Indigenous peoples have stewarded the ecological diversity of this area since time immemorial. The Skagit headwaters are considered the territories of the Nlaka’pamux, Stó:lō, and Upper Skagit people. Syilx, Similkameen (Okanagan) and Nooksack peoples have used the area as well. The name “Skagit” comes from the Upper Skagit people’s name for their language, “sqajit ucid.”
For thousands of years, this unceded Indigenous territory has been a gateway for travel and trade between different ecological areas and cultural groups. It’s been an important place for hunting, trapping, and gathering of important resources like plants, stone and medicines that could not be found elsewhere.
Colonization and a gold rush in the Skagit brought devastating impacts on Indigenous peoples’ ways of life. Following this, the mid-twentieth century saw the valley become a prime recreation area. The trails many people enjoy hiking today including the Skyline, Centennial and Whatcom trails were all established by Indigenous peoples.
In 1967, the BC government quietly agreed with the Seattle City Lights company to build a dam that would flood the upper Skagit Valley to provide hydroelectricity to the growing city.