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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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[A] few years ago I shot a caribou at the end of the strip at Cheni Mines which is close to Takla and started to gut it. It was green and yellow inside and it looked as if it had been poisoned. We never used the meat because we were frightened that we too would be poisoned by the chemicals in its body…the only place the caribou could have got the poisons was at the Cheni tailings pond. We know that they drink from it. (Affidavit 1997: para 13, 14)

William Charlie:

[B]ecause the caribou have been poisoned, we cannot eat that poisoned meat and therefore the people are afraid to hunt caribou near a mine because we

have seen with our own eyes that the animals are poisoned. (Affidavit 1997:

para 63) 3.5.3 Kemess South Mine Photo 14: Kemess South, by Chief John Allen French As well as concern for mining in general the Tse Keh Nay also have concerns about the impact of the Kemess South mine upon the land and the fish and animals in the area.

Fred Patrick:

[T]hat they have already damaged the area [his keyoh] by building roads and removing the trees that are not supposed to be removed. The chemicals, machinery, leaking oil, gas, and explosives are not supposed to be put there in the country. A tall guy at a meeting told me it was not poisonous. He thinks we know nothing, but we know what is poison. (Affidavit 1997: para 12)

Takla Elder:

Yeah, we go fishing there [Thutade Lake], they set net in them little creeks.

They catch… lots of fish, they get trout and suckers and all that, they catch dollies, (Interviewer: At Duncan Lake?), yeah, they catch all kinds of fish, they catch, I don’t know where, real big ones…they set net all every time, they make raft. I remember things like that. They get real big one, real fat. Now they say real skinny, I don’t know why. Them dolly what they catch it’s real skinny from Thorne Lake, Joe get one real skinny…. Something’s going on over there…. We told them in a meeting, it’s in the moose too. They’re not so good as, the meat and that, they’re not so good sometimes I think because the fat is sometime yellowish colour and the groundhog too. The fat in the moose used to be real nice and white but it sometime yellow colour. And somehow and some other places we shoot, and it’s white and the same with the groundhog specially, real yellow, and some have no hair on their body, just the wool….

Antoine or Mathew shoot one that is really skinny and it has those yellow [illegible] fat…it’s real skinny, really skinny. It looks like lack of eating something or eating something. It’s maybe from what they eat. (Tse Keh Nay 2006) 3.5.4 Final Comments

Mike Teegee:

[T]he Thudade Lake area is a very sensitive watershed area. All the band members have repeatedly indicated that they are most concerned that the hunters and other recreators will go to the area when the roads are built.

This, on top of the mining and logging, will decimate the animals in the area and make it very hard for the people of our Band to sustain themselves on hunting and fishing in the Thudade Lake area. (Affidavit 1997; para 14)

William Charlie:

[I] believe that our ways will have to change if the land up in the Thudade Lake area is going to be used for a mine. The mine will chase away the animals and will make our hunt harder. Also, the land will be taken away.

When you take away the land you also take away the source of food and the source of furs. You also take away our fundamental connection to the land.

(Affidavit 1997: para 75)

Mike Teegee:

[A]t this time our community still needs its wildlife for sustenance and food purposes and the other developments are lessening very much the availability of wildlife. Further degradation of the source of their sustenance will force more people to leave our community and therefore undermine the very existence and cultural identity of our community. (Affidavit 1997, para 23)

Takla Elder:

We have to be really firm and strong about it. That’s only way we’ll get to the bottom of it. Line up what they’re trying to do. They’re going to mess up the whole thing…Our animals are everything…. Our grandchildren are going to suffer a great deal of loss. (Tse Keh Nay 2006)


The Sekani people have lived in their territory for many generations prior to contact and have developed a culture that is well adapted to the environment of the Rocky Mountain Trench.

They utilized and managed all of their territory. No area of their territory was ‘empty.’ The communities of the Tse Keh Nay, the Kwadacha, Tsay Keh Dene, and the Takla Lake First Nation, are today related to each other through kinship and marriage. Their use of the land has changed little since the time of contact. They continue to hunt, fish, trap and gather plant foods and medicines, as they have done for many generations. Spiritually they are still connected to the land and animals that live on it. Historical and current use research reveals that the Thutade and Amazay Lake region was a significant area for the Tse Keh Nay. They used this region for hunting, trapping and fishing, often living there for extended periods. The area is also important as a gathering place for Tse Keh Nay families and neighbouring tribes.

The Tse Keh Nay have a rich oral history attached to the region and many place names attest to their knowledge of the landscape.

Industrial impacts over the last century have led to environmental degradation of their territory which has affected their culture and lifestyle. This degradation has increased drastically over the last fifty years as a result of clear cut logging, damming of rivers, construction of roads and railways, and pollution from mine tailings. Wildlife has significantly decreased because of these activities. The Tse Keh Nay people believe that their people and culture are at risk if they have no input into development within their territory.

What has been described in this draft report is only part of the history, culture and current land use of the Tse Keh Nay. This report was completed to meet the deadlines of the Panel hearing but because of insufficient time and funding, the report remains in draft form and the work is incomplete. It is recommended that the following studies be completed on behalf of the Tse Keh Nay people so that they can adequately voice their concerns in these proceedings.

