Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation is a non-treaty Dakelh tribe. The Nak’azdli Band Council has it’s headquarters in Fort St. James, B.C. Traditional territories once covered over 22,000 square kilometres of mostly forestland, including the Stuart Takla watershed.
Tribal Name: Nak’azdli Whut’en
Alternate Names: Necoslie, Necausley
Related Bands: Burns Lake, Nad’leh Whut’en, Saik’uz First Nation, Takla Lake First Nation, Tl’azt’en Nation and Wet’suwet’en First Nation
Province: British Columbia
Aboriginal Status: Non-Treaty Indians
Tribal Affiliation: Dakelh (meaning People Who go Around by Boat. )
Governance: The Nak’azdli Band Council consists of a chief and eight councilors.
Political Organizations: Carrier Sekani Tribal Council (C.S.T.C)
Reserve No. 1
Name: NECOSLIE 1, also known as Nak’azdli Reserve and Necoslie Indian Reserve.
Location: It has eighteen reserves in total in and around Fort St. James. Most people live on Indian Reserve (IR) #1 which is separated from Fort St. James by Kwah Road. There are also a few families on IR #1A up the North Road at Four-Mile and William’s Prairie Meadow.
Communities: The principle community is Smithers, B.C. The village is located on Necoslie I.R. No. 1, on the banks of the Nakal Bun (Stewart Lake) beside Fort St. James.
Treaties: Non-Treaty Tribe
The current population of Nak’azdli is close to 2000 members though only about 700 live “on-reserve.” Most of those living “off-reserve” live in Fort St. James or Prince George. There is also a significant population in Vancouver but Band Members are scattered throughout BC and beyond.
Carrier – The native language is a member of the Nak’albun/Dzinghubun (Stuart/Trembleur Lake) dialect of Carrier, an Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit language. It is very closely related to the Tl’azt’en Nation and Yekooche dialects.
In the traditional Nak’azdli society it was the preferred practice for a man to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter, live in his uncles household and inherit his uncle’s land and title.
Clans: Lhts’umusyoo clan
There was once a great battle at the mouth of the river between other native groups and the Nak’azdli.
People of Note:
Famous Contemporary People:
Raymond Prince, (1923-1996). Ray Prince was born at K’uzche (Grand Rapids) in August 1923. He was a member of the Lusilyoo clan. At the age of seven, he was sent to Lejac Residential School. He hated the school, which forbade the use of native languages or any contact between boys and girls, even brothers and sisters.
He hated the poor food and constant abuse, and felt that the school was not giving him a good education. After three years, he ran away, reaching Fort Saint James on foot and then joining his parents on the trapline. He never went back to Lejac but instead worked in the bush.
In 1940, when he was 17, Ray joined the Seaforth Highlanders. He participated in the landing in Sicily and fought his way through Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
When he returned, he found that he had lost his Indian status; he was no longer a member of the Nak’azdli band and could not live on reserve. He did not regain his Indian status until 1987.
At the same time, because he was an Indian, he did not receive the same benefits that white veterans received. He later played a major role in persuading Canada to provide veterans benefits to Indians.
Ray was very concerned about the survival of the Dakelh language. Raised a Catholic, he was also a convert to evangelical Christianity. He helped the evangelical missionaries Richard and Shirley Walker to learn the Dakelh language and to translate the New Testament.
For quite a few years until the end of his life he was the President of the Carrier Linguistic Committee. His widow Nellie has also been very active in language work.
For more information about Ray’s life, see the book God’s Warrior: The Life Story of Ray Prince.
Peter Quaw (1951- ) As a young boy he went out on the trapline with his family, but once he was of school age he was sent to Lejac Residential School.
During his first year in school his mother died; was not allowed to go home for her funeral. After his mother died, Chief Quaw’s father left the reserve, so once he left school, he and his brother lived on the streets in Prince George and Vancouver.
