Sweet home, Ootischenia

November 18, 2016


“Somebody pinch me” is a phrase often used when something feels too good to be true.

That’s the feeling a group of us from FortisBC had recently when we visited Ootischenia, the future home of our new Kootenay Operations Centre.

If you’ve ever had a chance to visit the Kootenays, you’ll know that in addition to tremendous natural beauty, it boasts a rich history. Ootischenia is a true testament to all of it.

Ootischenia, a small community in Castlegar, runs along the east bank of the Columbia River at the confluence of the Kootenay River in a valley surrounded by lush, green mountains.

We chose the location because it was central to our electricity operations but in the early 1900s, the Doukhobors chose it to start a new life. They transformed the area from an abandoned mining camp to a communal farming village. In fact, it was their iconic leader, Peter Verigin, who named the region Ootischenia, meaning “Valley of Consolation”. We look forward to visiting one of our new neighbours, the Doukhobor Discovery Centre to explore this rich heritage and perhaps pick up some great borscht recipes.

The actual site of our new facility was also once home to Ootischenia Elementary school until it closed in 1986.

But well before the elementary school students, Doukhobors and miners, it was a hub of activity for many Aboriginal peoples — this region is within the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation, Lakes People, Okanagan Nation and Secwepemc Nation.

FortisBC’s own history has long been intertwined with the Kootenays with operations in the area that go back over 100 years. We appreciate its beauty and unique heritage. We feel very fortunate to be making the stunning area of Ootischenia our new Kootenay home and contributing to its rich history in the years ahead.

The new Kootenay Operations Centre opened at the end of 2017.

A sawmill that was known as Kamenoe (loosely translates to Rucky Bluff) which was on the north end of Ootischenia along the Kootenay River (photo courtesy of the Doukhobor Discovery Centre).

An early logging camp located in what’s now Ootischenia (photo courtesy of the Doukhobor Discovery Centre).

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