Fishing-Recognized Traditional Fishing Areas of the Sinixt People

Sinixt Traditional Territory-Map 1

In the map below (taken from Bouchard & Kennedy 2005), 6 culturally significant sites of the Sinixt People have been identified, with original location names (printed in red font) being transcribed. Notice the site identified in the top left corner of this map. The word 'sngaytskstx' appears in a more traditional form, which has now been adapted in contemporary times to 'Sinixt'.

Tonkawatla Creek/Big Eddy area

Much information has been recorded in regard to occupancy and use of the Tonkawatla Creek/Big Eddy area. Skokuntique tl, a traditional Sinixt village site and fishing area, translates to 'working place (where fish have to work hard to go up rapids)'. In reference to this Sinixt village site, James Teit wrote: This place is said to have been the headquarters of a rather large band, which was reinforced at certain seasons by people from lower down the Columbia. It was noted as a trading, trapping, hunting, berrying, and salmon-fishing center (Teit 1930). Also recorded in his field notes with reference to the Revelstoke area, Teit wrote about the Shuswap people meeting the Sinixt [Lakes Indians] here and visiting for many days while Sinixt people put up lots of berries and salmon.

References to Sinixt People living in this area between the mid-1880s and early 1900s are also well-documented. For example, Edouard Picard, resident of the Arrow Lakes, wrote in 1926 about his living memory of the Indian people he had observed wintering in the Revelstoke area. Picard wrote that this group of Indians were the same people who lived between the Little Dalles (Washington State) and the international border under Chief "Melteur"-a well-known Sinixt chief.



Less information has been recorded about the vicinity of Illecillewaet, which is believed to be an anglicization of the word selxwe7itkw (big water). One important document to note is the report from Walter Moberly in 1866. Mr. Morberly stated that in September of 1865, several Sinixt members [Lakes Indians] accompanied him to the headwaters of the Illecillewaet River but would not accompany him past the headwaters. This shows Sinixt use of the area but also may suggest the borders of northern traditional Sinixt territory.




Sinixt Traditional Territory: Map 2

Shown in the map below (taken from Bouchard & Kennedy 2005) are 8 significant Sinixt cultural sites that have been documented, with original location names (printed in red font) being transcribed. The word Swah-netk-qha refers to the areas now known as the Upper Arrow Lake, Lower Arrow Lake, and Columbia River exclusively. The map below focuses on the upper portions of the Swah-netk-qha.


In the vicinity the former settlement of Beaton, nk'mapeleks (head of the lake) is said to be located at the mouth of Beaton Creek. Verne Ray's Sinixt consultant confirmed that nk'mapeleks was an "important camp" of the Sinixt [Lakes] people. Ray (1936) wrote, with reference to nk'mapeleks, "a popular meeting place and a productive fishing, hunting and berrying center. The camp was most populous in May and June."


At the uppermost end of Upper Arrow Lake, the presence of a Sinixt village has been recorded through ethnohistoric sources, and is said to be located at or near Arrowhead.  James Teit noted that this area was a salmon-fishing place and a "noted center for digging roots of Lilium columbianum [tiger lily]."


"Nakusp" is an anglicization of the traditional place name of this area, nkwusp (something in the lake comes together). Bouchard and Kennedy believe that the meaning of nkwusp refers to how the lake historically looked by stating, "before the level of Upper Arrow Lake was raised by dam construction, it was here at Nakusp that the lake began to 'come together', i.e. began to narrow down again to a river." Nakusp was recorded by Teit (1930) as a well-known "fishing place for salmon and lake trout."



Sinixt Traditional Territory: Map 3

Trout Lake and the Lardeau River represent the only place in the world where Gerrard rainbow trout runs exist. Spawning around the end of April where the lake and river connect, the Gerrard rainbow trout are distinct from other species of rainbow trout, making them unique. Trout Lake has been a significant area to Sinixt peoples for fishing and hunting, both in historical and contemporary times. Shown in the map below (taken from Bouchard & Kennedy 2005) are significant Sinixt cultural sites that have been documented, with original location names (printed in red font) being transcribed.


The traditional place name of what is now Gerrard has been transcribed by early travelers in various ways (i.e. kali so by James Teit, 1930 and sia uks qa-li su by Verne Ray, 1936). Bouchard and Kennedy were not able to determine what traditional Sinixt language terms Teit and Ray were transcribing. Although the terms were recorded independently, notice how "kali so" and "qa-li su" are very similar in sound.

Kali so

Kali so was was included in a list of "old villages and camps" of the Sinixt [Lakes Indians] recorded by Teit (1930) and was said to be located "on Trout Lake". Sia uks qa-li su was translated by Ray to mean 'where the water flows outward', which he thought, "probably referred to the drainage of Trout Lake into Kootenay Lake." As told by Bouchard and Kennedy, "Ray also provided information about the traditional use of this place by the Lakes [Sinixt]. He indicated that it was a camp for caribou hunting and fishing, that drying racks for fish were erected here, and that travelers sometimes remained there for several weeks".

