Brief History of the Kootenay Region

 History of the Wilderness Centre  

Chronology of Important Dates to the Region & Wilderness Centre

This is my vision: one day, there will come to our people fair-skinned men wearing long
black robes who will teach us a new way to pray. They will bring peace, but their arrival will also bring
the beginning of the end to the way of life of all people who now inhabit the land

                                          —SHINING SHIRT, his Ktunaxa prophecy that was passed down through ancient oral
from pre-recorded times

























































For millenia the Ktunaxa (Kootenay) first peoples call the Kootenay-Columbia region of southeastern British Columbia home, after being gifted the land near Columbia Lake by the Creator. The earliest known archeological findings for the region date from around 12,000 BC

Horses started arriving to the Kootenay tribes through trade with and escape from tribes to the south, making hunting, warfare, and transportation easier

Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer, arrives in the “New World” in present-day Quebec

Henry Hudson, a British explorer, explores Hudson Bay in Northern Canada

Hudson’s Bay Company is chartered in London, England

Anthony Henday travels west from Hudson Bay onto Canadian plains, meets natives on horseback, and sees the Rocky Mountains

Captain James Cook is killed by Hawaiian natives before he could complete his search for the Northwest Passage

North West Fur Company established in Montreal

David Thompson, explorer for Hudson’s Bay Company, winters with the Piikani (Peigan) peoples at base of Rocky Mountains

David Thompson learns surveying near Hudson Bay from Philip Turnor

Robert Gray, American captain, discovers the mouth of the Columbia River. William Broughton, British Sea Captain George Vancouver’s Lieutenant, explores mouth of Columbia River, 100 miles inland

Alexander Mackenzie crosses Rocky Mountains and reaches Pacific Ocean at Bella Coola, British Columbia

David Thompson leaves Hudson’s Bay Company for surveying/mapmaking position with the North West Company in order to discover trade route across Rockies and out to Pacific along the Columbia River

David Thompson attempts to cross Rocky Mountains in central Alberta

David Thompson meets his first group of Ktunaxa people in the Rockies and escorts them back to Rocky Mountain House for trade. He questions them about the geography of the west side of the mountains and their trails

The Lewis & Clark expedition south of the international border reaches the mouth of the Columbia River at the Pacific Ocean

David Thompson crosses the Rockies and establishes the “Kootenae House” trading post near today’s Invermere and the actual source of the Columbia River, but he does not realize that this river is the long-sought Columbia. He begins trading with the Ktunaxa people and their allies

David Thompson explores the Kootenay River

John Jacob Astor establishes post at mouth of the Columbia River for his new Pacific Fur Company. David Thompson follows the Columbia to the Pacific and finishes charting the entire length of the river from the Rockies to the Ocean – the long-sought “Great River of the West”

The North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company amalgamate to form one large monopoly. Father Pierre-Jean de Smet, a young Belgian Jesuit missionary, arrives in North America

Father de Smet travels to St. Louise and the Missouri River, begins learning about missionary life, and ultimately becomes very disillusioned by it

George Simpson, Governor of Hudson’s Bay Company, crosses Rockies over Athabasca Pass and up the Columbia River to reorganize his Columbia Department since departure of David Thompson

The Lower Ktunaxa people seek out a missionary along the Missouri River, find the disillusioned Father de Smet, and invite him back to live with them. Sir George Simpson travels over Simpson Pass and follows Kootenay and Columbia Rivers on first recorded trip through Rockies for pleasure. James Sinclair travels over White Man Pass and follows Cross, Kootenay, and Columbia Rivers to stake claim in Oregon Territory

Lieutenants Warre and Vavasour cross Rockies over White Man Pass and travel along Cross, Kootenay, and Columbia Rivers on a secret and undercover mission to scout for British-troop routes to the Oregon Territory. Father de Smet travels along Kootenay and Cross Rivers over White Man Pass on a peace mission to Blackfoot peoples

Paul Kane, Canadian artist, travels across Rockies to sketch the landscape and native people of the Columbia District along the Columbia River

James Sinclair leads more settlers across Rockies to Oregon Territory over North Kananaskis Pass and along Palliser and Kootenay Rivers

Captain John Palliser begins expedition throughout Canadian Rockies to compile a report on possible road and railway routes to Pacific Ocean. Captain Palliser explores Elk Pass and the Elk River down to Kootenay River. Dr. James Hector, botanist of the Palliser expedition, crosses over Vermillion Pass, along the Vermillion and Kootenay Rivers to the source of the Kootenay, and north to another river and pass, where his horse kicks him in the chest – henceforward known as at the Kicking Horse River and Pass

