"In our every deliberation, we
must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven
generations." - Iroquois Confederacy Maxim
The Tsilhqot'in (pronounced Tsill-COAT-ten) or Chilcotin
(Chil-co-ten) are a Northern Athabascan (Dene) First Nations
people and are the most southern of the Athabascan speaking
people. The English meaning of the name is roughly translated
as 'People of the Chilcotin River'.
The Tsilhquotin intermarried with the Ulkatcho band
north of Anahim Lake, who in turn intermarried with the Nuxalk,
and there was considerable trade between the coastal Bella
Coola people and the Ulkatcho and Tsilhquot'in. There was
also a tenuous relationship with the Shuswap when the Chilcotin's
were not at war with them that included intermarriage and
trade at times.
The Tsilhqot'in live in an area that extends from the Fraser
River west of Williams Lake to the Coast Mountains and includes
most of the drainage of the Chilcotin River and the headwaters
of the Homathko and Kliniklini Rivers flowing westward through
the Coast range. They are bordered on the north by the Dakelh
(Carrier) of which the Anahim Lake Ulkatcho band are considered
to be a part, Secwepmectsín (Shuswap) to the East which
includes the Xatsull at Soda Creek, and the Nuxalk (Bella
Coola) to the west.
Intermarriage between distinct peoples was a survival strategy
utilized by several tribes that protected them from starvation.
When their own food sources such as salmon and game failed,
relations could generally be counted on to share their own
hunting and fishing territories.
There are six Chilcotin communities, one of which includes
a small band at Alexandria (Esdilagh), several miles east
of Williams Lake.
The other five are:
Nemiah Valley (Xeni Gwet'in)
Redstone (Tsi Del Del)
The Tletinqox'tin (pronounced Clay-teen-co-teen)
translates to 'People of the River Flats' but have long
been known by the Federal Government as the Anaham band. Band
members are mostly located near Alexis Creek at Anahim Flats.
Reserve No. 1 overlooking the Chilcotin river as well as on
Anahim Meadows and other small reserves.
There is an elementary school on the reserve, but about half
of the students go to the public school in nearby Alexis Creek.
The band operates a lumber business and a gas-bar. There is
a newly built clinic, admin offices, and church on the reserve
along Highway 20. The community has a population of approximately
Their Tribal Council, called the Tl'etinqox-t'in Government
Office, represents and attempts to meet the needs of all the
bands listed above. The following are important economic activities
for the bands. Alexandria Band farming and forestry; Alexis
Creek and Stone Bandsfarming, cattle, ranching, and forestry;
Tletinqox-tin Government and Xeni Gwetin First
Nations Governmentfarming, cattle ranching, and trapping;
Toosey Bandindividual farming and cattle ranching, a heavy
equipment company, and trapping.
Xeni Gwet'in (pronounced ha-nay gwet-een) First Nations
are also known as the Nemaiah Valley First Nations. The reserve
community and governing offices is located in the wilderness
area of Nemaiah Valley between Chilko Lake and Taseko Lakes
with a population of about 411 both on and off reserve. The
band has an active business program which runs the local highways
yard and a gas bar and has taken over management of its health
program. Since most of the community is not on the BC Hydro
electrical grid, electricity is provided by generators and
Modern technology aside, the people of Nemaiah Valley still
harvest salmon on the Chilko River, hunt moose and deer, pick
berries and medicinal plants and attend to numerous local
cultural events. Many have small ranches in the valley and
raise horses and cattle and hunt, catch and train wild horses.
The Xeni Gwetin still practice their traditional arts
of beading, basket making, buckskin crafts and tanning hides.
The Elders are very proactive in trying to save and pass on
the traditional ways and language of their people.
Tsi Del Del (pronounced sigh dell dell) First Nations
can be translated to mean Redstone. Formerly known as the
Alexis Creek band the majority of the community and offices
are located on the Redstone reserve between Chilanko Forks
and Alexis Creek while the rest are on smaller reserves at
Redbrush and around Puntzi Lake. There are approximately 400
people living on reserve and as many off.
It is thought that the Alexis Creek First Nation was originally
given a reserve at the mouth of the Alexis Creek just west of
the town of Alexis Creek but were later moved in 1912 to an
area named for the red rock bluffs east of the Redstone Flats
Reserve. It became a central location where band members could
move in from outlying areas in order to put their children in
school, purchase goods and attend church and ranch. The band
owns Tsi Del Del Industries which is very active in logging
as well as a gas bar along the highway, and a school, a federal
health clinic, and an elders' centre on the reserve. Many band
members engage in ranching, outfitting, and guiding as well
as in hunting and fishing.
Yunesitin (pronounced you-neh-seh-teen) First Nations
was historically known as the Stone or Stony Band and number
about 400 with approximately half living on reserve. Band
members have a long history with ranching and the ranchers
in the Hanceville area.
The Yunesitin First Nation offices and health center
are located near Hanceville where there is also a youth centre
and maintained hockey rinks well as an outdoor ball-hockey
court. The Yunesitin Governement undertook the building
of a new outdoor rink to address the lack of recreational
facilities in the community. It was felt that an outdoor rink
would give a place for the youth to go, exercise, play and
develop social skills while playing ice hockey and ball hockey
and contribute to a healthier community.
The rink is busy with players all year round and invites tournament
players from other communities at least twice a year.
Tlesqox-t'in or (Clay-tes-co-teen) or Toosey Indian
The Tsilhqot'in name for Riske Creek is Tlesqox which
means "muddy creek". With the snow melt in the spring,
the creek gets very muddy. So, the band living near Riske
Creek are of course called the People of the Muddy Creek.
