The History of Fort Nelson First Nation
Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN) members are “People of the Land” and have occupied the lands of northeast of British Columbia for tens of thousands of years. FNFN members speak the Dené and Cree languages and have a deep connection to the land. Members were, and still are, hunters and gatherers, and have moved around the territory with the seasons and animals that sustained their way of life and livelihood.
FNFN members came from different areas of the territory. Fort Nelson was not the original home for this community. The Old Fort, on the banks of the Fort Nelson River, was just where FNFN members came to trade furs and purchase goods at the Hudson Bay Post. Members later settled in Old Fort on a seasonal basis. FNFN ancestors came from different areas of the territory: Nelson Forks, Francois, Pretty Hill, Deer River, Snake River, Kotcho Lake, Fontas, Kahntah and Moose Lake. Some FNFN relatives even came from as far away as Alberta and the Northwest Territories, and were adopted into the Nation by FNFN elders.
Chief Jimmie Badine and Headman Tommy Whitehead signed an adhesion to Treaty No. 8 on August 15, 1910 at the Old Fort on behalf of FNFN. The 1910 Treaty talks affirmed FNFN’s rights to their traditional lands and ways of life “for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow.” In the spirit of the Treaty of peace, sharing and co-existence, FNFN welcome others to their territory with the expectation that they will respect the lands, the ways and the intent of the Treaty.
In the early 1940s, many FNFN members assisted with the construction of the Alaska Highway, from surveying and guiding, to manual labour and camp operations. In terms of surveying, several portions of the 1940s route followed existing Indian trails. The building of the Alaska Highway and the Fort Nelson airport and military base brought rapid economic and social change to this region. Many FNFN members have stories of those early years with the highway.
FNFN did not get their “reserve” until the early 1960’s, (50 years after signing Treaty No. 8) at which time most of the community was moved to “Mile 295” of the Alaska Highway. At that time, some of FNFN families remained and continued to live on the land where their families had lived for generations.
FNFN has just over 700 members and 10 reserves. The total reserve land base is 9556.5 hectares. IR #2 is the largest and is located at Mile 295 of the Alaska Highway, 7 km south of the town of Fort Nelson. This is FNFN’s main reserve and home to about half of their population. FNFN also has reserves at Fontas, Kahntah, Snake River, Moose Lake, Francois and Maxhamish Lake.
Many generations of FNFN men, women and children have lived and thrived in this area. FNFN has a commitment and obligation to care for and protect the rights, lands, waters, animals and whole ecosystem for future FNFN generations.
The above text was provided by Fort Nelson First Nation