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HISTORY OF KTUNAXA BUSINESSES

KTUNAXA PROUD

Kiʔsuʔk Kyukyit, (Greetings).

The Ktunaxa Nation is proud to present Ktunaxa Ready; our online directory exhibiting a number of individual and collective Indigenous businesses that are operating and continuing the proud tradition of conducting business here in ʔamakʔis Ktunaxa, the traditional territories of the Ktunaxa people.

We acknowledge the lands and resources of our ancestors, and the prosperity that had been granted to us through the richness and diversity of our homelands that, through our language, legends and stories, have seen our ancestors prosper throughout our history.

There is a misconception that Ktunaxa are not business people. This misconception was enhanced by the systemic exclusion of Indigenous peoples from participating in the economy. The Ktunaxa people know our strong economic environment pre-dates the arrival of the newcomers. We look to the stories of past technological adaptations involving items such as horses, rifles and textiles.

The archaeological record documents many tools and materials that would not have been procured locally, there is evidence of extensive trade networks between tribes throughout North America.

“In the old times, some Ktunaxa could speak multiple languages including Chinook (a universal language documented by early explorers). This was helpful and used extensively between tribes in the course of inter-tribal commerce. When there were no common languages the people could resort to sign language to get their intentions across.”

In 1997, a group of Ktunaxa Elders were invited to Rocky Mountain House for a commemoration of Fort Edmonton. “In early 1798, a Ktunaxa trade emissary was sent to Fort Edmonton to establish a trade relationship with the North West Trading Company. The Ktunaxa were interested in procuring rifles, necessary to regain a competitive advantage over competing Tribes. The North West Trading Company complied and in 1807, David Thompson erected Kootenay House to benefit from the richness of the Kootenays and allow the Ktunaxa easier access to market.”

As the Ktunaxa territory started to be claimed up by the British, the Ktunaxa were displaced from participating in the economy of ʔamakʔis Ktunaxa. The lands were being claimed all around us, gold and other minerals were being extracted in unsustainable quantities and the Ktunaxa were exiled to Indian Reserves under the rule of the Indian Act. There is a number of documented exchanges in regards to these small tracts which proved to be hardly adequate for the wealth the Ktunaxa had built for ourselves.

“…the habits of the Kootenay Indians have in the past been migratory, moving from place to place, at different seasons of the year as suited their pursuits and requirements… the Indians claimed to be, and virtually were, in possession of the whole district, cultivating such portions as they pleased, and pasturing their cattle and horses in the most favoured spots.”

Reserve Commissioner P. O’Reilly 1884

Another description of a Kootenay Settlement: “These Indians at present own about 400 head of cattle, and some 500 horses. The major part of their cattle have been wintered heretofore on the east side of the Columbia Lakes. This is a favourite grazing place of the Indians and they felt very sore at its being pre-empted, occupied and fenced in by white settlers…”

Another instance of Ktunaxa attempting to participate in the economy was with a man named Pielle, or Peter Ironhead. Illegal to stake a claim himself, Pielle partnered with the head of the St. Eugene Mission, Father Coccola, to file the claim. The Moyie mine became the richest silver-lead mine in Canada, owned by the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, later known as Cominco and eventually becoming Teck.

St Eugene Golf Resort & Casino

In 2000, after over a decade of planning and hurdles, the Ktunaxa Nation converted the former Residential School into a world-class golf course, hotel, casino and RV Park. The Residential School was part of the Canadian policy meant to strip the culture and language from the indigenous peoples, it is now an economic beacon in the regional economy.

Learn more about the Ktunaxa