The Dakelh/Carrier people are part of the vast Athapaskan tribe, which is divided into three areas: Northern, Southern and Central Carrier. Carrier people all speak the same language, however we have 18 different dialects in our region. Carrier nations struggled to communicate with traders, until experienced guides who originated from blended European and Indigenous parentage became conversant in what became known as Chinook. Chinook is a mixture of English, French and Indigenous which eventually evolved into the local vernacular.
Long before the arrival of prospectors during the Cariboo Gold Rush of 1862, the Southern Carrier people lived off the land, occupying the area from Bowron Lakes in the east to the upper Blackwater and Dean Rivers in the west. The Southern Carrier Nation were known among themselves as ‘Uda Ukelh’, meaning ‘people who travel by boat on water early in the morning’.
They travelled by trail or portage to hunt, fish and trade with fur traders. They offered furs, food, fish and hand-sewn tanned leather clothing in exchange for tools, blankets, kettles and guns. Tragically, foreigners brought more than just trade items. In 1862, the introduction of diseases generated devastating epidemics that killed almost one-third of all the Indigenous people in British Columbia. One such epidemic completely wiped out an entire band that resided in the Cariboo Mountains, known as the Bear Lake Band.
The Southern Carrier Nation bands were divided into five separate bodies in the early 1800s. The bands were ‘Ulkatchot-en, Lhoosk’uzt’en, Nazkot’en and Lhtakot’en. The fifth band was Bear Lake band in the east, which we know little about due to the devastating disease that killed all of its members.
Lhtako Dene Nation
Lhtako Dene – ‘Where the three rivers meet’. Referring to the conjuncture of the Quesnel and Fraser rivers and Baker Creek, the Lhtako Band (also known as Red Bluff Band) occupies a region located 5 km south of Quesnel.
Ulkatcho First Nation
Ulkatcho – ‘People of the fat of the land’. This band occupied the upper Blackwater river, the upper Dean river, the Gatcho and the Qualcho Lakes region. Today, they occupy a region known as Anahim Lake located 350 km west of Williams Lake with 720 members living on reserve and 200 living off reserve lands.
Lhoosk'uz Dene Nation
Lhoosk’uz – ‘Rocky mountain white fish place’. Located in the traditional region of their ancestors known as ‘Uskai Talbun Tl’at – ‘Blood flows into the bay of the lake’.
Nazko First Nation
Nazko – ‘The river flowing from the south’. Today Nazko First Nation is a community of 407 members of Southern Carrier ancestry. Inhabiting three reserves, Baezaeko, Bunchek and Chuntezn’ai located approximately 120 km west of Quesnel.
The traditional territory of the Tsilhqot’in (Chilcotin) is between the Fraser River and the Coast Mountains in west-central British Columbia. The Tsilhqot’in language is part of the Dene language and is widely spoken among the Indigenous population.
Tsilhqot’in families traditionally moved throughout the land hunting, fishing and gathering roots and berries. During the late summer, they gathered along the rivers to fish the salmon runs. During the winter, they moved to sheltered locations near lakes suitable for ice fishing.
1864, five Tsilhqot’in Chiefs were ambushed, held captive, tried and hung for the murder of members of a survey party. In 2018, as an important symbol of the Canadian Government’s commitment to reconciliation, the Tsilhqot’in Chiefs were exonerated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged they were leaders of a nation, acting in accordance with their laws and traditions and were wrongfully executed.
A memorial near the Riverfront Trail marks their gravesite.
In 1989, the Tsilhqot’in National Government was established, representing six First Nations communities, including ?Esdilagh First Nation near Quesnel.
?Esdilagh First Nation
?Esdilagh – ‘Where the land meets the water.’ Located along the Fraser River between Williams Lake and Quesnel. ?Esdilagh, also known as the Alexendria Band, has 204 registered community members.