Dakelh law recognizes the heads of our extended families as Keyoh holders.
This law, and this title, predates the creation of the Indian Bands and Indian Reserves by the governments of British Columbia and Canada about 100 years ago. The Bands and their Reserves are situated on just a small part of a few keyohs, but the governments assigned the members of dozens of keyohs to membership in these newly invented Bands. The Bands were not given title to, or authority over, the keyohs when the Bands were created, and they have not somehow obtained this title or authority in the intervening 100 years.
Today the families of the keyohs are also members Indian Bands, but none of these families have ever authorized those bands to act on their behalf. The Indian Bands are delegated government agencies, managing health, education, housing, social assistance and other programs on behalf of the federal and provincial governments. The Chief and Council of the Indian Bands are elected by the Band members to administer these programs. The Bands have no role or jurisdiction in the affairs of the keyohs. Though we are all members of the Bands, no family has any say in the affairs of another family’s keyoh.
The Keyoh as ancestral lands owned by an extended family whose head manages the lands. The head of the Keyoh is called the Keyoh Holder or Keyohwudachun. The Keyohwudachun title is passed from the family head of one generation to the next generation. It is customary for the first male child to receive the title of Keyohwudachun. The practice continues generation after generation.
Keyoh Holders and their families respect the authorities and titles to each others’ territories. The practice of recognizing and respecting each others’ Keyoh is vital to maintain relationships between neighbouring families for many reasons and fosters good social relations including trade relations between families and in turn neighbours develop as strong allies. Allied Keyohs are preferred in times of war.
Respect and recognition of one Keyoh to another enhances the ability of each others management and control. Internal control is vital to the long term sustainability and relationship between the family the plants, and animals, in their Keyoh.
Each Keyohoduchun is the steward or custodian of their land. Permission to use a family’s keyoh is granted by the consent of the Keyohoduchun.
Recognizing and respecting each others’ ownership or a family’s belonging is vital to the existence of this Keyoh.
In 2008 the Keyoh Holders established a protocol to formalize our recognition and respect of each other.
The head of each family is known as a Keyoh Holder, and sometimes receives a name that is passed on from generation to generation. The name, and the property, rights and responsibilities that go with this title were usually passed from one family head to his or her successor at an ilhunahodulh (gathering), a feast to which the people of neighbouring keyohs were invited as witnesses.