Cultural Connection

“Lax Gyels” – Tsimshian translation for fresh water mussels which refers to Lakelse Lake.

This site was designed to serve as a learning resource about environmental issues surrounding Lakelse Lake watershed. It is intended as an infornmational resource as well as an instructional aide for educators. It is also aimed at increasing the community’s awareness of local environmental issues in hopes of preserving the lake for further generations.

Lesson 1

Cultural – Lesson 1

Lax Gyels and First Nations People

Lax Gyels is the Tshimshan meaning for freshwater mussels, it is also the name of Lakelse Lake located about 15 kilometers from the city of Terrace. Lakelse Lake is part of the territory that was used by the Kitselas people. For thousands of years this area was used for hunting, fishing, gathering food, and the great red cedar tree that was used to make canoes. The Kitselas people lived off the land. The vast ecosystems supplied the First Nations People with all that was needed to survive. The people used to hunt marten, beaver, bear, and deer. They would also fish for different types of salmon and gathered freshwater mussels as part of their diet. The area also had a rich supply of berries and other plants that were used for food and making household items. The red cedar trees that grew around this watershed were of great importance for carving canoes, making blanks for the long houses and important for the weaving clothing.

There are many oral histories that tell the stories of how people lived and used the food provided by Lake Gyels. These stories are told by the Elders of the community and more information can be obtained from the Kitselas Band Office. Contact Wilfred Bennett Jr. Kitselas Resource Management: (250)635-8882

Activity One

Have students gather information on the wildlife such as marten, beaver, bear, and deer around Lakelse Lake. These provided food and clothing to First Nations people. Have students do research on one of the animals and how this animal provided to the existence of the First Nations people. Student’s could then combine their information and create ecosystem diorama of the wildlife of Lakelse Lake. The same could be done for the aquatic life such as the mussels found at Lakelse Lake.

See the following site for information.

Activity Two

Have students gather information on the red cedar tree to learn about how this tree provided many things to the local First Nations. As part of this process students will learn about how First Nations used this tree to provide shelter and clothing without “cutting” the tree down. Students could also learn how First Nations used to “take down” cedar trees with out the use of a saw or axe. i.e. They chiseled a hole in the tree and start a charcoal fire to burn out the bottom and wait for the wind to blow tree to over. Sometimes the chiseled holes were made higher in the tree to test its strength. This was particularly the case if the tree was to be used for a totem pole.

Activity Three

Have students gather information on grease trails and how this affected trade among different villages. Also have student make the connection of the water ways and the use of the canoe for travel. Have students view an old map of the grease trail that connected the Lakelse watershed to other parts of BC. i.e. Grease trail from Kitimaat to Copper River, this trail was used by First Nations to trade, but later was used by Europeans to settle in this area. Refer to ‘The People of Kitselas Canyon’ by Rocque Berthiqume for further information. There is also a teacher guide with the trail. Multiple copies are available through the First Nations Resource Center.

Activity Four

Have students gather information on how First Nations People traveled and used the waterways and grease trails as their highways. Ask students to compare and contrast the pro’s and con’s of the old ways compared to travel today. Refer to the article in The Beaver, March 1953 ‘On the Trail of the Candle Fish’ by Lyn Harrington (Copy in NWCC, archives) and also Kitselas Development Corp. Wilfred Bennett Jr. Kitselas Resource Management (250) 635-8882

Trail 1

Trail 2

Activity Five

Share the oral histories of Lakelse Lake with the students. (This information can be gathered from the Kitselas Band office.) Incorporate these oral histories into Activities One, Two and Three and then take the students on a field trip to Lakelse Lake. Students could use prior knowledge to identify CMT’s, local plant life, and wildlife and make the connection of the importance of Lakelse Furlong Park and First Nations people.

Activity Six

Once students have been on a field trip to Lakelse Lake they can then make the connection between the First Nations and Lakelse Lake. Have the students write their own Oral history of how their experiences connect them to the Lakelse watershed.

Lesson 2

Cultural – Lesson 2

Lesson Plan: Lakelse Lake Photo Share (Activating personal connections through expository writing)
Curriculum Links: Social Studies/ Language Arts

Duration: 30 Minutes

Location: Classroom


The purpose of this activity is to activate students’ personal connections to Lakelse Lake by providing them with the opportunity to share and reflect on family or personal photos.


