The Mountain of the Spiral Road

By Jeff Waugh

Yuh-hai-has-kun or the Mountain of the Spiral Road (referring to the many layered appearance) was the name bestowed upon Mt. Robson by the Texqakallt, the earliest known inhabitants of the upper reaches of the Fraser River. These Shuswap Indians of the Upper North Thompson Band were almost completely nomadic. They dressed only in marmot skins and slept on the open snow with their feet toward a central fire. At times, they constructed bark teepees. Lodges and fish drying racks were constructed in prime salmon fishing territory at the confluence of the McLennan and Fraser Rivers in the vicinity of what is now Tete Jaune Cache. As well as salmon from the Fraser, trout were reportedly taken from Yellowhead Lake. They hunted bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, marmots and other small mammals and birds. They also relied on edible plants in the area, especially berries.

As the Shuswap Indians were extending their hunting territory eastwards through the Yellowhead Pass, the Cree, with the advance of the fur trade, were extending theirs from the east towards the Jasper area. Eventually the two territories overlapped and interbreeding occurred. As a result, both the Shuswap and Cree languages were spoken by the group of thirty families that frequented Jasper House.

The French language was introduced around 1817 by J.F. La Roque, a French-Canadian voyageur employed by the Northwest Company. La Roque was heading for New Caledonia’s Fort George accompanied by a group of expert Iroquois canoe men, greatly valued for their speed of transport across the Canadian wilderness.

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