The Similkameen Valley has been inhabited by the Sylix people for many millennia. They are part of what is now called the Okanagan Nation, whose traditional territory extends from the Thompson River to where the Okanagan River joins the Columbia River.
The Sylix tell a story that a Spanish expedition came to the Similkameen and killed some of their people. The Sylix counter-attacked. A famous petroglyph shows men on horses leading a line of bound captives. The first recorded visit by a non-native in the Similkameen Valley is by Alexander Ross in 1813.
The establishment of an international boundary in 1846 prompted the Hudson’s Bay Company to move their trading post from Fort Okanogan, Washington. A post was established at present-day Cawston on the Dewdney Trail, that connected the Fraser Valley with the Kootenay region. Almost immediately the post was moved to the Upper Bench, above present-day Keremeos. The establishment of the trading post drew settlers, many of whom are commemorated by local place names. A living landmark from the early era is the Keremeos Grist Mill, built in 18??, and open to the public today.
In 1886 the Federal government established native land reserves. Some of the Sylix people had become ranchers. Some reserves conformed to ranching parcels and are occupied to this day by descendants of the original First Nations ranchers.
A community known as Upper Keremeos formed around the trading post. Following a fire in 1904, the community centre moved ½ mile south and was called Keremeos Centre. When word came that the Great Northern Railway was being built through the Similkameen, speculators bought land closer to the river. Quickly, this community grew into what is now the Village of Keremeos.
Historic Photo Gallery
The historic photo gallery will be updated as new photos become available.