The New Hazelton area, named after the hazel bushes on the area's terraces, has been home to the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en First Nations people for centuries.
In the mid-1860s, the pioneer community of Old Hazelton (now Hazelton Village) started to form along the river, the main trade route at the time. The Village, also known as Old Town, was a terminus for a fleet of sternwheelers from 1886 to 1913. The railway arrived in 1914, and with it came the establishment of New Hazelton and South Hazelton.
An engaging and active way to learn the history of the area while absorbing the local culture and surroundings is by walking around the communities, as well as along the Eagle Down Path which runs between the Hazelton Village and New Hazelton. Look for signs that talk about past events including a couple of the distinctive "Hands of History" signposts. These signposts are part of a self-guided tour that covers the entire Hazeltons. Each one describes a historical person or event. For the complete tour route, grab the pamphlet The Hazeltons: A Journey Through Time from the New Hazelton Visitor Centre.
Hazelton Village is referred to as Old Hazelton for a reason. The town's old buildings have been colourfully restored and antique machinery displayed every couple of blocks keeps the pioneer feeling alive here. The Riverboat Restaurant, a building in the shape of an old paddleboat, also adds a modern frontier town touch.
For a shorter walk through time, follow the historical walking tour of Hazelton Village brochure, available from the tourist kiosk by the river (open only in summer). The brochure includes information about the many restored historical buildings in Old Town. The tourism kiosk also offers free half hour tours.
Also be sure to check out the Hazelton Pioneer Museum and Archives in the Hazelton Village public library to see photos and artifacts from the era.
The Community Today
The Gitxsan are the majority population of the New Hazelton area, with the rest being Wet'suwet'en or of European descent. 'Ksan Historical Museum and Village creates an almost magical experience for visitors to learn more about the Gitxsan traditions. Visit 'Ksan, a recreated Gitxsan village from the 1800s, and tour the longhouses on site to understand how the people here once lived.
Each of the Hazeltons communities is slightly different, and act separately from one another, though the area considers itself a whole. Residents lead quiet lives, though they like to enjoy the beautiful surroundings as much as possible. Locals are keen fishers, athletes, and outdoor enthusiasts.