British Columbia

November 28, 2012 6:58 am

Fur trading brought British explorers to the west coast of . In 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook arrived at Vancouver Island, now part of British Columbia (BC). In exchange for knives and other metal goods, the native tribes gave Cook and his men sea otter pelts and other animal skins.
Facts About British Columbia
4,380,000 people
Rank among provinces and territories in population
Major cities
Vancouver, Victoria, Abbotsford
365,000 square miles
945,000 square kilometers
Rank among provinces and territories in area
Entry into federation
July 20, 1871
Provincial bird
Steller’s Jay
Provincial flower
Pacific Dogwood
British Columbia is Canada’s westernmost province and the only part of Canada to border the Pacific Ocean. Rugged mountains cover most of British Columbia. Thick forests grow on the mountains. Narrow inlets called fjords cut into the coast. Steep cliffs line the fjords.
The province of British Columbia includes islands in the Pacific. Vancouver Island lies to the south. The Queen Charlotte Islands lie to the north.
It’s not surprising that timber and fishing are important industries in British Columbia. The province’s vast forests provide lots of timber. The ocean waters and inland rivers provide fish, especially salmon. Mining is also important. British Columbia’s mines produce coal, gold, copper, zinc, and other valuable products.
Very few people live in the mountainous parts of British Columbia. Most of the people live in the flatter southwestern part of the province. The two largest cities in British Columbia—Vancouver and Victoria—are there. Victoria is the capital, but Vancouver is much bigger.
Vancouver is Canada’s busiest port. Vancouver is growing rapidly, mainly as a result of immigration from Hong Kong and other places in East Asia. The city has a bustling Chinatown and Japantown. The trans-Canada railway, which crosses all of Canada, ends in Vancouver.
Victoria is on Vancouver Island. The city is proud of its British charm. Visitors enjoy having British-style tea at the grand Empress Hotel in Victoria. Victoria has many beautiful gardens, which give it the nickname the Garden City. Hanging baskets of flowers decorate the town. The Butchart Gardens just north of Victoria are famous. The city was named after Britain’s Queen Victoria.
George Vancouver is the explorer who claimed for Britain the territory that is now British Columbia. In 1792, he explored the area, and he claimed it the next year. Vancouver Island and the city of Vancouver are named after him.
Many tourists visit British Columbia each year. Some come to enjoy the spectacular mountain scenery and mountain resorts. Skiing is popular in the mountains in winter. Others come for the museums, theaters, and other features of city life in Vancouver and Victoria. Both cities have magnificent settings along waterfronts near mountains. They also have mild climates, warmed by currents in the Pacific Ocean.
Tourists can also enjoy nature in British Columbia’s national parks. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is located on the western side of Vancouver Island. It has beaches and hiking trails, and it’s a good place to see sea lions and whales.
Kootenay National Park in eastern British Columbia includes part of the Rocky Mountains. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve includes 138 islands of the Queen Charlotte Islands. The park’s name means “Islands of Wonder” in the Haida Indian language. The park preserves ancient settlements of the Haida people. It also has rain forests, and bears and other wildlife.
In 1858, gold was discovered in the valley of the Fraser River and in the Cariboo Mountains. Thousands of gold-hungry miners rushed to British Columbia. Many came from California. Barkerville became a rowdy boom town near the Cariboo mines.
In 1858, the year of the gold rush, Britain established the colony of British Columbia. Vancouver Island was added to British Columbia in 1866. On July 20, 1871, British Columbia became the sixth province in Canada.
It was important to Canada to have ports on the Pacific Coast. But first, a railroad had to connect the coast with the rest of Canada. In 1886, the first trains reached the west coast of Canada. The city of Vancouver grew up at the westernmost point of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
The native peoples of Canada prefer to be called First Nations. They were the largest group in British Columbia when the province joined Canada. But as European settlement grew, the First Nations lost many rights.
Native people could not vote in British Columbia’s elections until 1949. They also could not carry on traditional practices such as a gift-giving ceremony called potlatch. Potlatches had marked important occasions in the lives of Pacific Coast natives for hundreds of years. Rituals like potlatches were outlawed until 1951.
Pacific Coast natives are known for their totem poles. These carved wooden poles were created as memorials to dead family members. They are carved with figures and animals that represent family guardians.
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