Jacko Lake is the site of an epic Secwepemc story and its bountiful fishing helped feed ancestors of today’s Tk’emlups and Skeetchestn Indian bands, according to a Simon Fraser University professor.
Marianne Ignace, an anthropologist and linguist who teaches at SFU, spoke recently at a scientific seminar at Thompson Rivers University.
While she cautioned she is an academic and will leave the politics to others, Ignace’s research has already been presented to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office as part of the proposed Ajax mine file and is expected to form evidence in a land claim in B.C. Supreme Court.
Two bands — Tk’emlups and Skeetchestn — are together claiming rights and title to private land held by mining company KGHM Ajax.
The region is known as Pipsell in the Secwepemc language, in which Ignace is fluent.
Ignace’s research focused in part on the question: “What did Secwepemc people do there?”
Researchers looked at land records, archival information, ethno-botany and ethno-zoological research and oral history from elders.
“It’s not a pristine environment,” she cautioned. “But, it’s amazingly biodiverse.”
It has been home in the past to mining, homesteading and cattle grazing.
It is visited by more than 130 bird species and 40 mammals, in addition to reptiles.
Human artifacts dating back 7,000 years have been found at the lake.
Jacko Lake is popular with anglers today.
Ignace said long before it was stocked by a provincial agency, Secwepemc people utilized nets at the inflow and outflow for a naturally reproducing food fishery.
Those fishers would take “literally hundreds of pounds” of trout in an important food fishery, she said.
Elders also helped identify hunting blinds used by prehistoric First Nations people to kill elk.
Researchers don’t know why elk were extirpated from the area. One theory is the animals contracted a bovine disease when cattle were introduced in the 1800s.
Ignace said research has also confirmed Jacko Lake and the surrounding area form the location of a Secwepemc legend called The Trout Children.
That tale, part of Secwepemc mythology, was transcribed by linguist Aert Kuipers in the 1950s.
“He doesn’t say where it is, but we can connect some dots,” she said.
Ignace is married to Skeetchestn Indian Band chief Ron Igace, who also assisted in the research.