Research is required in the following areas:

Archaeological Research

As stated in Appendix E, archaeological research in this region is far from adequate to fully understand the pre-contact use of the Thutade and Amazay lakes region. There are also concerns about the quality of the work that has been conducted on behalf of Northgate. It is recommended that a comprehensive archaeological impact assessment be conducted with the full participation of the Tse Key Nay people to determine the impact of any potential mining operation and that a full archaeological inventory be compiled for the Amazay and Thutade areas. Such an inventory must include the higher terraces that were well used and occupied by Tse Keh Nay people. Additionally, the information found in Samuel Black’s 1824 journal and traditional use information reveal a use of this area that would have left a physical, archaeological expression. This information must be considered when developing a strategy to locate and identify archaeological sites.

Ethnographic Research

Interviews with the Tse Keh Nay were limited and this report has had to depend heavily upon previous statements made in affidavits and gleaned from other researchers’ reports. There was no examination of the interviews used for the Tsay Keh Dene Traditional Use Study as only the report was accessible. Recent interviews were conducted in group sessions but individual follow up interviews are required. Due to travel costs, time limitations, and unavailability of individuals who are out trapping and hunting on the land, there was an unequal representation of interviews among the three communities. This needs to be addressed to give balance to the history.

Ethnobotanical Research

A cursory review of the ethnobotany of the Sekani was conducted for this study. (Appendix

A) This work is preliminary. Although one study was conducted with the Tsay Keh Dene, it is believed that there is much more to learn. This work also relied heavily on the ethnobotanical research conducted for neighbouring Nations. To understand the ethnobotany of the Amazay region, it is important to conduct further ethnobotanical research. This research would help fill the gaps that were identified in this report regarding the names and uses of some particular plants.

Place Name Research

Place name information for the three communities is uneven and incomplete. It is quite evident from the limited interviews and hearings that there are a number of place names not yet recorded. Greatly needed too, is linguistic analysis of these place names. A brief linguistic analysis of place names around Amazay shows that many place names are linked to oral history and land use. To date, there has been no comprehensive linguistic analysis of Tse Keh Nay place names.

Genealogical Research

There is general understanding by all Tse Keh Nay families that they are linked together but many families cannot provide details of that relationship. Genealogical research is needed to understand how the families are related. This includes gathering family history from the members themselves, as well as searching missionary records, government census records and band lists. This would require a linguistic methodology as well as the assistance of Sekani speakers and linguists to decipher name alterations and equivalences. Also there is a need to understand traditional naming practices and the history of the adoption of western names. 21 Among First Nation peoples elsewhere, western names are adopted from missionaries, settlers, or are closely linked to the phonetic sound of their indigenous names. In the case of the Tse Keh Nay, some names indicate the influence of the French Oblate missionaries, but others do not. Analysis of western names may help reveal where people were in the territory and their relationship to each other.

Traditional names had important cultural and spiritual significance for First Nations people and the adoption of western names was often linked to ‘guidance, protection or power’ (see Rogers & Rogers 1980: 198-230).

Archival, Fur Trade and Oblate Mission Records Research

This report has been written with no examination of archival records. Fur trade records, correspondence and post journals, not only in Tse Keh Nay territory, but outside, can offer supportive evidence of Tse Keh Nay movements and use of the land. Missionary records are also a rich source of information. Aside from the published records of Rev. Morice, Catholic missionary records include official reports of activities, correspondence and parish records.

Many of these are still held by the Oblate order. It is also unknown at this time if other denominations visited this region and left records. A cursory review has identified some sources from visitors to the region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These have not been examined. It is speculated too that many of these visitors were Americans, especially during the gold rush of the 1860s, and it is possible that more accounts are held in American archives.

Government Records Research

The records of the Department of Indian Affairs are a key source of information on the movements and activities of the Tse Keh Nay people from the late 19th century through to the present. Census Records, Annual Reports, Indian Agent journals and correspondence, and correspondence and reports of the Indian Reserve Commission and the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs, are only some of the resource materials found in these Government Records.

Historical Geography and Mapping

It is highly recommended that research of historical geography and mapping be undertaken.

This research has huge potential for understanding Tse Keh Nay use of the land. The fur trading companies often made detailed maps of specific regions, sometimes marking where First Nations people lived. Time did not permit this research to be conducted. Also research for this report revealed several old published maps of Sekani territory, but it is unknown who produced them or why they were produced. One map, for example, dated 1848 shows trails to Tse Keh Nay lands from the upper Stikine River. Also, due to time constraints, only two contemporary maps of Tse Keh Nay use of the land were created. Appendices F and G include maps of trails and placenames but there is much more information to gather to ensure comprehensive mapping of the area. Additionally, more time is required to effectively map the information gathered during the research for this study. A great deal of traditional use information was gathered and more time is required to consult with the Tse Keh Nay on how best to share this detailed information.

To conclude, the Tse Keh Nay have a rich history that this report has only touched upon.

Much of the history still remains in the memory of the people themselves. The materials gathered here reveal that much more work needs to be done to adequately understand Tse Keh Nay historic and current uses of the Thutade and Amazay Lakes region. Their strong voices of concern attest to the importance of this region. Without this research, the full impacts of this mining development upon their lives will not be fully understood or addressed.


Abraham, Peter 1997 Affidavit of Peter Abraham, sworn June 11, 1997 and filed June 16, 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.

BC Hydro 2005 Williston. http://www.bchydro.com/recreation/northern/northern1199.html, accessed April 12, 2007.

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