Written by Nathan Goodale, Alissa Nauman, Cole Harris & Lori Barkley

Although unknown until recently by the settler society that displaced them in the 19th century, the Sinixt have lived in the Slocan Valley for the last 3,000 years, perhaps much longer. Drawing on recent archaeological investigations and up-to-date historical knowledge, the Slocan History Series has released its eighth booklet, Sinixt in the Slocan: The Last 3,000 Years.

The booklet is divided into three sections written by four authors. In Part 1, archaeologists Nathan Goodale and Alissa Nauman of Hamilton College, New York state, report on the results of their on-site investigations at Slocan Narrows since these began in 2000. Their excavations reveal a cluster of pit houses most likely used as a “multi-seasonal and winter home for many people for a great many generations” over three millennia. Interestingly, samples of basalt and obsidian provide evidence the Sinixt were linked with wider First Nations trade networks across North America. “These materials probably made their way to Slocan Narrows through extended trading networks in which goods passed through many hands rather than by means of the seasonal movement of people,” conclude Goodale and Nauman.

Cole Harris, retired historical geographer (UBC), provides an engaging historical portrait in Part 2. Harris describes Sinixt life in the valley in the period just before the devastating smallpox epidemic of the early 1780s, then follows their movements until about 1900, when the Sinixt “seem to have been gone from the Slocan,” dispersed to the Colville Confederated Tribes reservation in Washington state and elsewhere. Again, there is robust historical evidence of Sinixt occupation in the Slocan Valley. “Ethnographic information about the mid-18th century Sinixt population in the Slocan comes from elders on the Colville Reservation in Washington State who told ethnographers James Teit and Verne Ray that there had been six Slocan villages, three along the lake, three along the river,” Harris reports.

In Part 3, anthropologist Lori Barkley takes the reader from 1900 to the present, writing of the return of the Sinixt to the valley and the difficulties and opportunities this has created for them. “In the aftermath of the epidemics and the Sinixt diaspora, settler society adopted the convenient myth that the Slocan Valley was unpopulated until the arrival of Europeans,” writes Barkley. “Whether a Sinixt presence in the Slocan continues to grow remains to be seen. But perhaps it is now possible to acknowledge, as previously it was not, that the tragedy embedded in the Slocan has been the Sinixt’s loss of their homelands.”

The booklet was designed and produced by Sean Arthur Joyce of Chameleonfire Editions, with full-colour illustrations throughout—a first for the series. This makes the archaeological maps and rock paintings spring to life from the page. At just 48 pages, Sinixt in the Slocan makes for a quick but highly informative read.

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Listen to an interview with authors Nathan Goodale and Lori Barkley: