Tuesday, July 20 marks British Columbia’s 150th birthday. (Nature Conservancy of Canada)

Tuesday, July 20 marks British Columbia’s 150th birthday. (Nature Conservancy of Canada)

B.C. turns 150: From fur trades to ferries and controversy in 2021

A First Nations land then a British colony – it wasn’t until 1871 the settlement joined Canada as a province

Tuesday marks British Columbia’s 150th birthday.

Formerly a British colony, it wasn’t until 1871 that the settlement joined Canada as a province.

Its history began with First Nations people including the Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakiutl, Bella Coola, Tsimshian and Haida – all of who lived self-sustained for thousands of years.

The-now ‘British Columbia’ first caught the eyes of British, Spanish, Russian and American explorers in the late 18th century.

By the first half of the 19th century, the Hudson’s Bay Company expanded to the west of the Rocky Mountains with posts for trading fur and goods. Soon after, gold was discovered in the Fraser River by fur trader Sir James Douglas, who was to become the Vancouver Island colony’s first governor.

Also the chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, his discovery ushered in a Gold Rush in the 1850s that drew in tens of thousands of settlers.

RELATED: The Douglas Treaties: A Legacy of Controversy

Today, more than a century later, modern-day citizens are grappling with the unproclaimed parts of the province’s history.

This includes recent revelations about residential schools, which disrupted the coastal lands of B.C., once home to one of the largest concentrations of First Nations people in Canada. According to Métis Canadian historian Olive Patricia Dickason, the northwest coast could have counted as many as 200,000 people.

Between the late 1800s and 1996, the Canadian government and church organizations operated the Indian Residential School System, which removed an estimated 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children from their families, homes, languages and lands.

Also during this time period, in 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway was constructed, increasing trade and transportation opportunities of people and resources from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans.

READ ALSO: Sir James Douglas’ gravesite at Victoria elemetery vandalized

The 20th century brought further expansion to the province, with major dams built and the Trans-Canada Highway constructed, allowing for more power and easier movement of goods and services.

In 1960, B.C. Ferries operations began with just two ferries making a way for Lower Mainland passengers to reach the Island, and vice versa. Nowadays, more than 45 ferries dart the route, towing more than 22 million passengers and 8 million vehicles annually.

To this day, people are drawn to B.C. because of its modern, advantageous offerings. More than 5,145,785 people reside within its borders, according to a January government estimate.

READ MORE: Victoria’s history: What’s in a name? 



sarah.grochowski@bpdigital.ca

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