St. Eugene History

July 28, 2011

Mission Overview 

The History of St. Eugene

Our history is one of the things that makes St. Eugene stand apart from other resorts.  No visit is complete without visiting the Interpretive Centre and taking a walk through the Mission building to view the historical photographs.  To satisfy the history buffs, the following is a summary of the resort’s history.

Ktunaxa (pronounced “k-too-nah-ha”) people have occupied the lands adjacent to the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers and the Arrow Lakes of British Columbia, Canada for more than 10,000 years. The Traditional Territory of the Ktunaxa Nation covers approximately 70,000 square kilometres within the Kootenay region of south-eastern British Columbia and historically included parts of Alberta, Montana, Washington and Idaho.

For thousands of years, the Ktunaxa people enjoyed the natural bounty of the land, seasonally migrating throughout the Traditional Territory to follow vegetation and hunting cycles. The people obtained all of their food, medicine, and material for shelter and clothing from nature – hunting, fishing and gathering throughout the Territory, across the Rocky Mountains and on the Great Plains of both Canada and the United States. European settlement in the late 1800’s, followed by the establishment of Indian Reserves led to the creation of the present Indian Bands.

In 1873, the Oblate Order founded a mission near the current site.  The mission’s first building served initially as a school and residence, and then later, as a hospital. 

In 1893, Pierre, a Ktunaxa First Nations member discovered a rich ore body and brought a sample of rich galena ore to Father Coccola, who was the head of the St. Eugene Mission. Father Coccola and Pierre both staked claims above the town of Moyie, where the ore was found. 

The Artisan Shop (originally the woodworking shop) and the Retail Store (originally the blacksmith shop) were built in approximately 1893.

Father Coccolo sold the claim for $12,000 and constructed the St. Eugene Church in 1897.  Prefabricated in Italy, the church is an example of only a few late Victorian wooden churches surviving in British Columbia, and features the original Italian made stain glass windows.  The St. Eugene Church has been closed to await restoration since November 2004.

Within 10 years, the St. Eugene Mine produced more than $10 million, giving the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company its start.  The company later became Cominco, and presently, Teck Cominco.

The capital caused the Mission to become self-supporting, milling its own grain in the first flour mill in the region.  In 1910, the Canadian government funded and constructed the Mission school.  The Oblates of May Immaculate operated the school, which was the first comprehensive Indian “Industrial and Residential” school to be built in the Canadian West.

5000 children from the area’s Ktunaxa Nation, as well as from the Okanagan, Shuswap, and Blackfoot Nations attended the school until its closure in 1970 due to a change in government policy.

In 1973 the BC Government leased the Mission with the intent of turning it into a facility for psychiatric care. The building was stripped of historic fixtures and artifacts.  After spending $750,000 on renovations, the project was abandoned. The following winter the pipes burst and the building suffered severe damage from internal flooding. For the next twenty years the building remained empty.

The Golf Course opened in May 2000, the Casino opened in September 2002, and the Hotel opened in January 2003.  St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino is owned by a partnership of the Ktunaxa Kinbasket, the Samson Cree of Alberta, and the Mnjikaning of Ontario.

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