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On the Importance of the Qat’muk Declaration

Troy Sebastian  /  November 22, 2016  /  5 Min Read  /  Activism

Grizzly bear has a central role in Ktunaxa spiritual beliefs and practices. Photo: Garrett Grove

For over 20 years, the Ktunaxa Nation has opposed the Jumbo Glacier Resort development proposed in Qat’muk, core territory of the Ktunaxa Nation and home to the grizzly bear spirit. Patagonia recognizes and affirms the Ktunaxa Nation’s responsibility to protect Qat’muk and the grizzly bear spirit through the Qat’muk Declaration, which outlines the spiritual significance of Qat’muk and is an expression of Ktunaxa sovereignty and stewardship principles.

November 15th marked the sixth anniversary of the Qat’muk Declaration. In support of the Declaration, as well as to signify the importance of the relationship between Patagonia and Ktunaxa Nation, we invite you to read this special message from the Ktunaxa Nation about the importance of Qat’muk.

Photo: Steve Ogle

Alpine larch (Larix lyallii) on Jumbo Pass. The Jumbo Valley is also known as Qat’muk to the Ktunaxa Nation. Purcell Mountains, British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Steve Ogle

Ktunaxa Nation Statement

Kiʔsuk kyukyit!

Hu sukiǂk̓uqni nawsanmiyitki

Hu qakǂik nupqu ʔak·ǂam̓

Hu qakǂik Troy Sebastian

Good day.

I am happy to be here with you.

My name is Troy Sebastian.

I am from the Ktunaxa community of  ʔaq’am located on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains in south eastern British Columbia.  Our territory—Ktunaxa ʔamakʔis—includes parts of Montana and Idaho as well as areas in British Columbia and Alberta.

Ktunaxa have a committed relationship of reciprocity, respect and reverence to Ktunaxa ʔamakʔis and in particular, a sacred area known as Qat’muk. Qat’muk is the home of kǂawǂa tukǂuǂak?is (grizzly bear spirit) and is the place where they go to dance. Grizzly bear has a central role in Ktunaxa spiritual beliefs and practices. We Ktunaxa know this as we have lived in Ktunaxa ʔamakʔis since creation.

For more than thirty years, Qat’muk has been under threat from a proposed ski resort. The project, known as the Jumbo Glacier Resort, intends to put a 6250 bed ski resort on a receding glacier, in critical grizzly bear habitat. It would be located an hour up the road from another ski resort. The project has faced opposition from the local community since it was first proposed and you can check out Patagonia’s great film Jumbo Wild for more information on that.

November 15th marked the sixth anniversary of the Ktunaxa Nation’s Qat’muk Declaration. It was declared in Ktunaxa territory in 2010 and hand delivered to the government of British Columbia that year. With the Qat’muk Declaration, the Ktunaxa Nation decided to share with the world the importance of the area to our nation and to grizzly bear. It is an unprecedented public affirmation of the sacred nature of the area. After generations of cultural, religious and political interference by the state and the church, Ktunaxa resolved to stand our ground for Qat’muk, for our sacred teachings and to tell the world of its importance.

Subsequent to the Qat’muk Declaration, we produced a short documentary in 2011 called Where Grizzly Bear Goes to Dance. The film outlines the importance of Qat’muk to Ktunaxa as well as to other peoples living in Ktunaxa ʔamakʔis and marked the beginning of an annual summer gathering in Qat’muk of prayers, feasting and offering by Ktunaxa in support of the Declaration.

Unfortunately, in 2012 the government of British Columbia approved the Jumbo Glacier Resort. Later that year, Ktunaxa Nation took the province to court challenging the project’s approval on a number of grounds. Ktunaxa and others say that the project is a threat to grizzly bears. We also believe that the project threatens our connection with grizzly bear spirit and thereby to our spiritual beliefs and practices dependent upon that spiritTherefore, the project’s approval represents a violation of Ktunaxa religious freedom rights protected under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear this aspect of our case. This represents a major breakthrough for indigenous peoples in Canada as we have been unable to raise indigenous religious freedoms as a means of protecting our rights previously. Our legal remedies have predominately been under section 35 of the constitution.

Our case is not only very significant for our nation, but it raises the question of what kind of country does Canada want to be: a country committed to reconciliation and respect of indigenous culture or a country that continues to disregard indigenous peoples and desecrate sacred areas?

In our efforts to protect Qat’muk, Ktunaxa Nation has found strong support in organizations and communities who share common interest in protecting wild spaces. Patagonia is at the lead of that effort. Through the development and promotion of the film Jumbo Wild, to the affirmation of support for the Qat’muk Declaration, Patagonia is showing how responsible corporations effect change in the new century.

Ktunaxa Nation appreciates this support and encourages others to join us in protecting Qat’muk and uphold grizzly bear spirit. Please follow us through the host of social media options listed below.

With our case going to the Supreme Court of Canada on December 1, your acknowledgement and support would assist Ktunaxa in raising public awareness. By sharing this article and the associated links, you are raising critical awareness of the importance of Qat’muk, as well as the upcoming Supreme Court case, to your friends and colleagues.

In closing, I want to offer a reflection that I found very powerful. Recently, in a meeting, an elder and leader of our nation reminded us that Qat’muk is a real place, that grizzly bear spirit is real and that grizzly bear is our brother and we must protect our family. It was a timely and special statement that I have decided to share with you in hopes that you too will believe in Qat’muk. It is a real place, it does exist and we invite you to support our efforts.

Thank you so much for receiving this message and thanks to Patagonia for their continued support.

In the spirit of Qat’muk,


Troy Sebastian
Ktunaxa Nation Council





Ktunaxa means “licks the knife” or “licks the blood from the knife.” Ktunaxa is a language isolate, unconnected to any other language in the world. There are Ktunaxa communities in British Columbia, Idaho and Montana.

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