Before the Best British Columbia Fishing Lodge Arrived: A History of Sointula

Whether you’ve already had a chance to visit or are just starting to plan your first trip, you likely know Sointula as the home of one of the best British Columbia fishing lodges the province has to offer. But while Malcolm Island may be small, the island is home to more than just Sointula Lodge.

Today, the town of Sointula is small, with fewer than 700 year-round residents. But it attracts several times that number of tourists during the summer months. Many come to cast a line for salmon and halibut or are hoping to spot an orca on the island’s famous whale rubbing beach. But others come for the scenic views, the town’s quaint atmosphere, and its rich history.

Whether you’ve made plans to venture beyond Sointula Lodge during your visit or not, keep reading to learn a bit more about the history of this unique destination.

Who Were the First European Settlers of Malcolm Island?

If you opt to travel to Sointula Lodge via a floatplane, you’ll have a chance to see some of the stunning and remote scenery that surrounds it. After seeing how much wilderness surrounds Malcolm Island, you might be surprised to learn that the island’s first European settlers arrived more than 100 years ago. 

The island was first inhabited by members of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. These First Nation tribes lived in a territory that stretched across the northern portion of modern-day Vancouver Island, and covered many surrounding islands and inlets, including Malcolm Island. But these tribes had largely left the area when the first European settlers arrived.

The first group of settlers was a group of Finnish immigrants who had previously lived on Vancouver Island. There, they worked in mines under harsh conditions. In 1901, a small group of settlers decided to leave those conditions behind, and go in search of a location to establish a new, self-sustaining village. They dreamed of creating a utopian society where members could live and work together in harmony. A year after they first arrived, additional members and families joined them, bringing their numbers to around 2,000 people.

It wasn’t long before trouble started. In 1903, their community hall was destroyed in a fire, which also claimed the lives of 11 villagers. Many of their supplies were destroyed, and financial issues that had already begun were quickly worsened. By 1905, the community had declared bankruptcy.

The Birth of Today’s Sointula

After the community declared bankruptcy, many of its residents returned to Vancouver Island or opted to move elsewhere. The land was mostly returned to the government. However, a few families remained, keeping their farms and the small town that they had established. 

The town of Sointula experienced several periods of growth during the mid to late-1900s. It reached its height in the 1970s. The towns residents mainly made their living in commercial fishing or logging. But as these industries began to decline, the population decreased once more.

Today, fewer than 700 residents make their homes in Sointula. Many of these residents are descendants of the town’s original Finnish settlers. The town still retains much of its Finnish charm. You can spot examples of Finnish-inspired architecture in the homes and businesses of Sointula. The Finnish language is still spoken by some residents and can be spotted on signs in the community.

The Cooperative Store, which has long served residents of Sointula, providing them with groceries, food, and other supplies, is now the oldest co-op store in British Columbia.

Visiting Sointula Today

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Sointula during your next visit, plan a visit to the Sointula Museum. Here, you can take a closer look at the more than 100-year history of the town’s settlement. Through photos, first-hand accounts, and hands-on exhibits, visitors have a chance to take a closer look at what life would have been like for the town’s first European settlers.

Don’t forget to take a stroll through Sointula today to look for remnants of the town’s rich history. Stop by the Co-Op store to purchase snacks. Hike the Mateoja Heritage Trail to see a 1900’s pioneer homestead, and see how those early settlers lived. 

Planning a Visit to Sointula and the Best British Columbia Fishing Lodge

Staying in a luxurious cabin at the best British Columbia fishing lodge might not help you experience what early settlers of Sointula once did. But when you’re on the water, wandering the town of Sointula, or simply admiring the region’s beautiful landscapes, you may just see why those early settlers thought that they had found the perfect location for their utopia.

Ready to experience this unique destination for yourself? Spots are filling up fast for 2022 visits to Sointula Lodge. Book your trip today to guarantee your spot.