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British Columbia

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With an almost unlimited abundance of natural resources, specifically fish and timber, British Columbia was the longtime home of a wide variety of indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest.

In the late 18th century a variety of Spanish explorers, based in Mexico, charted the coastal waters and quickly laid claim to the entire area for Spain.

captain james cook In 1778, Captain James Cook of the British Royal Navy sailed into the area while searching for the Northwest Passage. Reports of his productive exploration (as well as others) would later bring eager speculators into British Columbia, all hoping to trade with the locals.

By the end of the century, the British influx into an area previously claimed by Spain produced a few minor skirmishes, but by 1795, the Spanish influence in the area had ended.

Soon British employees of the North West Company, a fur-trading business based in Montreal, were exploring the mainland; forts and trading posts were built and agreements reached with the indigenous population.

hudsons bayIn the 1820s, the Hudson's Bay Company merged with the North West Company. This massive business now controlled trade of all types across much of Canada, and in what is now called British Columbia.

When they established a trading post at Victoria in 1843, the United States staked its claim to part of the land in what was then called Oregon County.

That dispute over land rights was finally settled in 1846 between British North America and the United States. The 49th parallel became the official border, and land above it, including all of Vancouver Island, was retained as British territory.

In 1849 the British Parliament formed the crown Colony of Vancouver Island. The mainland of British Columbia, called New Caledonia at the time, remained loosely organized.

The discovery of gold in 1858 along the Fraser River changed everything. Tens of thousands of get-rich-quick types flowed in, and in an effort to protect this beautiful and valuable land; the Colony of British Columbia was expeditiously created that same year.

In 1866, the mainland colony and the Colony of Vancouver Island became one. It was officially named British Columbia, with its capital city at Victoria.

The British North America Act took effect on July 1, 1867, officially establishing the Dominion of Canada, initially with four provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario.

In British Columbia, a strong push to join the Dominion of Canada was underway. On July 20, 1871, that goal was realized as British Columbia became the sixth province to join Canada.

In short order the mining business on the mainland created thousands of new jobs; towns sprang up across the province, transportation routes improved and British Columbia was on its way to prosperity.

When the mining business eventually slowed, British Columbia continued to prosper because of an aggressive focus on farming, fishing and forest products. One time trading posts (all small) were now growing towns, and new communities continued to develop, such as New Westminster and Vancouver.

canadian pacific railway Vancouver itself, with access to the Pacific Ocean and overseas markets, and as the railhead for the Canadian Pacific Railroad, soon became the largest city in the province and the center of economic activity.

All but surrounded by water and fronting the majestic snow-capped Coast Mountain Range, the Vancouver metro area is the third largest in all of Canada, behind Montreal and Toronto.

With its amazing topography, stunning natural beauty and major attractions, British Columbia offers a huge variety of activities for the entire family.

In February 2010, when the XXI Olympic Winter Games were held in Vancouver, people from around the planet came to celebrate the excitement. Many of them discovered British Columbia for the first time, and have vowed to come back.

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