Hike and connect to the Ktunaxa Rockies

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When hiking or skiing in the Rocky Mountains, it’s not about where you're at, but who you’re on. Discover the Ktunaxa Creation story, and connect to #Ktunaxahomelands, to see the Rockies in a whole new light.

Mountains pierce the sky in all directions. Their ranges and ridges command your attention, urge your respect, and seduce your sense of adventure. Many know this Rocky Mountain resort town as Fernie, BC, but to Ktunaxa People who have occupied the area for more than 10,000 years, this is the Land of the Raven.

“For Ktunaxa, it’s not about the mountain itself, but the connection to the mountain and everything drawn from it: the wind, the smell, the temperature of the air and textures of the forest,” explains Janice Alpine, tourism engagement lead for Ktunaxa Nation Council. 

“It’s about taking time to take a look around and see, sense, hear, experience. That connection to the land is who we are.”

Fernie has always held significance for the Ktunaxa People. For many generations over again, they used the area for trade and travel. The Rocky Mountains provide critical habitat for culturally important species such as elk, deer, sheep and grizzly bear. And it was the Ktunaxa People—having long known that coal in the Elk Valley served a purpose—who introduced the commodity to settlers including William Fernie, an English miner and prospector after whom the town of Fernie was named. 

As a traveler within the Ktunaxa homeland, while hiking, skiing, snowboarding or experiencing the dopamine-driven pleasure gifted by these iconic mountains, take a moment to notice the landscape that grounds you. 

Then take a step back and look at it from the Ktunaxa perspective: Because the Rocky Mountains are not actually about where you are, but who you’re on…

The Rockies are the body of Naⱡmuqȼin, a Ktunaxa spirit animal and warrior whose prophecy was to prepare the land for the creation of the human race. 

How the Rockies were formed

Since time beyond the reach of memory, the homeland of the Ktunaxa was ruled by the spirit animals. The largest was Naⱡmuqȼin, a giant. He was so big he crawled on his hands and knees, because at full height, he was too tall for the sky. Like many spirit animals, Naⱡmuqȼin had a prophecy to fulfill to welcome ʔaqⱡmaknik̓ (people). 

After leading a victorious war party in a Big Chase of a pesky water monster (Yawuʔnik̓) that ultimately formed the region’s waterways and hoodoo landscapes, Naⱡmuqȼin created the human race, designating Ktunaxa People as keepers of the land. Then Naⱡmuqȼin celebrated his victory, and in the process, stood straight up and bumped his head on the ceiling of the sky. The impact knocked him dead, his body forming the Rocky Mountain range.

Through connecting with the Ktunaxa Creation story and this landscape, you too are invited to form a deeper connection to #KtunaxaHomelands with this Rockies adventure itinerary.

Rocky Mountains Fernie BC Ktunaxa Homelands Kyle Hamilton
Photographer: Kyle Hamilton
The Rocky Mountains are not actually about where you are, but who you’re on.

 

#KtunaxaHomelands Rockies Itinerary

Ktunaxa First Nation, ZenSeekers and Tourism Fernie want to support your appreciation for the landscape around you. Here is a Rockies itinerary that you can do over three days or cherry pick your favourites.

Full maps and hiking information with trailhead information can be found on Tourism Fernie’s website.

We encourage you to share what you find using the hashtag #KtunaxaHomelands.

Day 1: Stand atop the Ktunaxa Rockies 

Ancient forests, waterfalls, mountain passes, you can find all the adventure you want here, winter or summer, in incredible mountain landscapes. 

Looking for an easy to moderate cruise? Montane Hut is a gentle seven-kilometre round trip via Montane Blue trail to Easy Beaver (and back). For more views and a bit more distance and challenge, continue on the Montane Trail Network. Lake Trail Loop (accessed from Island Lake Lodge) is a popular beginner trail as well.

For a greater degree of difficulty, Mt Fernie Trail offers a 8km return, challenging half-day hike with ridge top views of the Rockies and an elevation gain of 910m. Heiko’s Trail is a 22km point-to-point alpine wilderness trail for advanced hikers (elevation gain: 1371m). Heiko’s Trail passes through waterfalls, along side Bizaro Cave and through mountain passes and meadows.

Looking for more? Take your pick from additional trails along the Montane Trail Network, Island Lake Lodge (with 15+ trails), and lift-accessed hiking or skiing (as the seasons go) at Fernie Alpine Resort.

The mountain view on the Montane Trail Network
Photographer: Kyle Hamilton
View from Montane Hut, opening onto the Montane trail network.

Day 2: Enjoy the views and the trails at Fernie Alpine Resort 

In summer, Fernie’s lift accessed sightseeing and hiking provides opportunities to see a variety of native flora, wildlife and fossils, and breathtaking views from the Lizard Bowl Observation Deck.

In winter, Fernie delivers more than 2,500 acres of skiable terrain, up to 37 feet of snow in a season, 142 named runs, five alpine bowls, state of the art snowmaking and grooming equipment, and an exceptional beginner’s area. 

View from Fernie Alpine Resort, overlooking town.

Day 3: Connect with still living giants 

Exploring Fernie’s Old Growth cedars can be experienced from three different areas - Mt Fernie Provincial Park, Island Lake Lodge and/or Fernie Alpine Resort. At the Provincial Park head up Gorby Trail, an easy to moderate 5km return hike. At Island Lake Lodge in summer, hike the Old Growth Trail, a moderate 8km return hike, or at Fernie Alpine Resort during summer operations take the scenic chairlift up to hike the easy 3km return Peak to Park trail.

Hike with living giants on the Old Growth Trail.

Learn more about nature the Ktunaxa way with a Ktunaxa "All Living Things" ethnobotany handbook (published by the Ktunaxa/Kinbasket Tribal Council) from 𝐒𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐤𝐮ȼ 𝐓𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐬 in Cranbrook’s Tamarack Centre mall.

Each step upon this sacred ground is one more step towards a greater connection to the Kootenay Rockies and Ktunaxa culture. 

Get into the mountains of the #KtunaxaHomelands, the body of Naⱡmuqȼin.

WHEN YOU GO

For more ideas of what to do and where to explore in the Land of the Raven, visit Tourism Fernie

Tourism Fernie also shares additional information about Indigenous and local culture in its annual Fernie & Elk Valley Culture Guide.

Taxas, qakxaxunaksi napituks ʾa·kxam̓ʾis Naⱡmuqȼin
Thus came the waterways from Naⱡmuqȼin’s body when he formed the Rocky Mountains.

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