History of the Land


The advance and retreat of the great continental glaciers had scoured and deposited a bowl-shaped valley north of Lake Okanagan. It is rimmed and occasionally traversed by the more resilient highlands today bearing names like Hunters ‘ Range, Eagle Rock, Rose Swanson Mountain and Knob Hill. To the southwest is a large terraced plateau, named, appropriately, “Grandview Flats”. Barely discernable, a height of land has traversed the valley; two drainage systems have continued to mould the terrain. Fortune Creek fed by a series of small streams, flows north and east to meet the Shuswap River, which, in turn, joins the Shuswap, Thompson and Fraser watersheds. From the north, the spring-fed Deep Creek meanders south, creating ravines, marshes and Otter Lake on its way to the northwest arm of Lake Okanagan.

Ancient Peoples

Throughout the last several thousand years, the ancestors of the contemporary Secwépemc spread out from an ancient homeland in the South Central interior of British Columbia. They moved from the south and main Thompson River areas along the valleys and upriver areas of the Fraser River to the area beyond Xats’úll (Soda Creek), wintering on both sides of the river (Teit 1909), and to the Quesnel Highlands and beyond.

The word Secwépemc (from s = nominalizer + cwep = “spread out” + emc/mec = “people”— means “the spread-out people. Secwepemcúl̓ecw, our homeland, was not a static entity. It grew and shrank over a period of several thousand years as our ancestors became Salish-speaking some 5,000 years ago, and as they subsequently developed separate cultural, political, and linguistic identities. Like many other nations, the boundaries of our homeland were dynamic, defined by changes in ecology and economy, as well as by changing political and social conditions. The external boundaries and internal “divisions” of Secwepemcúl̓ecw as they existed during the first half of the nineteenth century, and before the massive influx of European colonizers, was documented by fur traders during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. (Detailed in ethnographer James Teit’s 1909 ethnography and accompanying map, comprising some 165,000 km2).

In the Arrow Lakes area, our Secwépemc ancestors hunted along with Ts’wén̓emc (Okanagan people) and with the group known as the Sinaixt (Pryce 1999). In the south, after centuries of warfare with the Ts’wen̓emc (Okanagan) between 1500 or earlier and the late 1700s AD (Teit 1930; Ignace and Ignace forthcoming), the Secwepemc and Okanagan settled on their boundary and access to hunting grounds, plant gathering areas and fishing lakes by way of treaties among nations (Ignace 2008; Ignace and Ignace forthcoming; Teit 1930).

“We travelled a lot. There was no such thing as private property. All the Secwépemc dialect people shared the whole territory of the Secwépemc Nation .Nothing was private property: we always shared.

(In: Thomas 2001, The Wisdom of Dr. Mary Thomas).

Many generations of Interior Salish peoples found the area a bountiful source of wildlife and vegetation; hunted and gathered for their permanent village sites near the larger lakes. A few archaeological sites have been located within the boundaries of Spallumcheen Municipality. The Spallumcheen Band lands border the municipality to the north. Not surprisingly, the original name of the large river nearby was “Spallumcheen”, not “Shuswap”, the name assigned to it by the Federal Department of the Interior cartographers.

The Settlers

During the 1880s, that formative decade preceding the coming of the Shuswap and Okanagan Railway, preliminary efforts to provide transportation for communication and commerce had been undertaken. Otter Lake Road served as the main road through the North Okanagan. As Charles Le Duc recalls,”from 0 Keefe’s the road followed much the same course as it does today to Moffat ‘s Corner (where Fraser Road is today). After reaching that place it turned to the east, passing up the long hill north of the lsland ‘. This, the site of the present town of Armstrong, was a slight elevation of land consisting of several acres of fir and cotton wood trees which stood in the center of a swamp. From the Island, the road went through bush to bottom land at Deep Creek. There it crossed the creek and ascended the hill on the other side coming out into open fields at Lansdowne.”

Armstrong, named after an English investor in the S & 0 Railway, was founded on land sold to the S & 0 by Robert Wood. Wood, Daniel Rabbitt and E. C. Cargill were the first developers on the townsite which became the commercial and administrative core of Spallumcheen.

Pleasant Valley developed a distinct identity around its school which was built on the Ehmke homestead and numbered the OKeefe and Greenhow children in its classes. Pleasant Valley Road was one of the earlier roads linking the Spallumcheen Valley with the fledgling settlements of Priest ‘s Valley and Okanagan Landing.