Everyone’s Invited to July 1 Picnic!

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Peter Jonker

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Sturgeon Nosed Canoe Family. Photo: Touchstones Nelson Archives.

The Lardeau Valley Historical Society is celebrating Canada 150 by hosting an Everyone’s Invited! picnic, Saturday, July 1 and by opening the History of the Earl Grey Trail photo exhibit at the Meadow Creek Museum.

However, this celebration must not happen without some serious reflection on how the longstanding relationships of Indigenous cultures with Canada’s landscape have been profoundly insulted (indeed, dismantled) over the last several hundred years. The Earl Grey Trail is a case in point.

Already in the early 1800s, this trail was widely known as the Kinbasket Trail – Kinbasket being an English attempt to pronounce Kenpesq’et. Not only did Chief Kenpesq’et historically lead a group of his Secwepemc people from the North Thompson River to the head of the Columbia River, but this trail was undoubtedly used for countless prior generations by regional Indigenous groups to reach hunting/gathering areas and undertake intercultural meetings and trade. The trail follows over the Purcell Mountain Range, beginning at what is now Argenta and ending upstream from present-day Invermere.

Giving names to geographic landmarks is a form of cultural appropriation. Canada’s new European immigrants were aggressive appropriators, eagerly stamping the landscape with labels that evoked home country nostalgia and heroics. This in blatant disregard for the names long before provided from Indigenous cultural contexts. Why, for example, Macbeth Glacier? Why Earl Grey Pass, Earl Grey and Lady Gray Mountains and Earl Grey Trail?

Not to disparage Earl Grey himself. He was, after all, Canada’s Governor General from 1904 – 1911. As it was, he must have greatly ennobled the trail in 1908 when, after spending a week touring Okanagan orchards, he followed it and, enthusiastically expounding the prevailing colonialist sentiment of the time, in his official report to the Premier wrote, “The road, the whole way from Argenta to Windermere, was a continuous and delightful surprise to me. I am convinced that if this route were made accessible to tourists and the steps taken to advertise its attractions, you would bring to this part of your Province a steady increasing stream of visitors and settlers.” Not long afterward, he built a family cabin on Toby Creek toward the Invermere side of the Range.

Although Earl Grey Pass was awarded its official name by the Geographical Names Board of Canada in 1910, Mount Earl Grey in 1924 and Mount Lady Grey in 1963, the name Earl Grey Trail has no official status. Yet, for some unexplained reason, it too fell victim by virtue of common usage. The door is wide open to abandoning usage of this name and reverting to Kinbasket Trail or, perhaps better yet, Kenpesq’et Trail.

Let us all celebrate Canada 150 by reflecting on the enormous impact that colonization has had on the original Canadian peoples who called these mountains and valleys their home, in their terms. Let us, also, celebrate Canada’s Indigenous heritage, as the History of the Earl Grey Trail photo exhibit intends to do.

The beautiful photo exhibit was created by Elizabeth Scarlett and Florence Woodhurst of the Kootenay Lake Historical Society and supported with funds from Columbia Basin Trust and the Canada 150 Funding Program.

Yes, everyone is invited on July 1 to Meadow Creek! For details, please refer to our Pennywise advertisement.