Secwépemc and Settler History of Kamloops Area

The City of Kamloops is located on Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc territory within the unceded ancestral lands of the Secwépemc Nation, Secwepemcúĺecw. Since time immemorial, Secwe̓pemc speaking people have lived in these lands as a connected set of communities united by kindred dialects, belief systems and cultural practices.

Self sufficient and self governing across a vast territory made up of mountain ranges, grasslands and river valleys, the Secwe̓pemc people share a deep understanding of the land and its character. Communities traditionally moved with and took advantage of seasonal changes, relocating strategically during warmer months to hunt, fish, and gather food and medicine; and assuming fixed residency during winter months in the comfort of pit house villages.

The trading of furs with non–Indigenous communities began in Kamloops in approximately 1811, when the American–owned Pacific Fur Company began trading with Secwépemc communities. The company established a trading post at the confluence of the North and South Thompson Rivers. The post would change ownership more than once before being taken over taken over by the English-owned Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821.

Almost four decades later, a massive influx of gold prospectors flooded into Kamloops, followed in 1862 by a smallpox epidemic that decimated Secwépemc communities locally and Indigenous populations province-wide. At the same time, under the leadership of Governor James Douglas, the new Colony of British Columbia began to establish reserve lands for Indigenous communities and offering settlers—including gold miners—access to land ownership; spurring ranching and farming activity in the region.

BC joined Confederation in 1871, courted by the promise of train service connecting it to the eastern provinces. By 1885 the newly completed Canadian Pacific Railway ran along the southern shore of the South Thompson River. The City of Kamloops would go on to incorporate in 1893 and, with the completion of the Canadian Northern Railway (later Canadian National Railway), firmly established itself as a provincial transportation hub.

The emergence of Kamloops as an administrative centre gave grounds for the establishment of a school intended to assimilate Indigenous children in 1890. Funded by the federal government and operated by the Catholic church after 1893, the institution expanded and became the Kamloops Indian Residential School. One of the largest in Canada’s Residential School system, it operated until 1969, when it became a day facility before ceasing operations in 1978. In 2021, radar technology corroborated long-held Secwe̓pemc knowing that children from the school—over 200—had been buried in the school’s grounds in unmarked graves.

More information on TteS history is available on the Tkemlups.ca website.