BC First Nation People See Symbol of Their Ancestors’ Jurisdiction

Posted on May 16, 2017

Maiyoo Keyoh
May 16, 2017

BC First Nation People See Symbol of Their Ancestors’ Jurisdiction Earlier this week, the descendants of a central British Columbia First Nation Chief had their first look at ceremonial regalia he wore nearly 140 years ago.

Drawn by Father AG Morice OMI circa 1890

The headdress, inherited from his predecessors and now at least 200 years old, is in the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). “This is important to us” Petra Sam said afterwards. “It’s a physical connection to our ancestors and a physical symbol of the jurisdiction, authority and responsibility they had, as Keyohwhudachun, to look after our keyoh.

“Each Keyohwhudachun passes that jurisdiction, authority and responsibility for the keyoh down to the next. A long unbroken line of Maiyoo Keyoh Keyohwhudachun predates the arrival of Europeans in our area, and this succession of Keyohwhudachun is in place to this day”.

Petra Sam’s mother, Sally Sam, is the current Keyohwhudachun and is the fifth-generation lineal descendant of Keyohwhudachun Sidoman (also known as George A’Huille). She was unable to make the long trip to Toronto, but Petra Sam, her husband Jim, four of their children and a niece met ROM staff and examined the headdress Monday morning.

from left to right, Rolene Sam, Fraswe Munroe, Seraphine Munroe, Charlotte Munroe, Petra Munroe, Anastazia Munroe, Jim Munroe. Photo credit David Carruthers

Petra Sam said Maiyoo Keyoh is about 17,000 hectares of land situated about 100 kilometers north west of Prince George. She said it’s one of the scores of keyohs that divide the land from Prince George west to Fort St James and beyond.

They are the First Nations landholdings in the area and existed long before the creation, by the provincial and federal governments, of Indian Bands, she said, “and we are preparing a Statement of Claim for the courts.”

The headdress was given to a catholic priest, Father Adrien Morice, in the 1880s or 1890s, she said, “but we don’t know which of our Keyohwhudachun gave the headdress to Father Morice”, she said. “It was either Koomdiel or his father, the previous Keyohwhudachun.”

Chief A’Huille family headdress used for potlatching

Morice eventually gave the headdress to a museum in Toronto that in turn gave it to ROM.

It is made of dentalia (flute shaped seashells) strung on the hair of revered female ancestors.

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For more information contact Jim Munroe, President, Maiyoo Keyoh Society, 250 305-7092
Keyohwhudachun headdress

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