This August will mark 100 years since the Simpcw people were forced to leave the Tete Jaune Cache area. On Aug. 13, the Simpcw First Nation is inviting everyone to join them in commemorating the event.

In 1905 a map had been drawn for the government by cartographer JP Malone to designate the boundary of the proposed northern Simpcw reserve north of the Fraser River near Tete Jaune Cache, according to Celia Nord, archives coordinator for the Simpcw First Nation.

Supplied: Photo of Eitenne Felix

Shortly thereafter, following complaints by white miners, settlers, land pre-emptors, big game hunters and others, the idea of the proposed reserve was abandoned, leaving these northern Shuswap peoples without a government sanctioned land base. Numerous early explorer, trader and ethnographic accounts clearly name the resident First Nations in this territory as ‘Shuswap’ confirming that Simpcw — one of 17 Shuswap Bands — have rights to call this territory their homeland.

“A few years before (being forced from Tete Jaune Cache), southern Simpcw people moved from their original village of Chuchuqwalk due to flooding,” says Nord.

Supplied: Photo of Annie Felix John, Eitenne’s sister.

“The CN Rail line was established around this time in the North Thompson Valley, which created numerous problems for First Nations such as cutting the reserve in half, impacting irrigation and causing danger to residents and livestock,” she says.

Several attempts had been made to force northern Simpcw people out of the Fraser/Robson Trench region, which had been home to them for thousands of years.

It wasn’t until August of 1916, that as many as 60 people, mothers, fathers and children, were forced by the government to travel to Chu Chua, B.C., to live at Simpcw First Nation’s main reserve, Nord says.

Soon after, and to make matters worse, Nord says the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 ravaged the Simpcw community, killing many of the northern people who had so recently arrived at Chu Chua.

These events happening so soon one after another would have had a devastating accumulative effect upon the Simpcw survivors, Nord says.

“We applaud these Simpcw ancestors for their resilience in continuing to survive and thrive against these odds,” says Nord.

Supplied: Photo of Lisette Felix, Annie’s daughter. She was a baby at the time of forced migration.

The government was successful in forcing their relocation, says Nord, although elder stories tell of some who may have returned to the north regardless of the government.

Some white settler families who still lived in the region said they didn’t know why First Nation neighbours — who were also their family friends — disappeared in 1916, Nord says.

On August 13, 2016 at 10 AM, the Simpcw people will have their symbolic return to Tete Jaune Cache, in remembrance of their ancestor’s journey by walking, running, riding, cycling or driving the journey from Valemount, BC.

People will be leaving for Tete Jaune Cache from the corner of Blackman Road.

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