and Heritage Tours: Vancouver Island, Gulf & Discovery Islands
Events in the History of Vancouver
History of British Columbia
Events in the History of British
history of Vancouver Island is an interesting amalgamation of First
Nations and European culture.
It began with Captain Cook's arrival at Nootka Island in 1778 and,
subsequently, as English and Spanish explorers found their way to
the lush paradise of the Pacific Northwest.
Today, the combination of Aboriginal, Spanish and English heritage
is reflected in the place names along the coast.
Saturna, Galiano and Estevan have exotic Spanish derivation, while
Cook, Douglas, Chatham and Cavendish hearken back to English discovery
and governance. Indian names like Cowichan, Songhees, Haida and
Sooke (T'Sou-ke Nation) come from an Aboriginal population that
has inhabited the Island since the ice age.
If you stare
out at the smoky Sooke Hills on a misty day, or visit Goldstream
Park during the salmon run in November, it is easy to imagine the
life of the First Nations people on the Island prior to European
arrival. In the Rainforest, where old growth areas have been preserved,
one gets a glimpse of the past, unadulterated by the changes wrought
in this century.
There are three
main First Nations groups on Vancouver Island: the Kwakwaka'wakw,
the Nootka and the Coastal Salish. Their way of life was based on
the generous bounty of the earth, and their spiritual culture on
the natural world. Visual manifestation of this rich culture is
evidenced in elaborately carved totem poles and beautifully constructed
longhouses that grace the Island. First Nations' artwork, masks
and clothing are appreciated internationally for their singular
Cultural Society was incorporated under the British Columbia Societies
Act on March 22, 1974. Since that time, it has worked towards fulfilling
the mandate to ensure the survival of all aspects of cultural heritage
of the Kwakwaka'wakw.
of Vancouver Island began with the arrival of John Meares in 1788,
a trader of sea otter furs with China. He brought 70 Chinese labourers
to the Island and built a trading post at Nootka.
By 1792, Captain George Vancouver and Juan Francisco de la Bodega
y Quadra were working together at the task of mapping and exploring
the coast, after years of Spanish/English rivalry had played out
on this Island. A treaty in 1793 gave the two countries joint ownership
of Nootka, but it was not long after the signing that Spain's dominance
in North America began to wane. The last Spanish ship was ordered
out of the area in 1795, marking the end of the Spanish influence
In British Columbia.
The Western Headquarters of the Hudson Bay Company was Fort Vancouver
on the Columbia River (now in Washington, USA). Hearing of the proposed
border between American and British Territories, and fearing disruption
of its fur trading activities in the north, the HBC built a post
on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in 1843, and called it Fort
Victoria. Americans started to move north in greater numbers. In
order to help contain and control American influence, the HBC enlarged
Fort Victoria and moved its Western Headquarters here, while Fort
Vancouver remained operational south of the border.
Fort Victoria became the capital of the new colony of Vancouver
Island by virtue of its proximity to the United States and the salubrious
climate of the region. Concerned about the total control enjoyed
by Chief Factor James Douglas, the British Government sent Richard
Blanshard over as the first Governor of Vancouver Island in 1851.
James Douglas didn't like the new governor, and after 18 months
of misery, Blanshard returned to England - and Douglas became Governor
of Vancouver Island. When the colonies of Vancouver Island and the
Mainland combined, in 1864, James Douglas was knighted by Queen
Goldrush related activities on the Mainland spurred Victoria's growth,
as miners came up from California to buy licences and goldmining
gear. Somewhat prepared, they sailed to the mainland, returning
months, even years, later with precious gold dust. Again, the powers-that-be
feared an American take-over, and by this time the HBC was losing
its hold over the area. The HBC finally dismantled Fort Victoria
to make way for commercial buildings, and Victoria was incorporated
as a city, with a mayor and a council to keep everybody in line.
On April 2 1868, Victoria became the provincial capital of British
of the landmarks on the Island are remnants of the lumber barons,
traders and miners who settled here, and the Chinese labourers who
came to build the railway. The combination of rugged wilderness,
European refinement and First Nations and Asian culture make Vancouver
Island a unique destination.
History and Heritage
Tour Operators: Vancouver Island, Gulf & Discovery Islands