After working in a sawmill for a year, Chief Quaw decided that he needed more education and attended Laurentian University. He returned to Lheidli and was elected government chief in 1986.
A major part of his programme was the return to the traditional system of government. On July 1, 1992 he was named keyoh whuduchun “Traditional Chief” by the Council of Elders. In 1997 he was succeeded as government chief by Barry Seymour.
Barry Seymour, son of Vera Seymour, was elected chief of the Lheidli T’enneh in 1997 and was re-elected in 1999 and 2001. He was adopted for potlatch purposes by the late Celina John in Saik’uz and holds the noble name Tusyen.
Chief Kweh, (c. 1755-1840), owner of the first iron knife. Usually known in English as Kwah, Chief Kw’eh was the chief of what is now the Nak’azdli band in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
In his time, few people lived at Nak’azdli, which attracted people due to the location of the Northwest Company (later Hudson’s Bay Company) fort there, which was not established until 1806. The main village was located at Tsaooche “Sowchea”.
Chief Kw’eh held the very important name Ts’oh Dai in the Lhts’umusyoo clan. It was Chief Kw’eh who received the explorer Simon Fraser in 1806 when Dakelh people brought his floundering canoes in to Tsaooche village in Sowchea Bay.
In grattitude, Simon Fraser presented Kw’eh with red cloth. The current Ts’oh Dai, Kw’eh’s descendant Peter Erickson, returned red cloth to Canada in 1997.
Chief Kw’eh is also known for the incident in which, in 1828, he took prisoner James Douglas, who later became the first governor of the united colony of British Columbia. The genealogy of Chief Kw’eh’s many descendants may be found in the book Kw’eh Ts’u Haindene by his great-granddaughter, the late Bernadette Rosetti.
Louis-Billy Prince (1864-1962). Son of Simeyon Prince, son of Kw’eh. Nak’azdli dayiyaz “church chief”. After Father Adrien-Gabriel Morice left Fort Saint James in 1904, Mr. Prince corresponded with him for many years, answering innumerable questions about the Dakelh language as Father Morice wrote his book The Carrier Language.
Some additional information about his life and times may be found in the book The Carrier, My People by his daughter, Lizette Hall.
Father Adrien-Gabriel Morice (1859-1938)- A missionary belonging to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Born and raised in France, he came to British Columbia in 1880, and after a stint in Williams Lake at St. Joseph’s school, was posted to Fort Saint James in 1885, where he remained until 1904.
Father Morice learned Dakelh rapidly and became the only missionary to speak more than rudimentary Dakelh. In 1885 he created the first writing system for Dakelh, the Carrier syllabics, by adapting the Northwest Territories version of the Cree syllabics.
From 1891-1894 published a bimonthly newspaper, the Dustl’us Nawhulnuk, in Dakelh. He was responsible for the translation of the catechism and many hymns and prayers into Dakelh.
Father Morice was the first person to make extensive and accurate recordings of any Athabaskan language. After leaving Fort Saint James, he spent most of the remainder of his life as a scholar in Winnipeg, where he wrote extensively, especially on Dakelh language and culture, more general Athabaskan topics, and the history of the Roman Catholic church in Western Canada.
Elders: Nak’azdli Elders Society
P.O. Box 1905
Fort St. James, BC V0J 1P0
Telephone: (250) 996-7171
Email: [email protected]
Elder Nick Prince, former chief of the Nak’azdli band, is well known as an expert on Dakelh history. He has traveled widely and interviewed elders, adding their information to the the history that he learned from his own elders.
Elicho, the woman who made the long winter journey described in the book To the Nahani and Back by Trail, was his mother. He is also one of the few people who still actively use the Déné syllabics, of which he is a strong proponent. He believes that it is only through the use of the syllabics that the language will continue.
He represented the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council on the Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics Encoding Committee, which created the Canadian encoding standard that ultimately became part of the international UNICODE standard. From time to time he teaches classes on syllabics.
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