First Nations tradition and the Gold Rush era, as well as cattle ranching, and most recently, viticulture, characterize Lillooet's rich culture and history.
Today, visitors can experience these cultural and historical elements at the Lillooet Museum, on several cultural tours and at historic and heritage sites.
Archeological evidence indicates that the Sekw'el'was, or Cayoose Creek Band lived on Cayoosh Flat (which became Lillooet) for thousands of years, occupying "Sheesh'kans," or pit houses in large family groups. Trails created by these early inhabitants lace the surrounding hillsides and are still in use as popular hiking trails. Today, archeologists are working with Lillooet First Nations to excavate an extensive village of pit houses and food caches dating back approximately 2,000 years.
First Nations pictographs (delicate rock paintings) are seen throughout Lillooet and surrounding area. One of the largest pictograph sites is located in Stein Valley Nlaka'pamux Heritage Park, about an hour from Lillooet. There are also pictographs north of Lillooet near the Fraser River where it joins the Bridge River.
Pioneers and Prospectors
In the late 1850s, prospectors, settlers, and miners came through Lillooet in search of gold. Here they could gather supplies before heading to the rich gold fields of the area, and eventually north to Bridge River, the Cariboo and Barkerville.
The Mile '0' Cairn is a monument erected in 1939 to commemorate the old Cariboo Road, the starting point of the Gold Rush Road in Lillooet. Other stopping points farther along this route, 70 Mile House, 100 Mile House, etc., are measured from this point. The cairn is located in the centre of Lillooet, although the actual mile zero is across the river in east Lillooet.
Gold was not the exclusive draw to Lillooet. Cattle ranching also held potential riches, as well as the services that cropped up around this industry, such as stores, hotels, and bars. It was early Gold Rush and cattle ranching settlers that established the bustling community that officially became Lillooet in 1860.
Jade and Wine
Jade, British Columbia's official gemstone and once used exclusively by First Nations people to make beautiful everyday tools like hide scrappers and axes, was abundant in the hillsides of Lillooet. Jade, believed to bring health, wealth, and happiness in Chinese culture, was primarily sourced from BC for markets around the world. Lillooet's Jade Park has three large boulders demonstrating the sheer size of these valuable stones. Take the Jade Walk through town, which features 30 boulders, cut and polished on one or two sides to display their unique characteristics and colouring.
Lillooet is also developing its viticulture. With a climate very similar to that of the southern Okanagan wine country, Lillooet's hopes for a wine industry are bright. The first commercial winery in Lillooet opened in 2009. A vineyard planted that same year will eventually form part of the supply for this winery.
Lillooet Museum & Historical Sites
Discover Lillooet's heritage on foot with a self-guided walking tour of 14 historical locations. As part of this tour, stop by the Lillooet Museum for more information about the culture and history of Lillooet.