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Vancouver Island History

Early Vancouver Island History

Long before Vancouver Island became a popular tourist destination in British Columbia, Vancouver Island had been the homeland to a number of First Nations peoples. Kwakwaka'wakw groups occupied the northern and northwestern parts of Vancouver Island, the Coast Salish territory included the southern island, and the Nuu-chah-nulth lived on the west coast.

The European exploration of Vancouver Island started in 1774, when Juan Jose Perez Hernandez arrived in Nootka Sound and initiated first contact with the First Nations peoples. Spanish, French, British, Russian, and American traders explored the area in the late 18th century. In the end, it was the British explorers who ousted the others, particularly thanks to the 1778 voyage of James Cook and the survey of the island by George Vancouver in 1792-1794. By 1824, the island had already been known as Vancouver Island.

In 1843, a small settlement located in the southern part of the island was established under the direction of James Douglas from the Hudson's Bay Company. The settlement was named Fort Victoria and was a fur trading post.

In 1849, the Colony of Vancouver Island was founded. In 1866, the colony with the capital in Victoria united with British Columbia. Five years later, the united colony entered the Dominion of Canada as the province of British Columbia.

In the 1840s and 1850s, coal mines were established in region, which brought a new industry and settlers to Vancouver Island. The years that followed saw the development and growth of the settlements of Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Parksville, and Courtenay. Gold rush related activities boosted Victoria’s growth, as miners came from California to buy goldmining equipment and licenses. By 1881, the population of Vancouver Island reached 17,292 people.

Modern Vancouver Island History

After 1900, immigration continued and Vancouver Island saw further development of mining and lumbering industries. Between 1921 and 1941 population growth slowed due to the lack of suitable land for agriculture and the exhaustion of coal deposits. In the decades that followed, the attraction of Vancouver Island as a tourist destination was apparent. Transportation facilities were improving, and several top tourist facilities were opened, including West Coast Trail (1969), Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (1970), and Cape Scott Provincial Park (1973).

Today Vancouver Island remains a popular tourist destination for those who want to enjoy the island’s beautiful shorelines and old-growth forests. The history of Vancouver Island is essential in creating the place where you can soak up nature and relax.