Chilcotin River
The Chilcotin River flows west into the Fraser River near Williams Lake located in the Chilcotin Plateau, and gains its name from the Tsilhqot'in Nation. The Tsilhqot'in are known as the “People of the River,” as salmon is their main food source, and it describes a tie between the Tsilhqot'in and the importance of fishing.1 According to a despatch from Governor Kennedy, it was reported that Indigenous groups assembled in groups of two to three hundred at the Chilcotin River during the months of May, June, and July to fish.2
Fishing and fish-trade was a long standing staple of the Tsilhqot'in; they considered the fish from the Chilcotin River an important part of their winter food.3 Hudson's Bay Company men described the salmon traps, created by the Tsilhqot'in, as ingenious. The use of the river by solely Indigenous Peoples evolved with the HBC establishment of Fort Chilcotin at the junction of the Chilco and Chilcotin Rivers in 1831.4
The fort closed temporarily in 1836 due to the traders view on the Tsilhqot'in as troublesome. When it reopened three years later, the Tsilhqot'in tried to dissuade more settlements on their land by attempting to starve the fort into submission by blockading the Chilcotin River.5 With the arrival of more settlements along the river, Indigenous Peoples shared their primary food source. They also became infected -- and in some cases decimated -- by the arrival of diseases such as the smallpox. This consequently left some of the Indigenous areas around the river nearly abandoned.6
In the early 20th century, after the McKenna-McBride Royal Commission which reviewed the allocations of reserves in BC, restrictions and permits were placed on the Tsilhqot'in on when they could use the river for fishing. Due to the specific areas marked for fishing by Indigneous Peoples at the Chilcotin River, it was more readily policed by the government as they knew which areas to restrict. In this way, the government could easily note when and if Indigenous Peoples were adhering to the restrictions put in place, which marks a significant departure from how the river was used before the arrival of the HBC in the 1840s.7
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Mentions of this place in the documents
People in this document

Kennedy, Arthur

Organizations in this document

Hudson's Bay Company

Places in this document

British Columbia

Chilcotin Plateau

Fraser River

Williams Lake

The Colonial Despatches Team. Chilcotin River. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. The Colonial Despatches Team. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/chilcotin_river.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)