The Katzie Treaty Team
website will inform and educate its members and the general public on
its vital and historic treaty negotiations with Canada and British
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Cultural Sources of Katzie Title and Rights
In the period immediately following Khaals’ transformations of lands and resources and his establishment of corresponding laws governing land use and resource harvesting, the descendants of Oe’lecten and Swaneset - the Katzie people
- thrived in their newfound wealth and security and further developed customary laws governing resource sharing and resource conservation.
During this period, the Katzie people further strengthened their unique and primary association with and responsibility for the land and resources the Katzie First Nation identifies as Katzie territory to this day.
An illustration of the Katzie First Nation’s unique association and
responsibility - in other words, 'title' - is found in the story of one of Oe’lecten’s descendants, a woman who
was accompanied by her brothers on a successful deer hunt.
The events of the hunt prompted the woman to abandon the human community and proclaim herself
"the owner and mistress of all the deer in this country." Peter Pierre said the woman is nameless, but nonetheless ensured that there would never be a harvest of several deer in one hunt, but rather only one or perhaps two deer at a
time, and "she still prevents the hunter from killing any deer unless he prays to her."
The woman took the form of a deer, but kept her human face and is capable of conferring special abilities and powers upon hunters. Katzie hunters have seen her through the ages and Katzie elders report that she has been seen even in the most recent times.
Throughout history, such powers have been conferred upon Katzie people in such a way as to demonstrate the primary title to Katzie territory and resources that is vested in Katzie people to the exclusion of others and as a means to maintain stable relations with neighboring First Nations.
In one such instance, a Katzie mountain goat hunter, Syaýkwel was granted the power of lightening. In Peter Pierre’s words, Sya’ykewl, when hunting at the head of Pitt Lake once encountered a group of
"Douglas Indians from Harrison Lake" who had traveled over the mountains and were making
"Sya’ykewl closed his eyes, prayed to Thunder and opened them again, whereupon a flash of lightening swept past the Douglas Indians. In their terror they petitioned him for peace and offered to give him one of their daughters in marriage. He accepted and from this marriage to the girl many of the Douglas people to this day claim Katzie descent."
Another illustration of the special relationship between Katzie people and the resources of Katzie territory that is not enjoyed by other First Nations involves the grizzly bear population in the Upper Pitt watershed.
Katzie people did not kill grizzly bears for their flesh. Only occasionally a hunter may take a grizzly bear for its hide. This custom arises from the fact that the grizzly bear was one of Khaals’s helpers. In Katzie tradition there are at least two distinct grizzly populations in the Upper Pitt. The Katzie maintained unique relationships with both populations. The Katzie have a special name for the first population in the lower part of the Upper Pitt Valley. If confronted by one, by calling the bear by this name, Simon Pierre reported the bear went away quietly. The second population in the upper reaches of the Upper Pitt was known as
"Sta’mix" or "Warrior" grizzlies. According to Simon Pierre these grizzlies would
"kill and eat strangers," but would not harm Katzie people. Simon Pierre recounted an incident in which some Nlaka’pamux sent a hunting party to wipe out all the Sta’mix bears, but the bears killed all the hunters but one. “This would not have happened to the Katzie,”
This special relationship between the Katzie people and the Katzie territory is difficult at the best of times to express in contemporary common law terminology. It is correct to say, for instance, that the Katzie people enjoy unextinguished aboriginal title to the various resources of the Katzie territory within the constraints of the common law as it has evolved and the court’s interpretations of Section 35 of the Constitution Act. It is also correct to say that the Katzie
"ownership" of Pitt Lake Sturgeon, Sandhill cranes, or Mountain goats derives from the tradition that Sturgeon, Sandhill cranes, and Mountain goats were once Katzie people who were transformed to provide sustenance for the descendants of Oe’lecten and Swaneset.
In the time that followed Khaals, all of the lands and resources within Katzie territory were soon fully utilized. The people grew in numbers until at
times, "the smoke from their morning fires covered the country with a pall of
smoke," in Peter Pierre’s words, and until the period immediately before the first smallpox epidemic of the 1700’s there were times when
"the smoke of their fires floated over the valley like a dense fog." Before the smallpox and subsequent introduced diseases, the Katzie people were a comparatively large tribe or nation. The Katzie people have developed their own cartography, within the oral tradition, and developed an extensive nomenclature to locate and identify streams, rivers, berry bogs, valleys, mountains, and mountain peaks. It is in this nomenclature, particularly in the Pitt drainage basin, that the Katzie
identity with the territory becomes conclusive. For instance, their
name for the Pitt River translates as “River of the Katzie,” and Pitt
Lake translates as “Lake of the Katzie.”
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Follow this link for:
The Nature of Katzie Title
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