By Alfred Joseph

Special to the Pioneer

As a younger person, I had noticed that there was a definite difference in the way the women of our two communities dressed, the Columbia Lake and the Shuswap Reserves. 

My grandmother, mother and aunties wore, at that time, a modern dress that was a slimmer style and the women from the Shuswap Reserve wore a more flared style of dress. The way the women also wore their kerchiefs as head coverings were also different. My grandmother, aunties and mother, along with other women of our community, wore their kerchiefs in a style that was wrapped and tied around the top of their heads, and the Shuswap Reserve women wore their kerchiefs covering their heads and tied under the chin. Noticing these differences, I asked my parents about why there were Shuswap people here. This is what they told me: 

The ancestors of a few of the Shuswap people that are here were found in the area that Brisco is presently located. The Ktunaxa people that first saw them were warriors, and as the newcomers were coming out of their home, a kikuli, there was discussion about “eliminating them,” but the leader disagreed and the two groups were able to communicate to find out who these people were and where they came from. They were in a poor state for clothing as some were found almost naked, therefore the Ktunaxa name for them. (This name only refers to what the Ktunaxa saw at that time, as our language is descriptive, and in no way is derogatory.) There were two brothers and their families that had come over into this area as they were in danger from where they came from. The leader of the Ktunaxa persuaded his warriors to let these people live and stay here in the area.

From left are Chief Charlie Kinbasket, first chief of Columbia Lake band, now known as Akisqnuk First Nation, and Pierre Kinbasket, 3rd hereditary chief of Shuswap Indian Band.
(Shuswap Band photo)

According to a document of past hereditary Chiefs in the Ktunaxa Territory around the 1840’s, the first recording of a Shuswap Chief, it was written, ” Ignatius Kinbasket and family,”  which indicates the timeframe of arrival here.

As a child, I remember staying over in that community, being looked after by Louie Capilo, a Ktunaxa and his wife Isabelle, along with her sister Louise.  Louie Capilo was a cousin to my father. Isabelle and Louise,  from what my sister Hazel told me, were from the Stony tribe. There were other members of that reserve that were from other tribes who inter-married and were  accepted by the Ktunaxa.

The Kinbasket family were the two family groups that came over. I later learned that they were given a Peace Pipe from the Ktunaxa which was to guarantee their safety here.

Another source of information will be the book by Shelagh Palmer Dehart called ‘The Kinbasket Migration and Other Indian History.’

As the importance of language and cultural learning, I fully support the Kempes’q family group and Shuswap Band members reinforcing their knowledge of their Shuswap familial ties, but also must recognize the history of the inter-marriages of their families.

Ignatius Kinbasket, Pierre Kinbasket and Charles Kinbasket were recognized by the Ktunaxa as leaders for their families and had them as signatories for agreements that needed signatures on behalf of their families that lived here. I have not found any historical information that the Greater Shuswap Nation recognized them as the leaders of the whole nation.

With this bit of history, from what I was told, I will state that the Greater Shuswap Tribe through connection to the Shuswap Band do not have any traditional claim to our Ktunaxa territory — only members of the Shuswap Band, with familial ties through the inter-marriages to the Ktunaxa do. All the signs claiming that, throughout our valley, are misleading. 

(Alfred Joseph is a member of the ?akisq’nuk community in the Columbia Valley)