Indigenous Culture

We would like to acknowledge, with gratitude and appreciation, that the land on which we walk and live is the traditional territories of the Sinixt, the Syilx, and the Ktunaxa peoples, and is home to many other indigenous persons, including the Inuit and Metis.

The Civic Theatre in Nelson is hosting the STOODIS Indigenous Film Festival June 23 - 27, 2023.  

The Ktunaxa

The Ktunaxa (pronounced ‘k-too-nah-ha’) people have been in our region, along Kootenay Lake, for more than 10,000 years. Ktunaxa lived across many kilometres in the modern day boundaries of British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, Washington and Idaho. They lived off the land migrating throughout the seasons following the water, protection from the elements, hunting and collecting herbs, medicines and vegetables.

In the late 1800s European settlements establishment the Indian Reserves, which led to the present Indian Bands. There are six Bands located throughout historic traditional Ktunaxa territory. Many live on and off the reserves creating new employment and business opportunities. The most significant impact of the Ktunaxa in our region has been the acquisition of Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort by the Yaqan Nukiy (Lower Kootenay Band).

The Ktunaxa language is very unique and titled landmarks confirm this region as traditional Ktunaxa land. They are a distinctive people with their own language, arts and culture. 

The Ktunaxa are connected to the Grizzly Bear Spirit that was born here. The Grizzly Bear Spirit is an important source of guidance, strength, protection and spirituality for the Ktunaxa. You can learn more about them on their website. Their creation story takes you on a journey of learning and understanding their values, then and now.

We are beginning to tell their stories; connecting, appreciating and honouring the land that we walk and live on.  Here is a video showing the homeland of the Ktunaxa and their creation story in the Rocky Mountains.

We encourage you to learn with us, and from time to time there will be a speaker or celebration recognizing the First Nations,  their story and land. Our community calendar is a good place to look for such events. 


Pictographs on the shores of Kootenay Lake.
Photo: Nelson Star News

There are pictographs located along the lower rockwalls of Kootenay Lake. If you paddle by, looking closely, you may see remnants of a time gone by, animals and lifestyle of the Indigenous peoples.

Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort

Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort

Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort is owned and operated by the Lower Kootenay Band of Creston

They embraced the nupika wu’u, Spirit Water, or hot mineral waters, for their healing and rejuvenating powers. Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort has been welcoming guests since the 1930s and has upgraded its facility to be a one-of-a-kind experience. The Spirit Waters Spa and Ktunaxa Grill, along with the soothing pools and cave makes for a memorable, and relaxing experience. 

The Syilx

The Syilx of the Okanagan Nation, live in eight communities in the interior of British Columbia and Washington. Okanagan First Nations once travelled widely to fishing, gathering and hunting areas. Each year, the first harvests of roots, berries, fish and game were celebrated by ceremonies honouring the food chiefs who provided for the people. During the winter, people returned to permanent winter villages. Osoyoos has the Desert Cultural Centre which is rich in history about the Sylix. 

The Sinixt

In 1956, the Sinixt people were declared extinct by the Canadian government. In 2021, after an 11 year battle, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Sinixt should have access to their traditional hunting territory, which encompasses a large part of the West Kootenay region. The people are returning, visiting their homeland, and bringing back their culture to our area. We welcome them back with open arms, and hearts. One day we hope to have exhibits and experiences for you to learn more about the Sinixt and their ways.

The Nelson Museum, Archives & Gallery

The Nelson Museum, Archives & Gallery possesses a wealth of information about our region: geographically, culturally and historically. The permanent museum on the second floor takes you on a journey before political boundaries; only the boundaries of mountains and waterways existed. The journey of the Indigenous people then leads into European exploration, trade, mining, trains, hydropower and into today. 

Langham Cultural Centre

Kaslo has a diverse history with immigrants and First Nations caring for and living off the land. The Langham Cultural Centre holds images and stories of the past on its walls and also curates contemporary exhibits in its main gallery. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the vast influences of this little village. They regularly have events and can be found on the community calendar.

First Peoples' Map of BC

British Columbia is home to 203 First Nations communities and an amazing diversity of Indigenous languages. Learn more about the languages and territories at

The Region

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Read our visitors guide online or order a copy of the official visitor's guide and map for our region.