Dusk from atop Battle Bluff

(Andrew Strain photo)


Culture & History

Kamloops takes its name from the Shuswap word "Tk'emlups," meaning "meeting place."

Situated at the confluence of the North and South Thompson rivers, the site was a meeting place for trade between First Nations people, and the location of the city of Kamloops.

The history of Kamloops and the surrounding Thompson Okanagan region is marked by the nomadic culture of First Nations, gold prospecting, fur trading, cattle ranching, and railway development – all of which are attributable to Kamloops' geographic proximity to the Thompson River junction.

Today, Kamloops is also the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway, Yellowhead Highway, Highway 97, two national rail lines, and Rocky Mountaineer, which travels between Vancouver, Banff and Jasper, Alberta.  

First Nations

The Shuswap of the Interior Salish Nation were the first inhabitants of the Kamloops area, nomadically traveling according to seasonal fishing and hunting. Today's 1,000-member Tk'emlups te Secwepemc, direct descendents of these nomadic peoples, have a close and integrated relationship with the city and its residents. The Tk'emlups te Secwepemc band lands are a residential area, supported by various industries, including ranching and farming.

European Settlement

Europeans first visited the Kamloops area in 1811, when fur trading (mostly beaver pelts) began along the Okanagan Valley to the Thompson River, subsequently resulting in the establishment of a Hudson Bay Company post. Following the fur trade, the discovery of gold brought many prospectors (the majority coming from the US and China) to the area in the late 1850s. Some miners panned for gold in nearby creeks, while many others passed through Kamloops on route to the gold mines along the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast.

Canadian Pacific Railway

Construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) reached the area in 1883, and with the establishment of a small village on the south shore of the Thompson River. Many Chinese immigrants were employed to lay the railway track. Today, a cemetery on the west side of Kamloops is the only cemetery in Canada devoted to Chinese workers who died building the Canadian Pacific Railway. By the time the railway was completed, hotels, stores, churches, schools, and a hospital had solidified the permanent establishment of Kamloops (officially incorporated in 1893).

Check out the Kamloops Museum & Archives to learn more about the culture and history of Kamloops.