Life in Hedley
People have lived in the Similkameen River valley for 7000 years. First Nations people mined and traded ochre and chert. Hedley Town was built in the middle of Indian land.
At its peak, Hedley and the town on the mountain had about 1000 residents, five hotels, and everything else needed in a frontier mining town. Over the years floods, rock falls and fires have consumed parts of the town, but much remains to be explored. We have provided a film set and extras for Malone, The Pledge (the church), and The Andromeda Strain.
We celebrate Stamp Mill Day on Saturday of the May long weekend. We still live with deer in our gardens and bears on our porches. And sometimes we wonder if there is still gold waiting up in the clouds.
The Mascot Mine
A rival mine with a dramatic history dug into the mountainside high above the valley, driving 67 kilometers of tunnels between 1935 and 1949. These mine buildings still cling to the cliff and have been repaired by the Upper Similkameen Indian Band so that visitors may safely explore them and walk into the mine portal to experience a spectacular special effects tour. You may also visit the Snaza’ist Interpretive Center. Tours will commence May 1. They take 4.5 hours. Be sure to confirm ahead.
The Nickel Plate Mine
Gold was found on Nickel Plate mountain in 1898. The ore was rich but it had to be extracted from the host rock by crushing and chemical treatment.
By 1903, men were digging the first of 120 kilometers of tunnels into the mountain and building a tramway and a 40 stamp mill. Men climbed the mountain each day to go to work until a second town for 200 persons was built on the mountain top.
Nickel Plate operated as an underground mine until 1955. The average price of gold over those years had been about $40 per ounce. Houses, rail tracks and the mill machinery were removed. The mine was reopened in 1986 and worked for ten years as an open pit mine.
In the Similkameen / Similkameen Crossroads
Situated at an elbow of the Similkameen Valley, over looking Hedley BC, a tall mountain is marked by a distinctive striped rock face. The Nysilcen word for it is Snaza’Ist, meaning “Striped Rock Place”. The story goes that Bear scarred the mountain here when he took a swipe at Chipmunk, and missed.
A mere pit stop on the side of the highway to most travellers, this is where the Upper Similkameen Band calls home, and where generations of First Nations and Europeans have put down roots, establishing their cultural and spiritual traditions, and telling stories.
Metis artist Tyler Hagan spent weeks here, gathering images and interviews, in search of a deeper understanding of the relationshiop between place, faith, and identity. Similkameen Crossroads, an interactive web documentary, pulls off the highway here and explores an idyllic white church located on the Upper Similkameen Reserve church and the land around it long enough to place it, to learn its history, and to meet its present while confronting the conflicted position of the Church on First Nations reserves in Canada.
It is a highly personal undertaking for Hagan, who, since obtaining his Metis citizenship, has struggle do reconcile his suburban Chirstian upbringing with the realities of the Churches’ role in subverting Indigenous culture.
The people of the Similkameen Valley were incredibly generous with their stories and their time. The beliefs and practices the descrbe simultaneously encompass complex, often contradictory, spiritual and cultural identities. In the end, what they offer Hagan is an invaluable working model for a ‘way of being’ that comfortably embraces multiplicity.
Check out the interactive web documentary here.