The Kootenay Gold Rush begins as gold is discovered in Wild Horse Creek near the Kootenay River; thousands of new people settle into the region

British North America Act passed creating the Dominion of Canada

British Columbia joins Canada on condition of a railroad built to the Pacific. Provisions to complete the reserve system for the First Nations people of the newly formed province are made; the federal government maintains responsibility for Indians and their lands within the new province. The Kootenay District is appropriated be the Oblate Order of Christian missionaries 

The missionaries of the Oblate Order establish the first missionary school in traditional Ktunaxa territory, near present-day Cranbrook

The Indian Act of Canada becomes official legislation and encourages assimilation of Indians into Canadian society; many restrictions on First Nations people follow

John McKay stakes a homestead along the Columbia River, near modern-day Radium Hot Springs

Canada’s transcontinental railway is completed, running through the Rockies at Dr. James Hector’s Kicking Horse Pass near the Kicking Horse River

Roland Stuart, British squire, buys land around the Radium hot springs

The Canadian government funds the construction of the St. Eugene Mission Residential School, near the church and mission buildings that replaced the old school from 1873. This was the first comprehensive industrial and residential school built in western Canada, which was designed to acculturate and adapt the Ktunaxa and nearby First Nations youth and people to the Canadian ways of life

First road built around Radium hot springs. Charles Crook claims a homestead in Kootenay Valley just over Sinclair Pass from the hot springs

Researchers at McGill University prove there is indeed radium in the hot springs

Original bathing pool and bathhouse constructed at Radium Hot Springs

Kootenay National Park established, and named to commemorate the long history of the Ktunaxa (Kootenay) peoples in the area. The Queen of England gifts the present-day land beneath CrossRiver Wilderness Centre, and the adjacent Nipika Ski Lodge, to early trapper, Bill Yearling

Banff-Windermere road along the Kootenay River is officially opened and becomes the first road through the Rocky Mountains. The townsite of Radium Hot Springs is surveyed

Bill Yearling sells the land beneath present-day CrossRiver Wilderness Centre, and the adjacent Nipika Ski Lodge, to the Richter family. The immediate vicinity around the land begins to change: the original Settler’s Road cart path begins to form at the original cable-car crossing of the Kootenay River; the land gets homesteaded; and the region starts to establish a reputation for incredible hunting/outfitting over the next 35 years

The present-day heritage cabins at CrossRiver Wilderness Centre are constructed as part of new operation leading towards mining advances for the miners on Mt. Field and Mt. Stephen, in today’s Yoho National Park

Chinook salmon make their final run up the Columbia River to Columbia Lake with the construction of Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State

New boundaries for Kootenay National Park and area are established

The bathhouse at Radium Hot Springs is destroyed by fire. The final campgrounds in Kootenay National Park built

New aquacourt and pool finished at Radium Hot Springs

The registered First Nations people of Canada officially get the right to vote. Residential schools start to fall out of favor, and federal policies start to encourage a new form of tolerance for integration of First Nations people into mainstream Canadian society and educational systems

Reconstruction and upgrading of Banff-Windermere highway completed along with the installation of the Iron Gates Tunnel near Sinclair Canyon

Canadian government announces their new Multiculturalism policy

Kootenay River Runners rafting company, one of the first in the Rockies, established in Radium Hot Springs to guide rafting and canoe trips along the Kootenay, Columbia, and Kicking Horse Rivers

Construction of the present-day cross-country ski trail network around the present-day Nipika Ski Lodge, adjacent to CrossRiver Wilderness Centre, begins

Canadian government officially passes the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, being the first country in the world to officially legislate and pass law reaffirming cultural, ethnic, and racial diversity 

The land beneath the present-day CrossRiver Wilderness Centre is purchased by the Patenaude family. Construction begins on the CrossRiver House

The Patenaude family rescues the historic mining cabins in Yoho National Park from demolition. We are gifted the cabins free of charge, and they are transported in whole to their present-day location and refurbished. Construction begins on the present-day Wilderness Centre’s main lodge

CrossRiver Wilderness Centre is officially established, under its original name Cross River Cabins, for environmentally-friendly adventure; creativity and inspiration; environmental education; and community and inter-cultural sharing

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