With over 10,000 years of documented archeological history, a language that is a rare linguistic isolate unrelated to any other language, as well as an unique sign language, few cultures can claim a deeper connection to a landscape than the Ktunaxa Nation. Pictograms, ancient camps, and traditional place names all help tell the story of this ancient tie to the Kootenays.
It is no surprise that the story of how the Kootenays came to be is as exciting and vibrant as the land itself. The Ktunaxa Creation story helps us understand that all these places we see labelled on maps had names long before Europeans arrived with their pens and paper. Nasu?kin (Chief) Joe Pierre is one of the best people to share the Ktunaxa creation story, and you can find several recorded versions of this online, or a written version.
The story is full of heroes that you might see every day in the Kootenays: skinkuȼ the coyote, ȼupqa the deer, miȼ̓qaqas the chickadee, and others, all of whom lend their personalities, strength, and follies to this land, and all offer to share what they can with the newly arrived humans, and compel people to take an active part in celebrating and sharing the uniqueness and diversity of the Kootenays.
“Our Ktunaxa creation story tells us that”, adds Sophie Pierre.
When you choose to support Ktunaxa businesses, you act out that shared responsibility, that opportunity to contribute to something that brings you and your family joy. Facilities like the St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino and Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort are Ktunaxa-owned and run. Tipi Mountain Eco-Cultural Services, and Tipi Mountain Native Plants, and Nupku Development Corporation are Ktunaxa-run businesses that can help with a range of projects here in the Kootenays.
Nowadays, more than ever, we are all connected, and we all share a great responsibility to leave a place better than we found it, and be sure to leave room for our neighbours, the animals and the plants, who have been here since the beginning.
Know Before You Go – Plan ahead so you can travel safely and responsibly. Familiarize yourself with weather, road conditions, general alerts for travellers and provincial health orders & recommendations.
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Top/cover photo of the Rocky Mountains or Naⱡmuqȼin, near Cranbrook, BC; photo by Mitch Winton.
Naⱡmuqȼin: “His feet went northward and is today know as Ya·ⱡiki, in the Yellowhead Pass vicinity (near Valemont, BC). His head is near Yellowstone Park in the State of Montana. His body forms the Rocky Mountains” – as told in the Ktunaxa Creation story.
Words by Dave Quinn. Born in Cranbrook, BC; Dave is a wildlife biologist, educator, wilderness guide, writer and photographer whose work is driven by his passion for wilderness and wild spaces. His work with endangered mountain caribou and badgers, threatened fisher and grizzly, as well as lynx and other species has helped shape his understanding of the Kootenay backcountry and its wildlife.