People of the Akisqnuk First Nation are connected to other Kootenay communities through our unique Ktunaxa language. This ancient language is a language isolate meaning it is not related to any other languages. Our language teaches us who we are and where we come from. Ktunaxa is our word for ourselves, while non-indigenous may have known us as Kootenay. Our people have occupied the lands adjacent to the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers and the Arrow Lakes of British Columbia, Canada and into the United States for more than 10,000 years. The Ktunaxa people were semi-nomadic and would travel across their traditional territory enjoying the natural bounty of the land, seasonally migrating throughout the Traditional Territory to procure various resources. The Ktunaxa obtained all their food, medicine, tools and material for shelter and clothing from nature – hunting, fishing and gathering throughout their Territory, across the Rocky Mountains and on the Great Plains of both Canada and the United States.
The Traditional Territory of the Ktunaxa Nation covers approximately 70,000 square kilometres (27,000 square miles) within the Kootenay region of south-eastern British Columbia and historically included parts of Alberta, Montana, Washington and Idaho. Where our language and stories describe, that is our homeland.
The ancestors of the ʔAkisq̓nuk First Nation Band utilized all of ʔamakiʔis Ktunaxa (Traditional Territory of the Ktunaxa). A favorite area to Winter is in lowlands of the Columbia Trench near what is now known as Windermere BC. In the mid 1800`s a priest had warned them that more colonizers would be coming and making claims to the lands and that the native people would be displaced.
With this knowledge in mind the ancestors chose carefully where the next generation would have to live, since the nomadic lifestyle was going to be affected. The Columbia valley was chosen for the abundant resources such as- water, the hunting and trapping of numerous animals and birds, salmon fishing, less severe winters, lumber and Hots Springs. So when the Indian agents came, the ancestors of Akisqnuk where already in the valley making their stand.
Due to Small-pox epidemics and new sicknesses, dissemination of Buffalo, establishment and confinement to Indian Reserves, followed by generations of mandatory attendance of Residential Schools, criminalization of our ceremonies and religion and other Government Sanctioned assaults, many descendants, customs, and traditions have been lost, severely affecting the people’s healing today.
Resiliency refers to the the ability to recover from difficulty or assault. The ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation demonstrates resiliency in the eyes of the Elders and the determination of the youth. Through the inter-generational traumas, the residential schools the abduction of our children via the 60ixes scoop, or foster care we are rebuilding our Nation. We are redefining our relationship with our neighbors and all of Canada; We are healing ourselves for the generations that follow.
Today, the Akisqnuk people number around 300 and continues to be resilient and leaders for change. There are many knowledge holders, determined leaders and great educators among the ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation Band. We recognize the role that everyone contributes to our strength