The Lower Kootenay Band canoe team disembarks after a 73-kilometre trek from Bonners Ferry

The Lower Kootenay Band canoe team disembarks after a 73-kilometre trek from Bonners Ferry

Canoe trek brings Lower Kootenay Band members back to former village location on Idaho-B.C. border

Web Lead

  • Jun. 23, 2014 7:00 a.m.

The Lower Kootenay Band canoe team made a proud return to the site of a former Ktunaxa village at the Canada-U.S. border on Friday, rowing 73 kilometres along the Kootenay River from Bonners Ferry, Idaho, to get there.

“It’s very important that after 100 years, our people returned to Aqunuk,” said LKB Chief Jason Louie, after the team disembarked on the Canadian side of the border.

The village, Aqunuk, was a small one, Louie said, centred around the inlet between the Rykerts (Canada) and Porthill (U.S.) ports of entry over a century ago. But with the border running through the village, neither government allowed its residents to stay.

“Our people were forcibly removed, never to return until today,” said Louie.

About a dozen rowers — mainly youth, the remainder of 23 who started rowing in March — including Louie and coaches Scott Bayley, Jesse Willicome and Dan Cameron started the trek on June 19, camping overnight along the way. The journey took a total of 11 hours — seven on Thursday and four on Friday — and the participants had to dig deep to make it home, but it was worth it.

“We all earned it and worked so hard for it,” said team captain Shianne Gronen. “There’s been great times, great laughter and great memories.”