The Sinixt Nation occupied this territory for thousands of years, thriving in a harmonious and sustainable way with the land. In 1956, the Canadian government declared them extinct, but a group of Sinixt people lives in the Slocan Valley today. Read about the Sinixt at www.sinixtnation.org. The Ktunaxa http://www.ktunaxa.org/ and Westbank First Nations http://www.wfn.ca/ also claim land in the Slocan Valley. Pictographs on cliffs along the shoreline of Slocan Lake remind us of the time before the Europeans.
Silver-lead ore brought European settlers to the Slocan Valley in the late 1800s. In its heyday, 260 mines led to villages swelling with prospectors and hangers-on, until thousands populated Sandon, New Denver, Silverton and Slocan, filling hotels, saloons and brothels. Rail lines carried supplies to the mining camps in the Silvery Slocan. Villages in the north valley were settled in the 1890s and thrived until 1920, when the mining boom ended. Visitors can explore the remnants of mines and ghost towns, particularly in Sandon.
After the mining era, Slocan Valley communities survived by relying on farming, recreation and logging, with logging and sawmilling becoming the economic mainstay.
Between 1908 and 1938, the Doukhobors—Russians who came here to escape religious persecution—cleared land for farming along the Slocan River south of the Village of Slocan and eventually some moved into the north valley. Learn about their history at the Doukhobor Discovery Centre in Castlegar.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941, thousands of Nikkei—Canadians of Japanese descent—were forcibly moved to camps in the B.C. Interior and the Prairies. Many lived in Lemon Creek, Sandon and New Denver and some stayed on after the war. Their story is told at the Nikkei Interment Memorial Centre on Josephine Street in New Denver, which is now a National Historic Site. See the Nikkei Centre on Canada’s Historic Places online.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, Vietnam War draft dodgers, back-to-the-landers and artists arrived, bringing progressive values and creative energy that still shape this valley.
Museums and historical attractions
Sandon Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into Sandon’s past, when it was the biggest mining centre in North America. Website: http://www.sandonmuseum.ca/
The Sandon Paystreak, a guide to Sandon in the style of a turn-of-the-century newspaper, is at the Valley Voice office on main street New Denver and at the Sandon Museum. Valley Voice Tourist Publications: http://valleyvoice.ca/tourist-publications/
Silversmith Powerhouse was built in 1897, and is the oldest continuously operating hydro power plant in the country and one of the oldest of its type in the world.
Silvery Slocan Museum & Archives
202 Sixth Ave., New Denver
The museum is located at the foot of New Denver’s main street and operates from June to October. It has displays on the area’s mining, farming, logging, and transportation history. The building originally served as the Bank of Montreal (1897–1972). Home of the Visitor Centre. Visit http://sshsnd.blogspot.ca/p/blog-page.html.
Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre
306 Josephine St., New Denver
A National Historic Site, the centre reflects the story of the 22,000 people of Japanese descent who were placed in camps during the Second World War. Includes the Heiwa Teien peace garden. Open 10 am–5 pm daily May 1 through to September 30. Visit newdenver.ca/nikkei.
Silverton Historical Society Interpretive Centre, Outdoor Mining Museum and Fingland Cabin
408-4th St., Silverton
The Silverton Historical Society runs the Interpretive Centre (in the Silverton Gallery), Outdoor Mining Museum (on the gallery lawn) and Fingland Cabin (across the highway) show life during the silver boom in the Slocan Valley.
The Silvery Slocan Heritage Tour Guidebook
The Silvery Slocan Heritage Tour Guidebook is an excellent guide to the area’s heritage attractions. Get a copy at the Valley Voice office or order online at http://valleyvoice.ca/tourist-publications/.