A Brief History of the Creston Valley

Woman with CanoeLying at the foot of the Skimmerhorn, the Creston Valley in British Columbia, Canada, is a unique geological region between the Purcell and Selkirk mountain ranges. The wide valley is a flood plain of the Purcell Trench that is divided by the Kootenay River—which runs from Banff and Yoho National Parks and winds its way through Fort Steele into northern Idaho—where it turns north at Bonner’s Ferry and makes it way down the Creston valley into the magnificent Kootenay Lake before forming its west arm at Nelson and descending rapidly into the Columbia River at Castlegar. This rich soil valley that was created 12,000 years ago by the melting of glaciers was populated by aboriginal peoples, the original residents being the Kutenai—one of three groups who formed the Ktunaxa First Nation. Traditionally, they lived mainly by hunting, trapping and fishing, and at tribal ceremonies worshipped the sun and the Great Spirit.

The pre-history of the region can be documented by the Kutenai canoe which is unique in North America. It is made from a single piece of white pine bark that was laid smooth side out over a frame of cedar strips and maple ribs. Either cedar root or wild cherry bark is used for binding, and pitch from the ponderosa pine or Douglas fir provided caulking materials for joints and knotholes. Since the Kutenai canoes are of a similar design to those discovered in the Amur River region of northern Asia in the mid-1800’s (where they also fished for sturgeon), this coincidence coincides with some anthropological evidence of a land bridge between the two continents.

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