McLeod Lake is an unincorporated community located on Highway 97 in northern British Columbia, Canada, 140 km (87 mi) north of Prince George. It is notable for being the first continuously inhabited European settlement established west of the Rocky Mountains in present-day Canada.
Originally named Trout Lake Fort, it was founded by the explorer and North West Company trader Simon Fraser in 1805 and was for a while known as La Malice Fort, after an employee left in charge during Fraser’s absence. It became known soon after as Fort McLeod during the tenure of Archibald Norman McLeod, who was in charge of the post for many years. The site of the fort was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1953.
McLeod Lake Indian Reserve No. 1, which is adjacent to the non-native community, has a population of around 94, the main residents being an Athabascan Sekani people known as “Tse’Khene” (the people of the rock, in reference to the Rocky Mountains). Having signed Treaty 8 in the year 2000, the natives of the community are trying to direct themselves towards self-government and employment stability.
The lake itself is 2,290 ha (5,700 acres).
A point in the marshes on its southern shore of nearby Summit Lake marks the low point of the divide between the drainages of the Fraser and Peace Rivers, As such it is significant as the prominence col between all points south in the Rockies and beyond and their “parent” summits in northern BC and Alaska. Summit Lake col, at 710 m (2,330 ft) in elevation, is the low point on the mountain spine of the Americas that connects Pico de Orizaba (5,640 m (18,500 ft)) in Mexico with its next-higher “parent” peak, Mount Logan (5,959 m (19,551 ft)).
Sekani are a First Nations people of the Athabaskan-speaking ethnolinguistic group in the Northern Interior of British Columbia. Their territory includes the Finlay and Parsnip River drainages of the Rocky Mountain Trench. The neighbors of the Sekani are the Babine to the west, Dakelh to the south, Dunneza (Beaver) to the east, and Kaska and Tahltan, to the north, all Athabaskan peoples. In addition, due to the westward spread of the Plains Cree in recent centuries, their neighbors to the east now include Cree communities.
Sekani people call their language [tsek’ene] or [tθek’ene] depending on dialect, which appended with “Dene” (meaning people), means “people on the rocks”. “Sekani” is an anglicization of this term. Other forms occasionally found, especially in older sources, are Secunnie, Siccanie, Sikani, and the French Sékanais.
Three bands identify as Sekani: Kwadacha, McLeod Lake, and Tsay-Keh Dene. In addition, the Takla Lake First Nation, which identifies as Carrier, includes many people of Sekani descent and until recently many of its members spoke the Sekani language.
- Kwadacha First Nation (formerly called ‘Fort Ware Indian Band’, the First Nation are Sekani and Kaska Dena, the main community is located at Fort Ware (now called Kwadacha), approximately 570 km north of Prince George in British Columbia, at the confluence of the Fox, the Kwadacha, and Finley rivers in the Rocky Mountain Trench, Reserves: Fort Ware #1, Sucker Lake #2, Weissener Lake #3, ca. 4 km², Population: 425)
- McLeod Lake Indian Band (also known as ‘McLeod Lake Tse’Khene First Nation’, the main community is McLeod Lake on the most popoulous IR McLeod Lake #1, on the north end of McLeod Lake, ca. 150 km north of Prince George, Reserves: Arctic Lake #10, Blue Lake #24, Bear Lake #32, Carp Lake #3, Davie Lake #28, Finlay Bay #21, Hominka #11, Kerry Lake East #9, Kerry Lake West #8, Mackenzie #19, McIntyre Lake #23, McLeod Lake #1, McLeod Lake #5, Pack River #2, Quaw Island #25, Sas Mighe Indian #32, Tacheeda Lake #14, Tom Cook #26, War Lake #4, Weedon Carp #6, Weedon Lake #27, Weston Bay #20, ca. 160 km², Population: 618)
- Tsay Keh Dene First Nation (also known as ‘Tsay Keh Dene Band’, formerly known as ‘Ingenika Indian Band’, Tsay Keh’s traditional territory spans north to Mt. Trace, west to South Pass Peak, south to the Nation River, and east to Mount Laurier, while their offices are located in the City of Prince George, their territories, settlements, and Indian Reserves are all to the north, in the area of Lake Williston, Reserves: Ingenika Settlement, Mesilinka, Parsnip #5 (on the left bank of the Parsnip River at Fort Grahame), Police Meadow #2 (6,5 east of the Finlay River, 24 km northwest of Fort Grahame), Tutu Creek #4 (on left bank of the Parnsip River at Fort Grahame), ca. 2 km², Population: 431)
The Tsay Keh Dene First Nation is one of the Sekani bands of the Northern Interior of British Columbia. While their offices are located in the City of Prince George, their territories, settlements, and Indian Reserves are all to the north, in the area of Williston Lake.
- Ingenika Settlement
- Parnsip Indian Reserve No. 5, on the left bank of the Parsnip River at Fort Grahame, 34.20 ha.
- Police Meadow Indian Reserve No. 2, 4 miles east of the Finlay River, 15 miles northwest of Fort Grahame, 129.50 ha.
- Tutu Creek Indian Reserve No. 4, on left bank of the Parnsip River at Fort Grahame, 37.30 ha.
The Tse Keh Nay, formerly known as the Ingenika, live at the north end of the Williston Reservoir in the community of Tsay Keh Dene.:5 They have lived in the “Rocky Mountain Trench for many generations.” In 1824 Samuel Black, an early fur trader visited the region and kept a journal of his visit there with Tse Keh Nay Chief Methodiates and his followers. He described the historic use of the resource rich Amazay/Thutade/ Kemess area.:5 Duncan (Amazay) Lake – known as Amazay Lake in Sekani – is a natural 6 kilometres (3.7 mi)-long long wilderness fish-bearing lake with rainbow trout and whitefish populations, located at the headwaters of the Findlay watershed.:7657.0693921,-126.8010853,2830
“Amazay Lake is well known to the Tse Keh Nay, and like Thutade Lake, is a site for hunting, fishing and gathering that is rich in oral history. Amazay in Sekani means “little mother lake” or “very superior mother.” It is, according to the Tse Keh Nay, “right in the centre of our Tse Keh Nay territory.”— Tse Keh Nay 2006
“According to a Tsay Keh Dene Elder, the English name for Duncan Lake is associated with the story of a young Yutuwichan boy named Duncan who walked from McLeod Lake to Duncan Lake to visit his family who were wintering around the Lake. Another explanation is given by Joe Bob Patrick, who says his father named the lake after his good friend Duncan Pierre from Ingenika (Jennifer Hill, 2005 cited in Dewhirst, 2006:54). It should be noted that Duncan Pierre’s gravesite is reported to be at Amazay and that the recent archaeological research by Frank Craig suggested that site HgSq-10 “may be the final resting place of Duncan Pierre”(Craig 2006).”— CEAA 2007
“There was so much caribou up there. Amazay Lake they call it because there’s lots of caribou around that area. They say about 300. Sometimes, they say they all go around it. Now there’s nothing. You go there and nothing. They don’t see nothing anywhere around that area.”— Tse Keh Nay 2006