* Letter home to parents explaining the activity and requesting any photos the family may have of trips to Lakelse Lake, including photos that show the area surrounding the lake.
* Six clear cups, which will be used to collect the water and/or ‘pollutants’ which drain out as we pour the substances through the plant/soil.
* Historical photos of Lakelse Lake (visit Heritage Park for photos)
* Teacher’s personal photos of their own trips to Lakelse Lake
* Photocopied maps of Lakelse Lake

Activity Description:

Students will produce an expository writing of memory they have of Lakelse Lake. Working in groups of four the students will share their photos with each other. They will indicate on a map of the lake where they were and what activities they did while they were there. They will also share with the group a memory from that day, that takes them right back to that time and the lake.

Using their personal photos and recent discussion with their group as writing prompts, students will (individually) brainstorm ideas about the day the photo was taken, events that happened that day, and what reasons Lakelse Lake is important to them on a personal level. In writing their piece, students will focus on one particular event which emphasises their personal connection to the lake. Students should be encouraged to use all of their senses when describing their memory.

Suggested Complementary Activities:

Activity 1

Using laminated historical photographs of the Lakelse lake area students could examine the terrain surrounding the lake and then compare them to the terrain visible in their own more recent photographs. Working in groups of four with the laminated historical photos, the 2003 aerial photo of the Lakelse Lake watershed and their own personal photos, students would identify areas of human impact within the watershed indicated on the aerial photo. Students will then identify that particular area on the historical photograph, and draw the developments, whether it is logging, buildings, roads, etc onto the historical photo. Students would be required to consider the impact they are having on the land and to make allowances for them by researching environmental impacts on watersheds such developments have. This activity allows students to consider the implications of the development on the lake and in turn the implication development has on the students and their own relationship to the lake.

Activity 2

Students could also work in groups of four and choose one of the human developments that have occurred in the Lakelse Lake watershed. They could identify and discuss what the impact was of that particular development by completing a research project in which they discover the impacts certain human developments have on a watershed. The students would need to discover at least four areas of the environment that would be affected by their development and four ways the impact could be lessened or avoided altogether. The students would then present this information to the class in the form of a proposed development within the Lakelse Lake water shed. The presentation would be supported through the use of maps, aerial photos, photos taken by the students, drawings etc.

Lesson 3

Cultural – Lesson 3

Lesson Plan: Respecting the Environment of Lakelse Lake

Duration: 1 hour

Location: Classroom


The lesson is a hands-on approach to understanding human impacts on Lakelse Lake. Students will be able to describe some of the problems that arise when many people depend on a limited resource (Lakelse Lake). Students will also be encouraged to consider taking social action to save this very important watershed.

Prerequisites & Skill Development:

Lakelse Lake provides recreation and resources for many people. The lake is considered a “hot spot” for summertime recreation for people in the Terrace area. Increasing numbers of people are using the lake and many people are choosing to make the lake their full-time residence this is having an impact on the water quality and environment of the lake.


* Ball of string
* Masking tape
* Area and population of Lakelse Lake

Activity Description:

Lakelse Lake and the surrounding land provides recreation and resources for many people in the Terrace area. However, people can change the landscape. Each person that uses Lakelse Lake leaves behind evidence of their visit whether they know it or not. It is estimated that Lakelse Lake has two hundred thousand vistors to the lake each year. Brainstorm a list of what wastes people might leave behind. People create waste and add substances when they visit, many can be harmful and long lasting.

Map out Lakelse Lake on the floor using 9 m of string. Use masking tape to attach the string to the floor. The 9m string is proportionate to 27 km perimeter of the lake.

Students will stand side by side on the masking tape with their feet touching the person beside them in the most populated areas of the lake. Pass around the bag of pieces of paper, each student will take a piece of paper from the bag and throw it into the lake. It doesn’t take much to pollute an environment, especially when people are concentrated together as they are at the lake. Have students notice how quickly the lake became polluted with the paper. What would happen to the lake if people didn’t clean up after themselves? How would the lake water and land be effected?

Can you think of any solutions to limit the human impact in this environment?

Suggested Complementary Activities:

Create a poster to encourage people who visit the lake area to lighten their environmental footprint at Lakelse Lake. These could be placed around the school.

Promote a Lakelse Lake Day at the school.