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Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Peoples

The Ktunaxa people have always been here. Historically, other indigenous peoples also harvested, hunted, fished and settled seasonally within the area, including the Shuswap peoples who for centuries have travelled to and inhabited the Ktunaxa homelands. 

The Ktunaxa People

ʔaknuqⱡuk – Golden Area
Before the Ktunaxa, it was the Spirit Animals that occupied the country. Our creation story speaks of the giant, Naⱡmuqȼin, and a prophecy from the Creator that would ultimately create all the Human Beings in the world. At that time there was some disturbance caused by a water monster known as Yawuʔnik̓, who killed many creatures.  A war party was formed to destroy Yawuʔnik̓. He was pursued amongst the Kootenay and Columbia River Systems. Yawuʔnik̓ was eventually killed and butchered; his meat distributed among the animals so everyone was fed. His organs were removed and became the various races of people and were scattered throughout the world. The events placed the Ktunaxa people here in our ancestral homelands – as stewards of the land. The lakes and rivers are a testament of this feat as are Yawuʔnik̓’s ribs, known as the Hoodoos, seen throughout the region. When the prophecy was fulfilled, Naⱡmuqȼin, in all his excitement, rose to his feet, standing upright, hitting his head on the ceiling of the sky and knocking himself dead. His feet lay northward in a place we call Ya·kⱡiki, in the Yellowhead Pass vicinity.   His head went south and rests near Yellowstone Park in the State of Montana and his body is now known as the Rocky Mountains. For more information on the creation story visit:

Our Ktunaxa language is unique to our homelands, not related to any other in the world. We are very proud of this fact- that we have something so special that is so unique to our territory and our Nation. However, it is not lost on us that our language is critically endangered with less than a dozen fluent speakers in the world. We are working to hold on to our language and teach the young ones to be proud of their language and who they are. Our culture is embedded in our language and teaches us who we are and where we come from through our stories and songs. Much like our word for Golden. In Ktunaxa, our word for the town of Golden is ʔaknuqⱡuk- a word that describes the colour of the water as it runs down into the Columbia. It says it is Muddy or silty making it look White.

The primary game of ʔaknuqⱡuk is elk, moose and deer.  You can find all the major food groups: elk, mountain goats, mountain sheep, moose, deer and bear. When the Ktunaxa lived and moved freely throughout their homelands, many Ktunaxa families lived along the upper Columbia River (Miȼ̓qaqas) from its headwaters through and including ʔaknuqⱡuk working the land and harvesting wild vegetation.  Hunting trails extend throughout the area and tie in with several portage trails all the way north to Boat Encampment and connect with the trail over Athabasca Pass to Jasper House. These trails also connected to the prairies in Alberta where the Ktunaxa hunted buffalo 2 or 3 times a year. Many of these passes are still known today such as Howse Pass that connects to Jasper House.  Another trail branches out and connects to the Selkirk Mountains north of present-day Golden toward Revelstoke (Ktunwakanmituk miȼ̓qaqas). These trails preceded mining settlements and are attributable to the Ktunaxa and latterly by the Kinbasket before becoming the highways you travel by car. The Ktunaxa utilized many resources here in ʔaknuqⱡuk and it was important as a “mustering point” connecting travellers from all directions, much as it still does today. The relief you experience coming out of the mountain pass to meet up with your group, grab a meal or relieve yourself before making the next move were all as important then as it is today.


A captivating story of early Golden from Colleen Palumbo recalls in the early 1900’s Louis Rauch a young man in his 20’s while hunting in the Big Bend Country climbed on top of a bluff hoping to catch better sight of some game, as he adjusted his stance slipped on the snow and fell from the bluff fracturing his leg rendering him immobile. He lay in the snow for a couple of days before his calls for help were heard by a passing group of Ktunaxa on their way back to the Invermere area. The group, realizing they couldn't move him made the decision to leave a family behind with enough provisions to get them through the winter. Because of the kindness of the Ktunaxa the descendants of the Rauch family are here today to share the story with the Ktunaxa families who share in the historic experience.



Secwepemc Shuswap Nations

We are the Secwepemc- the spread-out people. Our relationship of ownership and caretaking of Secwepemcúlecw, our homeland, goes back more than 10,000 years.  Our laws and customs were given to us by Sk’elép (Coyote) as laid out in our ancient oral histories. Secwepemc laws govern the Secwepemc Nation building a moral and spiritual foundational of Secwepemc society which is inherently connected to the land and our history.

Albeit that for thousands of years, we have governed ourselves through the application of our own laws. With the “birth” of another nation, Canada, these past 150 years, we’ve had to navigate a world of colonization and the enforcement of an Indian Act. The scope of our governance has been reduced to reservations and elected Chiefs and Councils. However, we are fortunate to have not lost the thread of our laws, our oral histories or knowledge of our lands.

