Our History

The community of Smithers was founded in 1913 as the divisional headquarters of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. The community took its name from Sir Alfred Smithers, the chairman of the board of directors of the railway. Alfred Avenue is also named after him. Lake Kathlyn, one of the most familiar spots in the Smithers area, is named after the daughter of William P. Hinton, General Manager and Vice President of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway at that time.

In 1921, Smithers was designated as the first incorporated village in British Columbia. Development of local mineral and agricultural resources were encouraged and a steady economic growth was realized. In 1967, Smithers moved from the status of village to incorporated town.

Pioneer settlers made Smithers their home because of the fertile valley soil, abundant mineral riches, and imposing coniferous forests. Many of the non-traditional names of mountain ranges in the area reflect the prospecting efforts of the early settlers, including Silver King Basin.

Following World War II, many Europeans--especially Dutch and Swiss families--immigrated to Smithers.

First Nations

The name Wet'suwet'en can be roughly translated as "People of the lower hills". The Wet'suwet'en are part of the Athapaskan language family. Their territory surrounds the Bulkley River in the northern interior of British Columbia. The territory of the Wet'suwet'en Nation extends from the village of Hagwilget in the New Hazelton area in the west to Burns Lake in the east. From Moricetown in the north it stretches to the Ootsa Lake area in the south. Within this expansive territory there are six Wet'suwet'en communities (Hagwilget, Moricetown, Broman Lake, Burns Lake, Skin Tyee, and Nee Tahi Buhn) in addition to the communities of Smithers, Telkwa, Houston, and Burns Lake.

Central to the Wet'suwet'en culture is their traditional system of governance based upon five clans: Gitdumden (Wolf), Laksamishyu (Fireweed), Tsayu (Beaver), Gilseyhyu (Big Frog), and Laksilyu (Small Frog). Every clan is divided into houses with each house comprised of a sort of extended family. There are thirteen Wet'suwet'en houses. Each house has a hereditary chief (the Chief's name is passed on in the line for perpetuity). Usually there are Wing Chiefs (Sub Chiefs) for each House as well.

Every Wet'suwet'en individual is born in a Clan and a House base on matrilineal descent (i.e. through the mother's heritage). The entire Wet'suwet'en system is based upon mutual support and long-term relationships. There are currently 5000 Wet'suwet'en members throughout the territory and away from home.