Between 1908 and 1913, about 5,000 Doukhobors came to settle here after the Dominion government of the day reversed the land settlement policy and they were forced to forfeit their hard won Saskatchewan settlements. This spacious and beautiful valley was to become their new place of refuge, and Peter V. Verigin named it Dolina Ootishenia, the Valley of Consolation. Near the original settlement of Brilliant, so named after the sparkling waters, is the historic suspension bridge built in 1913, now acclaimed a National Heritage Site.
This valley is the confluence of the Kootenay – Columbia Rivers, an historic transportation route. David Thompson was the first European to travel through here between 1807 to 1812. Placer gold mining created rudimentary trails from 1850 to 1875. In 1898 the Canadian Pacific Railway was extended to Kootenay Lake and goods began to arrive by steamer in Nelson, supplying this area from the north instead of the south.
Major agrarian settlement began with the arrival of the Doukhobors in 1908, and by 1914, their land holdings in BC totalled over 14,000 acres. By the time Peter V. Verigin suffered an untimely tragic death in 1924, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, incorporated in 1917, operated 71,600 acres of improved land mostly in BC, but also included operations in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
There were 90 villages similar to this museum construction in BC, about 60 in this Kootenay area. The Doukhobor Village Museum illustrates the history and heritage of the Doukhobors who settled and prospered here as the largest communal enterprise in North America until 1938, when the commune folded due to the onset of the depression and active efforts by outside forces to bring about assimilation.
The Doukhobor Discovery Centre is located across from the Airport in Castlegar and is open 10am – 5pm daily from May 1 to September 30.
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