The Shuswap/Secwepemc people lived harmoniously with the seasons and resources throughout the territory, referred to as ‘seasonal rounds’. They developed an intricate system of travel corresponding with the seasons, as well as an important social and political system that governed their interactions with each other and the use of their traditional lands. They entered their “winter homes” (pit house/kekulis) in November and would remain in that location throughout the winter. The pit house was vital for survival in the harshest season when the water froze, and the ground covered in snow, making travel difficult. These permanent homes/villages can be found by archaeological evidence throughout the Columbia Valley and surrounding regions. The salmon that were abundant in the Columbia River system was integral to the Secwepemc culture and identity. Fishing camps could be found along the Columbia River, mouths of Windermere and Columbia Lakes and they would remain there for large harvests of salmon to be divided amongst families, stored and prepared for long winter months and journeys. The way of life in traditional times was planned for and by the community to ensure everyone was cared for and enough resources.

The Shuswap Indian Band (Kenpesq’t) is one of the 17 federal government Indian Bands of the Secwepemc/Shuswap Nation established in the 1860s. Although it is now recognized that pre-contact the Secwepemc Nation had over 32 ‘campfires’ throughout the territory. Previous to 2006, the Shuswap Indian Band was affiliated with the neighbouring Ktunaxa Nation and part of the Ktunaxa Kinbasket Treaty Council. The Shuswap and Ktunaxa people have intermarried for generations and many families are genetically linked. The two Nations have their own unique stories and languages, oral histories and culture.


Metis Nation
The Metis are a Nation created through the arrival of the European people who were encouraged to find wives among the indigenous people.  Through the strong activism of citizens such as Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, they have received special status under the Constitution of Canada, having created a separate and unique culture and language (Michif) with ancestry arising from the original homeland of the Red River Area.
With the expansion of the Canadian fur trade, indigenous peoples and Metis also came in order to secure furs for the Northwest and Hudson Bay Companies. The Métis people settled in the upper Columbia over 200 years ago, beginning with two Métis men, La Gasse and LeBlanc who came to live with the Kootenai Nation in or about 1800.

Mapmaker, David Thompson joined with his Métis wife Charlotte Small along with their small children. Thompson was responsible for extensively surveying and documenting the area. The town of Invermere honoured the contribution of this family by erecting a display of life-sized statues within the community.  

Métis Jacko Finley was responsible for slashing and improving the trail from Rocky Mountain House to present day Golden and the Columbia Valley. Other newcomers were Nicholas Montour, Umperville, Bird, MacKay, McDonald, James Sinclair and the Morigeaus.

François Morigeau came into the Windermere area in 1819. He had nine children with his second wife Isabella Taylor, who was Metis. Francois is considered the first white settler to live in the Columbia Valley. 

As the settlements grew, the Métis in the 1800s were not only guides and trappers but also business owners, community leaders, musicians, builders and family men and women.
Two of the Morigeau children, Sophie and Baptiste opened Golden’s first general store in 1881. Baptiste’s first wife was Colette Kinbasket, daughter to the chief of the Shuswap tribe in Windermere. After the death of Colette, Baptise married Therese Caie who was from the Ktunaxa tribe.

It is said that Baptiste changed the name of the Cache to Golden, thus naming the town of Golden.   Baptiste also blazed the right of way for and was the foreman on the Kootenay Central railroad from Golden to Cranbrook.  The local Ricard family are direct descendants of Baptiste Morigeau.

In Golden, the Métis are now the largest Indigenous group. Métis Nation Columbia River Society (MNCRS) is a Chartered Community of Métis Nation British Columbia.   

MNCRS is an inclusive Society, including Indigenous Peoples of All Nations, as well as welcoming anyone interested in networking with them as an Associate Member. Their mission is to promote culture and Reconciliation. Indigenous people in Canada have suffered greatly under the settler Governments of Colonization; the affects continue today. MNCRS strives to bridge the subsequent gaps in health, wealth, and education between local Indigenous people and the non-Indigenous population.

They are involved in many community activities and offer a variety of learning opportunities for interested groups. They network with service providers in order to provide outreach to those in need and work with the school system to provide traditional knowledge and connect elders with youth. Their dance and cultural troupe, Li Jigeurs  Mechif teaches traditional Métis dance to students within local schools, and their Fiddle and Guitar School aims to develop and maintain traditional cultural music. They also cater for private or public functions.

Special annual celebrations include Louis Riel Day/ Métis Week, National Indigenous Peoples Day and an annual Fiddle Camp and Performance. They hold and participate in many gatherings and events during the year, including trade fairs, parades, Summer Kicks music performances and gigs, and the Grand Snow King Festival! The Golden and District Museum also houses a beautiful display depicting the Métis in the area.

For information, and to book learning opportunities or access services, please contact Caren Nagao at 250-344-6981.

The MNCRS office is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10:00 am. and 2:00 pm. MST. 

Altogether, the indigenous peoples have played an integral part in forming the western provinces and the Columbia Valley as well as the town of Golden.

Further articles:

Golden museum honours early settler Baptiste Morigeau.