Fernie & Elk Valley Culture Guide Fernie & Elk Valley Cultural Guide - Winter 18-19 - Page 28

THE KTUNAXA NATION LIVING CULTURE, LIVING TRADITIONS For more than 10,000 years, the Ktunaxa people (pronounced ‘k-too- nah-ha’), also known as the Kootenai or Kootenay, have occupied a traditional territory that spans what is now known as southeastern British Columbia, Southwestern Alberta, and parts of Washington, Idaho and Western Montana. For thousands of years the Ktunaxa people enjoyed the natural bounty of the land, seasonally migrating throughout their traditional territory to follow vegetation and hunting cycles. The Ktunaxa obtained all their food, medicine and material for shelter and clothing from nature – hunting, fishing and gathering throughout their Territory, across the Rocky Mountains and on the Great Plains of both Canada and the United States. The Ktunaxa used the Elk Valley as a trade and travel route through the Rocky Mountains. Twice a year, bison hunts were coordinated on the prairies east of the Rockies until the bison population was decimated in the mid-1800s. The Elk Valley area was the primary home of the easternmost branch of the Ktunaxa people, who are closely connected to families living at what is now Tobacco Plains. The Michel Prairie people, after whom the old town 28 of Michel was named, used the area near Sparwood to plant tobacco. Their Ktunaxa name is aqawakanmituqnik and means “river running into and out again” (the Michel Creek into the Elk River). Despite being subjected to 120 years of living on Indian Reserves, and decades of forced attendance at a residential school at St. Eugene Mission near Cranbrook, the Ktunaxa Nation continues to be a strong and thriving community and transformed the Mission into a world- class resort. Visitors to the region can learn more about the Ktunaxa by visiting the St. Eugene Resort Interpretive Centre and the Fernie Museum. A pull-out near Michel Creek at the former townsite of Michel offers visitors further information about the Michel Plains people. Visit www.ktunaxa.org and www.steugene.ca