Cranbrook Community Album
The site now known as Cranbrook has been seasonally occupied by the Ktunaxa Nation for more than 10,000 years. This fertile grassland developed in the basin of an ancient glacial lake. It was a productive place with excellent berry crops good fishing streams and abundant hunting opportunities. Akisq'aq'li'it was a favoured camp site for the Ktunaxa Nation.
In 1865 the Dewdney Trail was completed from Hope to Galbraith's Ferry, crossing Joseph's Prairie in the vicinity of where Galbraith would build his store. Arthur T. Bushby, in his 1864 journal had this to say:
"Monday 26 Sept. 1864 - Camped 3 m. this side of St. Joseph's prairie making 15 m. lost our horses and out of grub. B.E. & myself started on foot for St. Joseph's prairie where we expected to find Haynes horses in charge of a halfbreed. B's shoes gave out and he had to take to his stockings. St. Joseph's prairie 12 m. did not find the horses but some packers camped. Waited for our animals. Had a fine view of the Rocky Mountains. St. Joseph's Prairie is a fine piece of land."
When the Ktunaxa people obtained horses Akisq'aq'li'it became an important pasturage. The name changed to "Joseph's Prairie", after an early leader of the group that used this area, Chief Joseph Chief Isadore, a leader of the St. Mary's band in the late 1880s, used the prairie extensively in the summer to graze his large herds. When the Reserve Commission established reserves for First Nations people in 1884 access to grazing resources became a flashpoint.
John Galbraith, who had purchased the land from the government in the 1870s, had always pursued a policy of sharing access with the Ktunaxa. When he sold the Joseph's Prairie property to Colonel James Baker the Ktunaxa were fenced out of their traditional lands. The land use of this particular section was one of the central difficulties that led to the "Kootenay Crisis" of 1887.
Tensions between the Ktunaxa people and the incoming gold miners, ranchers and traders grew. With the coming of the North West Mounted Police in 1887 talks were held between the Ktunaxa, Colonel Baker and other competing interests. In the negotiated settlement the grazing land was replaced and the Ktunaxa under Chief Isadore were compensated for development work at what was now Colonel Baker's "Cranbrook" estate.
The Ktunaxa people continue to be part of the place now called Cranbrook. Members of the Nation live here, attend school and participate in the community. The impacts on this property since John Galbraith first filed a pre-emption in 1885 on a portion of the present townsite have been enormous.