Places | Gat Tah Kwą̂ (Montney)
Tommy Attachie, talking about the Dreamer Gaayęą. Gat Tah Kwą̂ (Montney), 2005.Click to Watch
May Apsassin, talking about Dane-zaa oral tradition and Beaver language revitalization. Gat Tah Kwą̂ (Montney), 2005.Click to Watch
Chief Gerry Attachie, describing how he and the band won compensation for the loss of IR-172, the former Montney Reserve. Hanás̱ Saahgéʔ (Doig River), 2005.Click to Watch
Madeline Davis, telling about Dreamers Dances at Gat Tah Kwą̂ (Montney). Doig River, 2005.Click to Watch
Tommy Attachie and the Doig River Drummers singing "Suunéch'ii Kéch'iige" by the Dreamer Gaayęą, 2004.
Tommy Attachie singing a song by the Dreamer Nááchę (John Notseta), 2001.
Slide show not displaying? Click here to view images
Gat Tah Kwą̂ lies just north of the city of Fort St. John. The name means "Spruce Among House," which refers to the large number of teepees our people had here both before and after Europeans came to our land.
Montney Creek runs through Gat Tah Kwą̂. This creek, and the agricultural community now located here, were named after our Chief Montney. He died here in 1918, at the age of seventy-two, during the Spanish flu epidemic that ravaged our people.
Our dancing grounds at Gat Tah Kwą̂ are called Suunéch'ii Kéch'iige, which means "The Place Where Happiness Dwells." Elders such as May Apsassin, Tommy Attachie and Madeline Davis, remember how our people would gather there every summer to court, celebrate births, settle political issues, visit with relatives, and to drum, sing, and dance.
The Dreamer Gaayęą named one of his songs "Suunéch'ii Kéch'iige." When our songkeepers sing that song now, it reminds us of the importance of the Dreamers' Dances we held there. Gaayęą died at Gat Tah Kwą̂ in 1923 after falling off of a horse, and we continue to care for his grave here and follow his teachings.
Treaty No. 8:
In 1900 some of our leaders signed Treaty No. 8 at Fort St. John, close to Gat Tah Kwą̂. We had been concerned by the influx of Klondikers coming through our lands during the gold rush as their use of our lands put pressure on our animal resources. Our leaders who signed Treaty No. 8 thought that it was a treaty of peace, and that it acknowledged their rights to hunt and trap on the land.
The treaty promised that reserve lands would be set aside for our exclusive use. In 1914, members of the Fort St. John Beaver Band, the ancestors of our Doig River and Blueberry River people, chose Gat Tah Kwą̂ to be our Reserve, because of its importance as a summer gathering spot for us.
Colonialism and Loss of Lands:
We continued to gather at Gat Tah Kwą̂ every summer until 1945, when the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA), acting under pressure from the Veterans Lands Director to free up farmland for returning WW II veterans, convinced a few of us to surrender our reserve. The Indian Agent assured us this was in our best interest, and promised that in return we would receive land closer to our traplines.
By 1948, the land at Gat Tah Kwą̂ was being divided up and given to veterans. We were forced to stay at Alááʔ S̱atǫ (Petersen's Crossing), without a reserve, and send our children to school. In 1952 our reserves at Hanás̱ Saahgéʔ (Doig River) and Blueberry River were established and many of our people settled there.
The effects of these colonial policies meant that we slowly lost control of most of our lands. As Aboriginal people of that time, we could not legally use reserve assets to conduct business, raise funds for a lawyer, or vote. As we moved from an entirely resource based economy to one more dependent on cash, our lifestyle changed also. We did not enter the cash economy on equal footing, both through the paternalistic hand of the DIA, and because of prejudice and racism aimed at our people and culture.
Compensation and Renewal:
It was not until 1977 that a DIA officer discovered and reported to us that our subsurface mineral rights to the Montney Reserve had been mishandled by the DIA prior to the surrender of the lands to the Department of Veterans' Affairs. He told us that we could go to court to be compensated. Within a year, our Doig and Blueberry Bands began legal proceedings. It took twenty years of persistent legal action for us to reach our final settlement with the government. In 1998, we settled out of court for breach of trust and lost oil revenues. We received $147 million dollars in compensation.
We are using the financial award from the Montney Case to assure a better future for our people. We have invested much of the money and set it aside for our community's use. We used some of this money to build our new cultural and administrative centre on the Doig River First Nation reserve. From this facility we monitor development on our lands and assert our Aboriginal and Treaty rights.