells two dream-related stories about the lake. The first story is about his father and his relationship to the otter. When only a young boy of eleven, he remembers his father complaining about his chest hurting.
My dad… said, my chest bothering me… he went like this… a little baby otter come out of his T-shirt… small but he looks like a grown up one. What am I going to do with this… you belong to the water. … as soon as that otter touched the water it disappeared, it dissolved right there... so that’s just the spirit of the otter that he seen in his hand… that animal belonged to my Dad’s body the rest of his life. That’s his dream... that’s what it means. (Tse Keh Nay 2006)
The same Elder tells another story, one more recent, about his sister’s grandchild:
…last summer when we’re camping… at Thutade Lake. That little guy wake up in the middle of the night… and a great big frog stuck on his [touches the side of his neck] while he was sleeping. When he pull it out he said, “Grandma, I’m going to put this caribou heart on top of the cooler. I don’t know where it come from… but it’s a caribou heart.” That’s in his dream…. What that means, you know, is my grandfather is showing his family that he is still there… If you ever see my grandfather… he has a big frog imprint on his hand… when he was young that frog stuck to his hand when he was asleep in the same place at Thutade Lake. This time it stuck on [the boy’s] neck… that shows that my grandfather is showing a signal that he’s still there, he’s still at Thutade Lake.
(Tse Keh Nay 2006) Jenness (1937:71) recorded that the mountains around Thutade Lake were an important area for acquiring hunting medicine. In 1924, Jenness (1937:71) recorded the following story from
an Elder at Fort Grahame:
My grandfather had loon as his medicine. When his people were starving near Thutade Lake he said to them, ‘Don’t go out on the ice. I shall get fish alone.
In the morning he went out alone, wearing a hat of loon skin, dug a hole in the ice and speared many fish. He left them on the ice, and, returning to camp, sent his people out to bring them in. For more than a month he supplied the camp with fish. The people then wandered away to hunt caribou. They discovered a large herd, and built two fences with inset snares. One of the hunters then said ‘let every one remain in camp while I go after the caribou alone, for I have medicine.’ He went out alone and said to the caribou, ‘Go down yonder and be caught in the snares.’ Later the people went out to see what had happened; every snare had caught a caribou.
This story which takes place in the winter time shows that the Tse Keh Nay people lived around Thutade Lake for extended periods of time.
The Thutade Lake area has remained important for the Tse Keh Nay. In some ways it is even more important now than it was in the past because it has become a wildlife refuge and one of the last places where Tse Keh Nay people can reconnect with their ancestors and live a
traditional way of life. William Charlie put it this way:
[N]ow, logging has come up Stuart Lake so far that most of the moose have been driven away at Takla as well. This means that when we are wintering at Takla, we have to travel further in our territory up to Thutade Lake to get Moose for our sustenance. (Affidavit 1997: para 47)...
[T]he Thudade Lake appears to be one of the best and last areas where we can hunt, fish, gather plants and trap in our traditional territory relatively well and undisturbed.
(Affidavit 1997: para 66) The Tse Keh Nay are closely tied to this area for hunting, fishing, gathering, and for sacred reasons. It is an area rich in oral history and tradition.
2.3.2 Amazay Lake Photo 13: Amazay Lake, by Patrice Halley Amazay Lake is well known to the Tse Keh Nay, and like Thutade Lake, is a site for hunting, fishing and gathering that is rich in oral history. Amazay in Sekani means “little mother lake” or “very superior mother.” It is, according to the Tse Keh Nay, “right in the centre of our Tse Keh Nay territory.” (Tse Keh Nay 2006) According to a Tsay Keh Dene Elder, the English name for Duncan Lake is associated with the story of a young Yutuwichan boy named Duncan who walked from McLeod Lake to Duncan Lake to visit his family who were wintering around the Lake. Another explanation is given by Joe Bob Patrick, who says his father named the lake after his good friend Duncan Pierre from Ingenika (Jennifer Hill, 2005 cited in Dewhirst, 2006:54). It should be noted that Duncan Pierre’s gravesite is reported to be at Amazay and that the recent archaeological research by Frank Craig suggested that site HgSq-10 "may be the final resting place of Duncan Pierre" (Craig 2006).
Many Tse Keh Nay have hunted and fished at Amazay Lake. An Elder from Takla Lake remembers that her parents took her there when she was a child. They stayed there all year
because there was game and fishing all year round:
They camp around that lake. They do a lot of trapping, all around that lake.
….all winter they stay there, winter and summer. I remember I was just a little girl, my dad brought us up there…. And I remember that area… they go hunting and there’s a lot of all different kind of animals around there. They go trapping, there’s marten, there’s everything… around there. And there was lots of fish in that lake, I can remember…. In Duncan Lake, there a lot of fish in there before, that’s just now, not much, but there is some… I was just like about six or something like. And on and off I go up there with my parents, they use toboggan I remember. I remember in summer time too, we used to walk days at a time…. There was no road up there, nothing…. Really lots of animals in that area up there. Lots of moose… everything, bear, grizzly… groundhog, everything.(Tse Keh Nay 2006) The area is known for its caribou. Caribou not only migrate through here but the Tse Keh Nay know the area as a caribou calving ground. Calving occurs in late May and the area is avoided at that time. This is the custom of the Tse Keh Nay. They must respect calving and spawning sites and only enter if they have to pass through them. (TKD, 2002:58) A Takla
Lake Elder recalls a large herd of caribou here:
There was so much caribou up there. Amazay Lake they call it because there’s lots of caribou around that area. They say about 300. Sometimes, they say they all go around it. Now there’s nothing. You go there and nothing. They don’t see nothing anywhere around that area. (Tse Keh Nay 2006) Other elders from Takla Lake recall that there were good berry sites at Amazay. On the eastside of the lake is a small trail that was used for berry picking. They also gathered juniper for heart medicine and for making tea (see Appendix A).
