Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rex Weyler, "BC's forgotten Sinixt Nation reoccupies its homeland. A tale of tenacity and joyous rebirth," The Tyee, June 30, 2008.

[For those of us living in the Kootenays, the story of the Sinixt indicates how far into darkness we have all been pushed by our government and the neglect of the mainstream media. Weyler's article is one of the rare occasions for settler society to find out who was here long before we arrived. It is likely to be a long time before the truth is out so we can be reconciled with it. Still, a time will come when schools recognize and teach our settler history as a small and devastating part of the real story of the land. That will entail a major shift. Better sooner than later. -jlt]

Bob Campbell clutches his granddaughter at a public thanksgiving feast near Vallican, B.C., and asks: "Do I look extinct?"

Campbell is a headman of B.C.'s allegedly exterminated Aboriginal nation, the Sinixt, known as the "Mother Tribe," from the upper Columbia River, the region we now call the West Kootenays. The original name of both the land and people, Sinixt, means "place of the bull trout."

"I was born in a concentration camp," Campbell says. "Miners had hunted us down like animals, settlers destroyed our villages, loggers shoved us off our land, and dams decimated the salmon. Our ancestors were sent to an armed fort at Colville, now in the state of Washington. We were trapped south of the border, not allowed to return. In 1956, the government of Canada declared us extinct, but look: I'm not dead yet, and we're back."

Mother nation

Sinixt villages once lined the banks of the Kootenay, Slocan and Columbia rivers. Hunting parties camped along creeks descending from the Monashee and Selkirk mountains. The people enjoyed a bounty of caribou, sturgeon, salmon, and the once-plentiful bull trout. Each summer, Sinixt families travelled 100 kms south along the Columbia River in white pine bark canoes to their fishing camp at Ilthkoyape -- Kettle Falls, Washington -- where they gathered red sockeye in dip net baskets with the Skoyelpi, their southern neighbours. A designated "salmon chief" shared the catch among villages throughout the region.

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