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BC Sessional Papers

REPORT ON THE KOOTENAY INDIANS. BY MR. A.S. FARWELL. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly 1884

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 47 Vic. Report on the Kootenay.Indians.
Victoria, B. C,
December, 31st 1883.
To the Honourable the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works :
Sir,—With reference to that portion of your letter of instructions, dated 14th July,
1883, bearing on the " number of Indians (if any) who, by usage, may have claims for grazing
" or other purposes upon the lands proposed to be reclaimed, and generally upon Indian require-
" ments in the locality," I beg to report as follows:—
On my arrival in Kootenay District, every white man I conversed with, without an
exception, forcibly impressed on me the fact that the Kootenay Indians, as a whole, were
extremely dissatisfied with the unsettled state of their land affairs, and that they looked on
anyone with the semblance of an official capacity with suspicion. Under these circumstances I
deemed it inexpedient to communicate directly with the Indians on any matter relating to their
land claims, and confined myself to collecting what reliable information I could from white
settlers and others I chanced to meet. As far as I have been able to ascertain, there has been
no census taken of the Kootenay Indians, either by the Indian Department or anyone else.
From the most reliable sources, I gather the Kootenay tribe of Indians number about 800,
men, women, and children, and are divided, approximately, as follows:—450 British Indians,
domiciled north of the international boundary line, and 200 American Indians residing in Idaho
and Montana Territories; the remaining 150 Indians are migratory, receiving their share of
the annuities paid by the United States Government, at its Agency on the Jocko River, in the
Flathead reservation, Montana Territory, and claiming to be British Indians when they
wander north of the boundary line.
Of the 450 British Indians, 150 claim the Lower Kootenay as their country, from the
boundary line, down Kootenay river, and through Kootenay Lake and its tributaries. The
remaining 300 Indians consider the land along the Upper Kootenay River, from the boundary
line at Tobacco Plains northward, to the Lower Columbia Lake, as theirs. The majority of
these Upper Kootenays winter at St. Mary's Mission. This Mission is, at present, presided
over by the Rev. Father Fouquet, and is situated on the right bank of St. Mary's River, about
four miles from its confluence with Kootenay River. In the immediate vicinity of the church
and mission buildings, the Indians have erected fifty-five houses, which are occupied by their
families during the winter. The condition of these Indians has materially changed since the
advent of gold seekers to the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, north of the boundary
line. They formerly lived almost entirely on the products of the chase, and annually crossed
to the eastern side of the mountains in quest of buffalo, their staple article of food. Shortly
after the discovery of gold on Wild Horse Creek, cattle owned by white men were wintered
successfully along the east of the Columbia Lakes. The Indians since then have gradually
accumulated small bands of cattle, and wintered them without material loss, with the exception
of the winter of 1879-80; that season was an exceptional one. The late Mr. Milby, who had
a large and valuable band of cattle running on the east side of the Columbia Lakes, lost nearly
all of them, and the Indians, as I am informed by Mr. Baptiste Morigeau, lost about 500 head.
The Upper Kootenays have entirely abandoned their old custom of crossing the mountains in
pursuit of game, the buffalo having left their former haunts on the eastern slope of the
mountains. The Indians now depend for their sustenance chiefly on their cattle, and the game
and fish they can secure on the Upper Kootenay and Upper Columbia Rivers. These Indians
23 326 Report on the Kootenay Indians. 1884
at present own about 400 head of cattle and some 500 horses. The major part of their cattle
have been wintered heretofore on the east side of the Columbia Lakes. This is a favourite
grazing place of the Indians, and they felt very sore at its being pre-empted, occupied and fenced
in by white settlers. Up to last April, the only person claiming land in the neighbourhood of
these lakes is a Mr. Baptiste Morigeau, who has built a house and trading store on Morigeau
Creek. This creek runs in on the east side of the Lower Columbia Lake, about 3J miles from
its outlet.
A number of engineers and their assistants, employes of the Canadian Pacific Railway
Syndicate, passed last winter on the Upper Columbia River in the vicinity of the railway
crossing, and several of them on leaving that service last spring staked off and recorded land
in the neighbourhood of the Columbia Lakes. On the 19th April last, E. J. Johnston recorded
80 acres, adjoining Morigeau's claim. On the 2nd June, F. W. Aylmer recorded 320 acres on
the right of the Columbia River, a few miles below the Columbia Lakes. On the 9th July last,
F. P. Armstrong and D. Bellhouse recorded 320 acres and 80 acres respectively along the
eastern shore of the Upper Lake. These last two records the Indians look on with particular
disfavour, as they are located directly on their long-used and favourite cattle run. Numerous
applications have also been filed for large tracts of meadow and grazing land between the
Kootenay and Columbia Rivers, by different parties, chiefly stock-raisers from the North-West
Territory. These Indians have been anxiously awaiting, year after year, the arrival of the
"Commissioner," and are particularly angry and disappointed at no action having been
taken during the past season towards defining their reserves. Isadore, the chief of the Upper
Kootenays, resides on the right bank of the Kootenay River, about eight miles below Gal-
braith's Ferry. He is reputed to be well off in money, horses, and cattle. The latter he
