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Early Explorers

In 1807, the Ktunaxa were visited by the first of the white people who would trickle, then flow, into the trench and change its workings. David Thompson, fur trader and map-making explorer crossed the Rocky Mountains and explored down the trench as the first of the fur traders for European buyers. A few traders, some seekers of ways west, filtered in until the mid-19th century, learning the passes and the rivers. These white men knew Aqkts ga ktleet as Joseph's Prairie, a fine, open stretch of range at a crossroads. Joseph was a Ktunaxa Chief. Prospectors, as numerous as gophers, but not as numerous as the mosquitoes, poked into the gulches of anywhere, and in 1863 they found gold in the Wild Horse, just north of Joseph's Prairie. The rush was on. Some 5000 people, mostly men, rushed to Wild Horse to pan and prosper. They stayed for a year or two, then rushed elsewhere, leaving the Kootenays largely quiet again.

But never as quiet. Prospectors were always coming in small lots. Men who had pre-empted land dreamed of making big cities based on the mineral wealth they would tap for themselves from the mountains so clearly underlain with mineral riches. They buckled down to land development.

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