The band numbers about 300 members and most are located approximately
45km west of Williams Lake and occupy the region from Riske
Creek south to the junction of the Chilcotin and Fraser River.
There are three reserves governed by the Toosey First Nation
band government. Two of the reserves are located on the north
and south side of Highway 20 and the third is along the banks
of the Chilcotin River.
The Toosey band office employs 10 to 15 people and the reserve
houses an education building, a store, a church, and operates
a forest company called the Chilcotin Plateau Enterprises Ltd.
Fewer than half the members are fluent speakers of the traditional
language while some of the elders do not speak English. Most
of the fluent speakers range in age from 40 to 90 years old
but there are a few in their twenties and thirties. About half
of the non-fluent speakers in the community can understand the
language but do not speak it. As with the other bands in the
Tsilhquotin, both administration and the elders are fighting
to maintain the language and culture for future generations
and were instrumental in pushing for Tsilhqot'in language classes
to be provided to Tl'esqox students at the public elementary
and high schools in Williams Lake.
Ulkatchos or Ulkatcho people (pronounced Ul-gat-cho )
are a subgroup of the Dakelh (Carrier) but reside alongside
neighbouring communities of Tsilhqot'in as well as other Dakelh
and are extensively related by intermarriage to both the Nuxalk
of Bella Coola and Chilcotins and share territory with the Nuxalk.
Many distinctively Ulkatcho family names, such as Cahoose, Capoose,
Sill, Squinas, and Stilas come from Nuxalk.
Ulkatcho is an Anglicized version of Ulhk'acho, the name of
one village, now disused, on Gatcho Lake. Ulhk'acho means "big
bounteous place", a place bountiful with fish, game, and
other resources. It is based on the root k'a "fat".
Gatcho Lake is several miles north of Anahim Lake between the
Itcha and Rainbow Mountain Ranges and at one time there was
an extensive community there. In the 1950s a well read
First Nations rancher appealed to the Native Brotherhood based
in Vancouver to call attention to the problem of children not
getting schooling because of the distance of Gatcho from the
end of the road at Anahim Lake. Eventually it was determined
that the solution was to move the entire band to Anahim Lake
where land was purchased by the Government for a reserve. While
a few families stayed out and continued to subsist on fishing,
hunting and trapping, most moved south 50 miles to Anahim Lake
with their families.
The Ulkatcho government offices are located in Anahim Lake and
it is responsible for two large and 20 small individual reserves.
There are approximately 750 living on reserve and another 200
living off reserve. There are two schools, a store, community
center and ball hockey court, churches and a medical clinic.
Nuxalk (pronounced NOO-hulk) The Nuxalk people are a
combination of four tribes whose villages were scattered along
the rivers and tributaries of the Bella Coola River Valley,
the South Bentinck Arm, the Dean Channel, and Kwatna Inlet.
Research and oral history indicates that the Nuxalk population
once numbered in the thousands, probably as high as 35,000 prior
to the smallpox outbreak of 1862-1864 brought into central British
Columbia by gold miners and settlers. The tribe was reduced
to an estimated 300 in number and almost entirely relocated
to the Bella Coola Valley.
The Nuxalk have a long and rich cultural history and knowledge
of familial ancestory remains strong. The Nuxalk have always
traded extensively with other peoples including the Ulkatcho
with whom they intermarried and shared territory.
The area was rich in wildlife, plants and fish and the Nuxalk
prospered as the middle man trading between the inland interior
native tribes and those in the outer coastal regions. Travel
through the valley and coastal region was primarily by cedar
canoe while trade through and over the mountains from the coast
to the interior was primarily accomplished by what were called
grease trails, named for the eulachon, ooligan,
or candlefish which was rendered down for its
grease for use in cooking and light. The most famous of these
trails became the historic Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail that
was later used by Alexander Mackenzie when he travelled overland
across Canada to the coast and arriving at the ocean in July,
1793, two years before Louis and Clarks famous transcontinental
The Nuxalk still enjoy a strong cultural heritage and subsistence
activities in the Bella Coola Valley with salmon probably still
the most important aspect of that. The native reserve at Bella
Coola supports a population of about 900 and the tribe estimates
that there are another 2000 members off reserve or mixed into
Xatsull First Nation (pronounced hat-sull) or the Soda
Creek Indian Band is located along the cliffs of the Fraser
River and it has relied on this waterway as an integral part
of their lifestyle for years for both fish, wildlife, unique
plant life and for transportation. The meaning of the word Xatsull
is literally on the cliff where the bubbling water comes
The Xatsull are a northern branch of the Shuswap and seemed
to have extensive trading relations and interemarriage with
the Chilcotin bands, although it was sometimes interfered with
by war between the Chilcotin and southern Shuswap tribes. They
also had a good relationship with the southern Carrier of which
the Ulkatcho were a part. The Xatsull maintained close knit
family groups that as with other nations, relied on fishing,
hunting and a gathering lifestyle, with a long history of storytelling
that passed on to future generations their cultural heritage
Unfortunately, encroaching settlers and gold miners pushed into
the traditional lands and to protect them, a large reserve 22
miles long and 8 miles wide was eventually established by James
Douglas in 1865. This too was eventually reduced to about one
The band is now making a real effort to bring their culture
to the fore, not only for themselves, but to increase understanding
for their culture in the non-First Nations. They have built
the Xatsull Heritage Village, the first of its kind in North
America, so that all cultures can experience the traditional
Shuswap lifestyle. They invite you to spend time there learning
the old ways, the crafts and skills of the native elders.
For more information please go to xatsullheritagevillage.com