winters in the neighbourhood of his camp. He is considered by the white residents as a
clever Indian, with very pronounced opinions, but amenable to sound arguments. He also
bears a good character. One of his ideas is (in which he is joined by the majority of his followers) that there should be no fences, in order that every man's cattle might range at large.
I may remark here that all the Upper Kootenays are civil and good natured, and appear well
disposed towards the whites. They are good horsemen and can make long journeys with
rapidity and ease. They are well armed with Winchester rifles, and possess large quantities
of ammunition. Nearly every Indian met on the trails has his rifle on the horn of his saddle
and a belt full of cartridges. The Indian Reserve Commission will probably meet with more
difficulty in satisfactorily assigning the Upper Kootenay Reserves than has been experienced
in any other section of the Province. These Indians are in constant communication with the
aborigines south of the boundary line, and are thoroughly acquainted with the vast extent of
the American reservations.
The Flathead reservation, in Montana, is about 100 miles south-east from the boundary
line, and contains 1,500,000 acres. The Colville, or Calispell reservation, in Washington
Territory, bounded on the north by the 49th parallel of north latitude, on the south by
Okanagan River, and on the east and south by Columbia River, contains 2,000,000 acres.
Chief Moses' reservation, Washington Territory, joins the Calispell reservation on the west,
and contains 2,000,000 acres. These quantities are only approximate. The American Indians
are remunerated for the land which is taken from them, and receive annuities from the United
States Government. The Kootenays are also well acquainted with the manner of dealing with
the North-West Territory Indians, adopted by the Dominion Government, Some of the Upper
and Lower Kootenays, the Flatheads, Calispells, and other Indians, frequently rendezvous at
Old Kootenay Fort, on Musula Creek. Old Kootenay Fort is in the south-east bend of Kootenay
River, about fifty miles south of the line. At this place the Indians meet to trade horses, &c,
gamble, drink whiskey and dissipate generally. It is within the bounds of possibility that
the undisturbed relations at present existing, between the very few white residents of Kootenay
District, and the Indians may not be of long duration. The land complications above referred
to are daily increasing, and there is little doubt that next spring, a number of stock-raisers
and settlers will record land claims along the Upper Kootenay and Columbia rivers. I beg,
therefore, to point out the grave necessity of settling the Indian land claims in this district
at the earliest possible date. It is much to be regretted that the proper authorities failed to take
steps in this direction during the past season, thereby permitting the difficulties, which have
been known to exist in that portion of the Province for many years past, to accumulate to a
very serious extent.
There is a small band of Shuswap Indians living in a village situate about five miles
below the Lower Columbia Lake, on the right bank of Columbia River.    They number thirty- 47 Vic. Report on the Kootenay Indians. 327
five men, women and children. Originally they came from Shuswap Lake, and now occasionally
visit their relatives at Kamloops. This little settlement keep almost entirely to themselves.
They possess a few horses and cattle, and appear comfortably off.
The Lower Kootenay Indians.
These Indians, including men, women, and children, number 157, divided as follows:
Thirty-five men; 34 married women; 39 boys; 32 girls ; 4 widows, with 6 boys and 3 girls
between them ; and 4 widows without encumbrances'. I obtained this statement from David
McLoughlin, Esq., who resides 200 yards south of the boundary line. Mr. McLoughlin
formerly had charge of the Hudson's Bay Co.'s trading post on the left bank of Kootenay
River, at the Shepherd trail crossing, but on the decline of the mining interests on Wild Horse
and neighbouring creeks, and the consequent closing out of the Hudson's Bay Co.'s business
at that point, he took up a farm on the American side of the line. Mr. McLoughlin speaks
the Kootenay language fluently, and is well acquainted with the habits and customs of the
Indians. These natives are not nearly as civilized as the Upper Kootenays. They are
indolent, poor, badly clothed and badly armed. They have no houses, and live, summer and
winter, in lodges, constructed of poles covered with mats or hides. Mr. McLoughlin informs
me that in former years, these Indians were supplied with seeds of different kinds, and they
made efforts to raise potatoes, wheat, etc., but the uncertainty of securing their crops, through
the flooding of the land, so thoroughly disheartened them, that they gave up farming in disgust;
During the past season no seed of any kind was planted. From the same source I learn that
these Indians, only a year or two since, possessed quite a number of horses and cattle. Their
stock is now reduced to about eight or ten head of cattle and 60 horses. This decrease has
been brought about by gambling. A great many of these Indians formerly wintered on Goat
River, about nine miles north of the boundary line; now only two or three families winter
there. A few families winter close to Mr. McLoughlin's house, and the remainder winter on
Jerome Creek, some eight miles south of the line.
They run their stock in the winter on Goat River, and between McLoughlin's and Jerome
Creek. As the summer advances, and the water recedes, the Indians move down the river
and fish, and take their stock with them. In the event of the Reclamation Scheme being a
success, I am of opinion, a reserve of, say, 1,000 acres of grass land, in the neighbourhood
of Goat River, would be sufficient. In case the lessee fails to drain these bottom lands, the
Indians will practically have the run of the whole country, as they have had for years past.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant,
A. S. Farweli,.


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