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First Nations

"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 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.

Map of various First Nations Tribes occupying central BC

The Tsilhquot’in 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.
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:

Anaham (Tl’etinqox)
Nemiah Valley (Xeni Gwet'in)
Redstone (Tsi Del Del)
Stone (Yunesit’in)
Toosey (Tl’esqoxt’in)

The Tl’etinqox'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 700 people.

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 Bands—farming, cattle, ranching, and forestry; Tl’etinqox-t’in Government and Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government—farming, cattle ranching, and trapping; Toosey Band—individual 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 solar power.
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 Gwet’in 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.

Yunesit’in (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 Yunesit’in 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 Yunesit’in 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.

Tl’esqox-t'in or (Clay-tes-co-teen) or Toosey Indian Band
The Tsilhqot'in name for Riske Creek is Tl’esqox 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 Tsilhquot’in, 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 1950’s 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 it’s 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 Clark’s famous transcontinental crossing.
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 other bands.

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 out’.
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 and knowledge.
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 mile square.
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




Grave site at Redstone.
 
Man leading a number of packhorses.
 
Graveyard at old Ulkatcho or Gatcho.
 
Native man holding up a wolf pelt in front of a cabin.
 
A pictograph in red near Nimpo Lake looks like a pregnant game animal.
 
Pictograph of a game animal in red.
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