This article was published in the Canadian Historical Review in 1985, and republished in 1997. However, as it has not been generally available in the Slocan, I include it in this series of local booklets with the hope that readers will not find its academic style too heavy going. It contains a good deal of information and a framework for thinking about the early Slocan that are not readily available elsewhere.
The Sinixt in the Slocan, 1750–1900
Here, I sketch what seems to me the most plausible current account of the Sinixt in the Slocan Valley during the long century before a mining rush broke into their territory. It is now clear that at various times since about 1500 BC, when the first pit house villages appeared along the Slocan River, alot of people have lived in the Slocan, and also clear that, for much debated reasons, the valley’s population has fluctuated a good deal. There is no consensus about numbers, even in relatively recent times. James Teit thought that there were perhaps 2,000 Sinixt in the mid-18th century, half along the Columbia River north of the international border, the Arrow Lakes, and in the Slocan Valley.
But I cannot republish this article without revisiting its assertion that Native people had never lived in the vicinity of Idaho Peak. I should also say a few words about Harold Innis, the economic historian to whom I allude towards the end of the article.
The assertion that Native people had never lived near Idaho Peak is wrong, and I should have known better. I did not know that James Teit, early 20th century ethnographer of Interior Salish peoples, had reported five Sinixt villages in the Slocan Valley, three of them along Slocan Lake, and also that the Native population in the valley had been decimated by epidemics. Moreover, archaeologists had begun to work on the Sinixt, 3 and by the early 1980s it was becoming clear that the Slocan had a long Native history. I should have known this, and when the article was republished, I wrote an introduction that attempted to bring the Sinixt into some focus. Since 1997, archaeological investigations have advanced, and a chronology of Sinixt life in the Slocan Valley is gradually emerging.