Fernie & Elk Valley Culture Guide Issue 4 - Spring 2017 - Page 21

As an oral society (one without written word), the Ktunaxa rely on complex and sophisticated stories to maintain historical records and sustain their culture and identity. Oral histories offer a unique connection to the past and often teach important lessons about culture, the land, and how one should interact with both people and the environment. Squirrel of the Elk Valley Many many years ago, boastful Squirrel considered himself to be as strong and powerful as Grizzly, who is the greatest of all animals. To prove himself, Squirrel set out to close the Elk Valley and declared that no living creature should enter for as long as he remained alive. Squirrel guarded the western entrance of the Valley from Sheep Mountain (Mount Broadwood, near Elko), while his wife watched the eastern entrance near Crow’s Nest Mountain with the help of Raven. A Bighorn Ram who lived in a cave on Mount Broadwood helped Squirrel. Whenever another creature tried to enter the Valley from the west, Ram killed it by pushing rock down the mountainside onto it. If any creatures tried to enter from the east past Squirrel’s wife and Raven, they became entangled in the dense underbrush and timber, where they starved to death. Since nobody ever trod the Valley, the growth soon became impenetrable. After many years, Yau-Ke’Kam, a Ktunaxa youth of Olympian stature, decided to end Squirrel’s foolish pride and tyranny. He tricked Ram and killed Squirrel, then forced his way through to the other entrance of the Valley. Squirrel’s wife and Raven, not expecting an attack from that direction, were easily overcome. Yau-Ke’Kam decreed that henceforth, any others who reached too far in greed would meet some disastrous end... Thank you to the Ktunaxa Nation, Fernie Museum, CBT and the Fernie Nordic Society for this information. This version of the “Squirrel of the Elk Valley’ story is quoted from Fernie Historical Association’s 1977 publication, Backtracking with the Fernie and District Historical Society. 21