Land and Culture
Wilson Duff, the noted British Columbian anthropologist, defined cultures as "integrated systems of belief and behaviour which tend to resist change" (Duff 75). In spite of the change of the last 200 years, some things endure, such as native orientation to the land.
The lives of traditional native people were centred around the land and the sea which provided home, wealth, and identity. Economic livelihood, language, myth, political, and tribal structuring all revolved around a continuous interaction with specific geographical area.
Prior to European contact, every part of the Province was within the owned and recognized territory of one or another of the Indian tribes (Duff 39).
The first peoples say they have been here from "time immemorial." (The term "time immemorial" ranges anywhere from 12,000 years to 1000 years ago.)
When Captain Cook arrived on the west coast, one-third of Canada's native people lived in B.C. The first peoples were not a monolithic group with the same history, language, beliefs, values, life style, tribal, and economic structures. Patterns of land ownership and utilization differed from one group to another, much as they differed from a European interpretation of property. Clearly, however, land ownership was both defined and mutually respected by all native tribes.
The sedentary lives and customs of the major ethnic groups of coastal peoples varied profoundly from the migratory existence of the groups of inland peoples. The coastal people, because they lived a village existence, organized the land in terms of fishing places, village location, berry patches, and hunting areas. Each river, valley, and mountain peak was clearly seen as part of the heritage and responsibility of a family or clan.
The more nomadic life of the inland tribes led the people to see the land in cyclical way. During the winter, territory would be defined differently than in the summer. In some cases, kinship bonds with other bands would be strong and political alliances and meetings common.