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Connect with the Indigenous Culture in the Kootenay Rockies

Q̓api Ktunaxa Sukiⱡq̓ukni kin wamiⱡkiⱡ ʔamakʔis / All Ktunaxa are happy you are here – Welcome

Venturing through the mountains and valleys of the Kootenay Rockies, you’ll be hard-pressed not to come across some aspect of Indigenous culture. Even the name ‘Kootenays’ is derived from the Ktunaxa people, who have inhabited this land for generations. The Indigenous communities and members are opening their doors to assist travellers to understand their traditions & culture.

From heritage centres and restaurants to campgrounds and resorts, the Indigenous entrepreneurs in the Kootenays would like to enrich your travel experience. Below is a selection of  Indigenous-owned businesses and experiences available in the region:

Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort (Kootenay Lake)

Located on the Western shores of Kootenay Lake between Balfour and Kaslo, Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort combines the therapeutic and healing waters of the natural hot springs nearby with a first-class resort, fantastic cuisine at the Ktunaxa Grill Restaurant, and stunning mountain views. Enjoy the mineral waters at either the main lounging pool or in the 150-foot horseshoe cave. Long used by the Ktunaxa Nation to relax and rejuvenate after long days of fishing, hunting and gathering, the resort is now owned and operated by the Lower Kootenay Band.  Book a stay in the Yaqan Nukiy Suites.

Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort; photo by Kari Medig

Bear & Bone Burger Co. (Golden)

Feast on a juicy burger made with locally raised longhorn beef from Whisky Hill at Bear & Bone Burger Co. in Golden. For those with an appetite, go big or go home with the quadruple-stacked The Canadian Burger. For a unique taste, give the Bugaboo Buffalo burger a try.

Cross River Education & Retreat Centre (Radium Hot Springs)

Cross River Education & Retreat Centre stewards over 90 acres of land located southeast of Kootenay National Park in the main ranges of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It is a family-run venture, influenced by their ancestors of the Georgian Bay Metis Community for visitor experiences and spaces for innovative retreats and land-based programs. Learn and participate in life here in self-sustainable, and culturally and historically mindful ways.

Koocanusa Lake Campground/Tobacco Plains

Situated on the shores of Koocanusa Lake, the Tobacco Plains Indian Band runs three campgrounds for guests – Big Springs Campground and RV Park, Ayes Ranch Campground and RV Park, and Dorr Road Campground and RV Park. Enjoy the sandy beaches and lakeside camping on Koocanusa Lake.

Legend Logos and Legend Lake Tours (Creston)

Stop in at Legend Logos in Creston for an Indigenous experience, featuring a gift shop with many souvenirs, beadwork and much more. Learn about the local Indigenous culture and traditions at the Yaqan Nukiy Heritage Centre.  Legend Logos also offers a 2.5-hour boat tour on Kootenay Lake with their Legend Lake Tours running in July and August. Learn the ancestral teachings of the Indigenous People who have lived on Kootenay Lake and its tributaries for over 10,000 years.

Raven’s Nest Resort (Fairmont Hot Springs)

Tucked away on a bench overlooking the Columbia River between Windermere Lake and Columbia Lake, Raven’s Nest Resort offers a secluded getaway from the hustle and bustle of nearby Fairmont Hot Springs and Invermere.  Stay in one of their eight off-grid log cabins, or bring your tent or RV and pull into one of their 25 campsites. While there, take a float trip down the Columbia River, relax at one of the local beaches, or play some disc golf on their course.

Columbia Valley views from log cabins; photo courtesy of Raven’s Nest Resort

River’s Edge Ranch & RV Park (Yahk)

A small campground in an incredible setting alongside the Moyie River, in the village of Yahk, about 40 km / 25 mi east of Creston, near the Yahk Provincial Park.  New, are their yurts – which are located alongside the beautiful Moyie River.  They offer jaw-dropping stargazing views, as you snuggle in to your unit in nature.

St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino (Cranbrook)

Learn about the traditional knowledge and culture of the Ktunaxa Nation at the Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre at the St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino.

Join Ktunaxa Nation members in the Indigenous Cultural Awareness program experience where  you will learn about and discuss past, present, and future issues related to Indigenous, listen to Ktunaxa elders share legends around the campfire, or discover the traditional arts of beading or moccasin making.

For golf enthusiasts, enjoy a round on their 18 hole championship course and relax afterward with a fine meal at one of their two on-location restaurants.  Book your stay at this luxurious resort.

St. Eugene Golf Resort 18-hole Championship Golf Course; photo by Mitch Winton

Trail Exploring
Chief Isadore Trail (Cranbrook) is part of the TransCanada Trail between Cranbrook and Wardner. This popular trail is well marked and offers picnic areas, breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains and old rock ovens.  It has a packed gravel surface, which is half an old Rail Grade and half new trail. This Trail honours the  history and customs of the local Indigenous community with a number of interpretive signs.   Chief Isadore brokered peace between the Ktunaxa Nation and settlers.

Mountain biking on the Chief Isadore Trail; photo by Kari Medig

Ka Papa Cedars (Creston) is a 32-km (22 mi) trail, west of Creston, towards Kootenay Pass, you will find the beginning of the 1.7 km Ka Papa Cedars Trail. An, easy / moderate trail through mature forest.While you loop through the towering old-growth cedars, along the rich forest floor you will soon find interpretive signs guiding you along the trail. In Ktunaxa, a grandfather is called ‘ka papa’ and Ka Papa Cedars Trail is named for the giant old growth cedar trees located along the trail.

Hiking the Ka Papa Trail; photo by Mitch Winton

Mxiɬp (Cedar) Trail (Rossland) is named in consultation with representatives of the Sinixt, the Mxiɬp Trail means Cedar in their traditional language and speaks to the towering cedars that mark the beginning of the trail. The creation of the trail was done in such a way that it protects the trees and the land it was being built on. Where conventional trail building methods may dig down, this trail was created by building on top of the tree roots so as not to disturb them. The old growth cedar canopy of the trail offers a lush backdrop for a mountain bike or calming walk through the forest.

White Otter Design Co. (New Denver)

They are an Anishnaabe artist who focuses on bead and quill work. They create heirloom quality jewellery, accessories and fashion.  And, they strive to use authentic products in all of the work that demonstrates connection to land, a way of life and using all parts of the materials. Work features home tan moose, elk and deer hide, porcupine quills, horse hair, caribou and moose hair and furs.

Whether you’re looking for hot springs or golf courses, interpretive experiences or accommodations, you’re sure to find an Indigenous-owned and operated business to suit your needs in the Kootenay Rockies.

Know Before You Go – Plan ahead so you can travel safely and responsibly. Familiarize yourself with weather, road conditions, general alerts for travellers and provincial health orders & recommendations.

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Top/cover photo by Kari Medig at Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort, along Kootenay Lake. 

Words by Mark Locki. Mark is a photographer and writer based in Kimberley, BC. An avid traveller throughout the Kootenays and abroad, he enjoys exploring the natural world, camera in hand, seeking out compelling stories. He’s often found deep in the backcountry, running, climbing or on skis, challenging himself to discover new scenes and viewpoints. 

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