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Woven Through Time - Katzie First Nation,

Woven Through Time - Katzie First Nation

Katzie (q̓ic̓əy̓) First Nation

Katzie have always been here. Pitt Meadows is part of their traditional territory. They are the first in the many layers of Pitt Meadows.
Katzie First Nation worked with us to provide a beautiful exhibit with artifacts and their history (below).
Katzie Wapato
Their history should be told by them, so the history that follows is from them.
If you want more information about Katzie First Nation, please click here
Katzie lands and waters include the entirety of what many now call the Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Golden Ears, Malcolm Knapp, Pitt Lake and River, and the length of the Fraser River from above Kanaka Creek to New Westminster and all the tributaries connected to these areas.   Our Katzie Ancestors were water people, residing in longhouses along the Fraser, Alouette and Pitt Rivers and we continue to be water people, and the sloughs, channels, and rivers are the lifeline to Katzie’s way of life.  Before it was altered to make way for settler agriculture, Katzie Slough was the main transportation artery allowing Katzie to reach all the other tributaries when canoeing between homes and campsites to do the things we needed to do to survive, such as hunting, fishing, and gathering. Similarly, Yorkson Creek was the main transportation artery providing Katzie access to the territory and resources on the south side of the Fraser River.  Katzie believe these waterways were created for Katzie as gifts from a powerful benefactor. They were created so that Katzie could live a life of balance and abundance. These waterways, surrounding lands, and resources were paramount to the health and well-being of our Katzie ancestors and remain vitally important to Katzie today.
Prior to colonization, the land and waterways were rich with all the natural resources Katzie people needed.  Katzie’s strong belief in the creation of these resources had a big role in how Katzie managed them.  Katzie did not overhunt, overfish, or over harvest, using their strict 10 - month calendar to manage the natural resources that powerful benefactors Swanaset and Khaals had gifted us, under the direction of the Great Spirit during Katzie’s creation.  Katzie lived a full and rich life and were very connected to the land and all that the land provided. Katzie shared these gifts with visitors and had many laws governing how resources were shared and traded.
Katzie farmed long before European settlers came to the country.  Each harvest took place at specific times, as a farmer’s harvest does today.  Katzie cared for and managed the cranberry bogs, wapato, tule and other weaving materials, crabapple trees, and berry shrubs.   Cedar planks were harvested from the trees in such a way that the tree would continue to live a healthy life.  Medicinal plants were gathered to take care of sickness that came their way up until the ‘smallpox’ epidemic, which was a disease Katzie had no remedy for.  Strict protocols were followed when harvesting, fishing, and hunting. These protocols were vital to the survival and well-being of the community and ensured that the species would not be over-harvested. The land was balanced with eco-systems that provided an abundance of fish, waterfowl, small and large game, conifer and deciduous trees, fruit bearing shrubs, and many plants that provided food, technology and medicinal value.  Hundreds of Sandhill Cranes took residence on the land so much so that Katzie named a month after them.  It was a land of balance and wellness with Katzie understanding the deep connection and reciprocal relationships necessary to honour the natural resources. 
European exploration throughout Katzie land began in 1836, and by the mid 1800s Sir James Douglas had expropriated Katzie land and designated reserves in which Katzie were limited to residing on. The initial Indian Reserves were small plots of land representing a tiny fraction of Katzie territory. By 1882, Europeans were permanently settling throughout Katzie lands, and the government imposed even further hardship on Katzie by removing several of the reserves that had been originally set aside for Katzie by Sir James Douglas.  It was in 1894 that settlers started diking, restricting the channels of the Alouette River, Sturgeon Slough and Katzie Slough to make sure the wetlands could be drained and turned into farmlands.  This caused extreme hardships for Katzie, as it was sloughs and rivers that provided the gateway to the resources that Katzie relied on for nourishment, medicines, and the technology. These resources had sustained Katzie’s spiritual, emotional, and physical health for thousands of years.  The waterways were also the gateway to their many seasonal homes along the Alouette and Pitt River.  By the early 1900s Katzie could no longer access waterbird hunting grounds as they were transformed into privately owned lands and many of Katzie’s wetlands into private hunting clubs.  Once Sturgeon Slough was diked, Katzie no longer had the ability to fish in the slough and the Sturgeon no longer had the ability to spawn as they had for thousands of years previously.  The dyking and removal of Katzie’s ability to manage the wetlands upset the ecosystem and today Sturgeon Slough is a breeding ground for the invasive American Bullfrog and many invasive fish species.  The Government took away Katzie’s right to fish for the purpose of sustaining their dietary needs and they were limited to fishing for commercial purposes only.  Katzie’s ability to hunt large game was also very limited due to private owned lands, removal of their transportation corridors, and forestry extraction.  Cranberry bogs and wapato gardens were being filled and diked for settlers to farm the lands, the bog that once belonged to the Yorkson Creek village was eventually used for peat extraction.  Burial sites were desecrated, and our Ancestral remains were stolen in the name of science.  Finally, the Government took away the last remaining things Katzie had left to identify with, their ability to raise their children, the language, and their spirituality.  
Katzie lived without nutritional needs, spirituality and language, ability to have family bonds, access to our transportation corridors, our ability to heal ourselves with natural medicines, our ability to manage and sustain natural resources, and our homes and camps were taken away.  This was all taken away to remove what the European settlers called the ‘Indian’ from the people.  The very existence and identity, and the life we had known was completely stripped leaving us with a voice that was not considered and would not be heard.
Today, we are grateful that despite all the hardships that our Ancestors were faced with, they used their voice to pass down teachings that we can use today to create a better future for the generations to come.  Although we continue to lose important lands and waterways to development, we are taking back the voice of our Ancestors; we are honoring their resilience by using our traditional values to steward the lands and waterways that have been mismanaged, we are creating partnerships with the Government Agencies and other organizations to work collaboratively for a better tomorrow.  It is important that we work towards improving habitat and creating balance for all species before they become a species at risk.  We are working towards creating and improving spawning grounds and fish habitat complexity that has been destroyed by diking, damming, development, forestry extraction, recreation, and infrastructure.  We are trying to build fish stocks that have been overharvested and mismanaged. We are working towards protecting the few remaining healthy eco systems in our territory.  It is not only our goal, but it is our responsibility to protect what our Ancestors once successfully managed before European contact.  It is our responsibility to ensure that natural resource management of lands and waters are a priority so that our future generations will have opportunity to know what their Ancestors protected for them. 
The Katzie First Nation Governance has evolved from our customary laws of our pre-contact occupation within our territory. Although our leadership Councils of the past, present and future have and will continue to support our communities, create sustainable avenues for growth and prosperity, defend, protect and assert our rights and title, we will never lose sight of how we used to sustain ourselves. We had our own systems in place based on culture, structure, and needs based.  Our longhouses were our place for sacred teachings/school, our communal leadership/governance; we had our own medicine people/hospital and wellness, our place for prayer and ceremony/church, harvesting and gathering/sustainability, matriarchal systems/family values, and so much more. As time evolved, we changed our historical systems as colonization dictated. Today, we continue to include as much of our sacred beliefs into all we do because it is all that we have left of our authentic identity as q̓ic̓əy̓ peoples.