Sinixt Traditional Territory: Map 4

The map below (taken from Bouchard & Kennedy 2005) of traditional Sinixt territory likely represents the most concentrated area of identified culturally significant sites. Within this portion of Sinixt territory, where a total of 18 sites have been identified, contemporary Sinixt history in British Columbia has been heavily documented.


The place name for Burton was recorded by Teit (1930) as Xaie ken and was identified as a Lakes [Sinixt] village or camp. Although Bouchard and Kennedy were able to re-elicit this term (Xaie ken) with Lakes [Sinixt] consultants, they do not know what term Teit was trying to transcribe. Teit clearly identified a Kokanee fishery in this area by reporting that Xaie ken was, "a center for the catching of land-locked salmon or little red fish." Use of this area by Sinixt people continued into the 1900s and has been well documented. Mrs. W. Marshall (1965), for example, shared insight to Sinixt traditional use of the area by stating, "the only reason why they were there is they came to the fishing. There was excellent fishing there. They were getting char [Dolly Varden]."

Clark Marshall was born in Burton (1908) and clearly remembered Sinixt people arriving every summer by sturgeon-nosed canoe to camp and fish in the area. Specifically, Mr. Marshall recalled Louis Joseph and his family camping at an area known to him as "Cottonwood Point" [south end of Burton]. Kp'itl'els (Brilliant) Bouchard and Kennedy believe that Kp'itl'els derived from p'utl but were not certain of the entire translation. Although the word was well recognized by Sinixt [Lakes] consultants, different meanings of the word were given (i.e. 'end of a mountain range'). Situated on the north side of the Columbia-Kootenay River confluence, Kp'itl'els is of utmost importance to Sinixt culture and is the location of the Christian family [Sinixt] homestead and burial ground. According to Teit (1910), this location was one of the "old important headquarters" for Lakes [Sinixt] people and considered it a "main camp".

The traditional use of this area by Sinixt people has been widely documented and some of this information was provided by Alex Christian, a Sinixt man who lived there with his family. Clearly, Alex Christian defined Kp'itl'els as his home and as a headquarters for fishing and hunting. It is here that Alex Christian attempted to set aside an Indian Reserve for his Sinixt people. Vallican Documented as a permanent winter village site of the Sinixt people, Vallican (transcribed as Nkweio’xten? is one of only 12 identified Sinixt villages remaining above water. Like the Lemon Creek area, Vallican is one of three major habituation clusters along the Slocan River. In addition to being traditional Sinixt fishing grounds, it is where Sinixt members currently live along the Slocan River.

Historically, the Slocan River supported a spring run of Chinook salmon (20,000-25,000 fish) as the mouth of Slocan Lake provided spawning grounds. Rainbow trout and mountain whitefish are the most common fish species caught at this location today. Since 1969, archaeologists have known about the ancestral Sinixt village and burial site at Vallican in Slocan Valley, B.C. By the early 1980s, after archaeological research was conducted by Gordon Mohs at the Vallican site, the significance and complexity of this particular area was finally realized in the scientific world. After completing the Vallican site excavation, Anthropological Archaeologist Gordon Mohs insisted that the Sinixt were never extinct (Mohs 1982).

Sinixt Traditional Territory: Map 5

Although Bouchard and Kennedy reported that data suggested Kootenay Lake was of "marginal importance" to the Sinixt, the area was nevertheless traditionally used by Sinixt people. They further stated, " When the Lower Kutenai [Ktunaxa] were on good terms with the Lakes [Sinixt] people, they travelled beyond the West Arm of Kootenay Lake to fish and purchase salmon from the sngaytskstx [Sinixt].


At the entrance of the West Arm (north side) of Kootenay Lake, Verne Ray (1936) recorded Ktca'ukut (Balfour) as a Sinixt village site that was, "used as a temporary base during May and June."


Verne Ray (1936) also identified i7a7kskekeni (meaning 'place of kokanee') as a Sinixt village site located, "six or seven miles above Nelson." The traditional place name of this area strongly implies a Kokanee fishery for Sinixt people and kokanee spawning grounds were located throughout the area. According to Ray, "root gathering, bear and caribou hunting and trout fishing were all profitable".

Bonnington Falls

Located approximately 16 km west of Nelson, Bonnington Falls is comprised of two sets of waterfalls. Although Teit reported that there were "no Lake [Sinixt] permanent camps above Bonnington Falls", he did write about Sinixt having to portage canoes at this location. Further documentation was made about Sinixt people fishing at the lower falls, where the salmon could not pass to reach Kootenay Lake.