As I was transcribing and making a video about my ancestors’ move from Kincolith (Gingolx) to Ankitlas (near Kispiox) in northern British Columbia in 1879 I wondered about the grease trail.
I knew they followed at least parts of the First Nation grease trail, but looking at the map, there are a lot of mountains and rivers that could have been the ones crossed. Though it is unlikely the trails crossed the highest peaks, they more likely followed rivers.
As you can see by the terrain map, it is a very mountainous region.
So, where did the great trail go and what was it for?
The grease trail has been around for over 6,000 years used to transport oolichan (also spelled eulachon) grease from the coast to First Nation communities inland.
Ollichan was called the candlefish as it was so greasy you could burn it like a candle. The First Nations would bake or fry the fish, smoke it or dry it for food. They would also process and render the fat for trading. Oolichan grease, not only kept very well it was considered an excellent source of food energy and was even used in healing stomach aches and treating skin conditions.
You can watch a video on how the Nisga’a processed oolichan grease here.
There were at least 23 major grease trails in British Columbia, but the one we are interested in is the one that would have been near Kincolith and ended near Kispiox.
The most important fishing area was the mouth of Naas River where thousands of First Nations met in February and March.
So it is most likely they used the grease trail called Genim Sgeenix (Northward Trail) running from Gitlax’aws (Grease Harbour) to Gitwahniguul (Kitwancool) as it was one of the main trails for the Nisga’a on the way to the Babine to trade oolichan grease.
This trail also passed the Gitwangak Battle Hill, which is a National Historic Site.
Hopefully, this gives you a little more information about the fascinating history of our province.
(all sites last accessed 26 August 2022)
BC Food History Network. Grease! By Gail Smith. https://bcfoodhistory.ca/ooligan-grease-by-gale-smith/
Google Maps. https://www.google.com/maps
Kwusen Research & Medial Ltd. Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail. https://www.greasetrail.com/trail
McGill University. What is “oolichan?”. https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/you-asked/what-oolichan
Memim.com. Grease trail. https://memim.com/grease-trail.html
The Narwal. How an oil fish is connecting Nisga’a youth to the land. https://bcfoodhistory.ca/ooligan-grease-by-gale-smith/
Province of British Columbia. Alexander Mackenzie Trail (Quesnel). http://www.sitesandtrailsbc.ca/search/search-result.aspx?site=REC5728&type=Trail