First Nations on Kootenay Lake

The name Yaqan Nukiy literally means “where the rock stands” and refers to an important place in the Creston Valley. The Yaqan Nukiy is one of six bands which make up the Ktunaxa Nation. The people of Yaqan Nukiy speak the Ktunaxa language which is one of the eleven original aboriginal language families in Canada. Prior to European contact, the people were semi-nomadic and traveled great distances within the Ktunaxa Traditional Territory.

The waterways, primarily the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers formed the existence and link to all the communities of the Ktunaxa Nation confirmed by the Ktunaxa creation story. It is no surprise that the people of Yaqan Nukiy settled along the Kootenay River and around Kootenay Lake. Along with the spectacular view of the Creston Valley, it has a vast wetland as well as many streams and tributaries that flow into the slow moving river.

The major vehicle utilized for travel was the Kootenay Canoe (Yaqsuʔmiⱡ). This craft was utilized extensively to travel up and down the Kootenay River, into the wetlands and Kootenay Lake for all sustenance activities. The canoe was an important part of the social, ceremonial and religious activities as well.

The Yaksumit is widely known for its unique design, with its sturgeon nose shape. Quite often, it lies below the surface of the water and terminates at both ends in a point that resembles the nose of a sturgeon (adapted from Yaqan Nukiy 2015).

Kootenay Lake Partnership | First Nations