Kootenai House: A National Heritage Site

Location:

Located close to the border of Alberta, in the eastern region of the province, just north of what is, today, Invermere, BC.

Invermere B.C. Map image from: www.nstarhw.ca

Invermere, B.C. Map image from: http://www.nstarhw.ca

Importance:

Established in the Columbia Basin in 1807, Kootanae House was named a National Historic Site of Canada in 1934.  As a former North West Company post, this site is significant due to its position as the first trading post to be established in the Columbia Basin and its role in establishing trade with the Ktunaxa people.  In fact, contact and friendly relations with this first nations group was essential to the survival of Europeans in this region of Canada and without them there would, at the very least, have been a massive set back in the European inhabitation of the west.  On their arrival, in the summer of 1807, the European explorers were dangerously short on food and supplies, a problem which was remedied by the Ktunaxa people trading provisions with them despite being reported to be short on food supplies themselves.  In addition to this initial generosity and assistance, the first nations group also traded horses to the Europeans which enabled the expansion of the fur trade and general exploration throughout the area.

The current look of the site, image from:  wikimapia.org

The current look of the site, image from: wikimapia.org

It is this assistance with exploration that furthers Kootanae House as a significant feature in British Columbian history as the founder of this site was none other than David Thompson the fur trader, surveyor, and map-maker who, over his lifetime, mapped over 3.9 million square kilometers.  While he was undertaking his surveys throughout this region from 1807-1812, Kootanae House was used as his base location and the several of the first nations people he had come into contact with at the site went on to act as his guides as well as providing valuable information about the landscape, the environment, and the inhabitation of the region.

The Kootanae House Parks Canada Map  (www.pc.gc.ca)

The Kootanae House Parks Canada Map (www.pc.gc.ca)

These explorations in the Columbia Basin would go on to have several key impacts on the future development of British Columbia.  First of all, they resulted in the establishment of additional trading posts which allowed for a further expansion of the fur trade in this area and increased the population of Europeans in the west.  But most crucially, Thompson’s explorations throughout this area (as well as the development of additional posts and forts that appeared as a result of his surveys) also promoted and established the British presence in what would become go on to become the British colony of British Columbia as this presence would prove to be essential in 1846 when the international boundary was set between America and British Columbia at the 49th parallel.

The site plaque, image from wikimapia.org

The site plaque, image from wikimapia.org