Amazay is also known as a sacred place because there are many burials there. There are two known contemporary burial sites. One is possibly for Duncan Pierre, and the other is a cremation site at the north end of the lake pointed out by a Tsay Keh Dene man. A Takla Lake woman remembers a story about this cremation site. She believes it was the great great
grandmother of Grand Chief Gordon Pierre:
Her name was Mitsəgali mamasəda. She was an old woman at the time of the story and was “holding everyone up.” 19 For this reason, Mitsəgali mamasəda asked to be burned. So they lit a fire and waited for all her remains to be completely gone and for the smoke to stop. After the fire, her remains shrunk down into a small stone. (Tse Keh Nay 2006) At the southwest end of Amazay Lake is the burial site of Naatsəbyta. Naatsəbyta was a big Tse Keh Nay Chief known as a great medicine man and war chief. A Tsay Keh Dene Elder
tells the story:
Our people were camping there one time... and Naatsəbayta was there… he camped outside from our people because of his medicine... he was just a very respected man…. One day… Cree warriors came upon our people there at Duncan Lake… tried to intimidate our people with their war paint and their weapons… our people they didn’t know what to do…. They called for… It was not uncommon for old or very sick people to ask to be left behind. This was for the good of the larger group for whom moving might be necessary.
Naatsəbayta…. He said, “Don’t be intimidated by these dogs.” Our people always call the Crees dogs. “If they want war, I’ll show them war.” So he told our people to spread a blanket there in front of him and he went to the spiritual site for guidance and he somehow confiscated all the gunpowder and all their weapons from the Cree and all that stuff ended on a blanket beside him. And he told the Cree to look for their weapons. The Crees looked… for their shot in their pouches… but they didn’t find anything. And he told them… “When we want to make war, that’s what we do.” That’s what he told them.
And the Crees… they took off. And they say that’s how Naatsəbayta saved bloodshed by that action. And that’s what he did. (Tse Keh Nay 2006) Amazay Lake is also a sacred area used today for spirit questing for young men. A Takla Lake Elder says that “If you become a hunter…they bless you on the hills of this Amazay Lake.
20 ” Details of the ceremony related to this particular spirit questing is private knowledge but Jenness describes a puberty ceremony as it was told to him at Fort Grahame in 1924:
Every youth at the age of puberty was sent to climb a mountain, either alone or with a companion of the same age. He carried with him, or found on the mountain, a flake of obsidian, with which he cut out the tongue of a ptarmigan, an ermine or an owl. He threw the tongue into the fire and as it burned he prayed: “May I become a swift runner, an accurate shot, a powerful medicineman able to cure all diseases.” For four days and nights he fasted, neither eating nor drinking. The higher he ascended the mountain the more certainly his prayer would be answered. (1937:76) The oral history of Amazay Lake is a rich one. One story that is strongly linked to this lake is the story about the mammoth.
Our people used to hunt mammoth in that area there… there was two distinguished hunters in the Tse Keh Nay band… one they called Thunder and the other one they called um, I can’t remember…. The story went… they saw the mammoth and … they ran at it and they passed under his belly, I guess, with their spears upright and when they ran underneath the mammoth that’s how they gutted it and that’s how they killed it. (Tse Keh Nay 2006) Place names around Amazay attest to this story. Atəči in Sekani means ‘mammoth.’ Kemess creek is known as ačiseče which means ‘refuge of the mammoth’. There are several place names around Amazay Lake that echo this story. The mountain east of Amazay is called ačiseče?se which means ‘big animal sleeping’. Attycelley and Attichika creeks are also linked to the mammoth story.
See Appendix A for further information about this rite of passage at Amazay Lake.
3.0 IMPACT OF INDUSTRY IN THE REGION
3.1 Early Mining In the 1860s the discovery of gold on the Peace River brought a different type of visitor to the region. Mining prospectors camped out along the rivers and creeks, working the bars looking for gold. In 1869 the Omineca gold rush began when the first strikes were found east of Takla Lake on the Omineca River. The following year, more than 350 miners were in the region and by 1872 more than 1,200 miners were working claims. It was as if the floodgates had opened. While there were opportunities to participate as packers and casual workers the Tse Keh Nay did not greatly benefit from this gold rush. On the contrary, miners were cutting new trails and roads for their pack horses and wagons, hunting game to scarcity or extinction, causing forest fires out of carelessness, and for those who stayed through the winter months, trapping out fur bearing animals. So began a difficult time for the Tse Keh Nay people.
Mining continued in Tse Keh Nay territory long after these early prospectors had left the area.
Small scale gold mining operations continued in the region, including Amazay Lake. By the turn of the 20th century mining interests had turned to coal and as early as 1919, miners began tunneling through the mountains. The demand on resources continued as trees were logged to build mine shafts and buildings. Whole areas of Johnson Creek and the surrounding region were quickly logged out. Also the transportation of coal barges on the river led to accidents and coal and slag began to pollute the once pristine waters.
3.2 Early Forestry
Logging has also taken its toll on the land. Small scale logging companies moved into the region in the early 1900s. A number of small sawmills were established to mill wood for buildings, mines and railroad ties. However, it was not until after the Second World War that large companies started to take an interest in the forests in Tse Keh Nay territory. Tse Keh Nay people began to augment their traditional hunting and gathering activities with part-time
work in the sawmills. One Tse Keh Nay remembers: