The tribes of the Ktunaxa and the Sinixt who lived in the Kootenay area of today were attached to the waters. The Ktunaxa named themselves people ”who travel by water" derived from the Ktunaxa word "Quthni" and the Sinixt called themselves “lakes people”.
Following the rhythm of the seasons they changed between hunting and resting periods and moved from summer to winter camps. They traveled on lakes and rivers with a special formed canoe called sturgeon nose canoe which was only built here. Waters were abundant with fish and the vast forests so rich in wildlife that nature easily fulfilled their life necessities and offered trade possibilities as well.
The first European settlers were attracted by the silver discovered in the Kootenays at the end of the 19.Century. Within no time railroads were built into the remote region. Today small communities like Silverton and New Denver carry visitors back into the past and tell about the short period of prospering mining times.
Members of the Russian religious group Doukhobors moved into the region in the early years of the 20.Century. They cultivated the land for fruit and vegetable farming. Living in monastery like societies they did not know private possessions. Until today their offspring are still in the Slocan Valley and keep their language and customs alive. The Doukhobor museum and Zuckerberg Island in Castlegar tell about their roots.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II thousands of people of Japanese derivation were suspect to being potential Japanese spies. They were deported into camps in remote areas until the war ended, many of them in the West Kootenays. Some of the internees stayed after the war and their cultural influence is still obvious. The Nikkei museum in New Denver tells about their history.
During Vietnam War USA war resisters and conscientious objectors found home in the Kootenays. They brought their unique hippie lifestyle into the area as well as many skills in arts and crafts. Their goal to live in harmony with nature is still alive and can be seen in the existence of the many engaged environmental groups which are active here today.
To Photo Gallery
To Links - Environmental Groups