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The Origins of British Columbia

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  1. The Origins of British Columbia

  2. First Nations in BC • Humans have inhabited what is today British Columbia for at least 11,500 years. • The Pacific Northwest had the greatest pre-contact population density in North America (outside of California) and almost half of the aboriginal population of present day Canada. • This was thanks to the abundance of natural resources, such as salmon and cedar. • Estimated pre-contact population: 80 000 • BC is home to over thirty aboriginal languages.

  3. The Spanish • In 1774, Juan Perez was the first European to reach the BC coast. • His mission was to claim the coast for Spain, but he had to return early, due to lack of provisions. • He traded with Nuu-chah-nulth on Vancouver Island, but did not land. • In 1775, Juan de la Bodega y Quadra arrived, sailing as far north as Sitka, Alaska. • He landed several times, claiming the territory for the Spanish crown.

  4. James Cook • In 1778, James Cook landed at Nootka Sound, searching for the Northwest Passage. • He traded for sea otter pelts with the Nuu-chah-nulth, which would later become a profitable trade.

  5. British and Spanish Competition • In 1791, Spanish captain Jose Maria Narvaez explored the Straight of Georgia. • In 1792, Dionisio Alcala Galiano and George Vancouver both made separate expeditions to present-day Vancouver. • They met in the Burrard Inlet and agreed to work together to chart the Straight of Georgia. • In 1794, Spain renounced its claim to the territory north of California.

  6. British Overland Exploration • In 1793, Alexander Mackenzie became the first European to reach the Pacific Northwest overland, with the help of First Nations guides and French voyageurs. • He reached the coast near Bella Coola, the territory of the Heiltsuk nation. • His travel companion, John Finlay, established a settlement at Fort St. John.

  7. American Exploration • In 1805, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark reached the Pacific Ocean, claiming the Oregon Territory for the US. • They were accompanied by a Shoshone interpreter named Sacagawea, and her Quebecois husband Toussaint Charbonneau.

  8. Continued British Exploration • 1808 Simon Fraser and his crew reached the mouth of the Fraser River at Musqueam. • In 1811, David Thompson explored the Columbia River. • Three month before he reached its mouth, the American Fur Trade Company of John Jacob Astor had founded Fort Astoria, arriving by sea.

  9. Oregon Territory • The staff at Fort Astoria sold the fort to the NWC within a year, who renamed it Fort George. • After the HBC and NWC merged, the HBC established Fort Vancouver in 1824 as the new regional headquarters. • The district south of the Thompson River was called the Columbia District, and the district to the north New Caledonia.

  10. The Columbia District • The treaty of 1818 between Britain and the United States gave each country open access to the Oregon Territory. • Since the local First Nations were not interested in working as hunters and trappers, the HBC mainly employed Iroquois, Ojibwe, Scots, Métis and French-Canadians, as well as native Hawaiians, known as Kanakas. • Supplies were brought to Fort Vancouver once a year from York Factory, along the “York Express”.

  11. The York Express

  12. John McLoughlin • John McLoughlin was born in Rivière-du-Loup, Québec, of Irish and French-Canadian ancestry. • Simon Fraser was his mother’s brother. • He was a trader for the NWC, and stood trial for the murder of Robert Semple at Seven Oaks (he was found not guilty). • He was involved in the merger negotiations between the HBC and NWC. • In 1824, he was appointed Chief Factor at Fort Vancouver.

  13. The Oregon Trail • American settlers began arriving in large numbers in the early 1840s, challenging HBC control of the territory. • They settled mainly in the Willamette Valley and Puget Sound. • The HBC had previously discouraged settlement, because it would conflict with the fur trade.

  14. 54-40 or Fight! • John McLoughlin helped new American arrivals with money and supplies, encouraging them to settle south of the Columbia River. • By 1843, American settlers had established their own provisional government. • In the 1844 US presidential election, James Polk campaigned on behalf of US annexation of the Oregon Territory, as part of the US “Manifest Destiny”. • He claimed the area as far north as 54°40′ north, the boundary with Russian Alaska.

  15. 1846 Oregon Treaty • The US and Britain agreed to establish the 49th parallel as the border. • The HBC headquarters shifted to Fort Victoria, which had been established in 1843.

  16. The Colony of Vancouver Island • In 1848, the same year that Oregon became a state, Britain created a crown colony on Vancouver Island. • The HBC maintained its trading monopoly. • The first governor was James Douglas.

  17. James Douglas • James Douglas was born in Guyana to a Scottish father and a Barbadian mother of part African ancestry. • He joined the fur trade at the age of sixteen, as part of the NWC. • He was married to a Métis woman named Amelia Connolly, the daughter of the Chief Factor of New Caledonia and his Cree wife.

  18. The Douglas Treaties • The Royal Proclamation of 1763 states that the crown must negotiate and sign treaties with indigenous people before land can be given to a colony. • Between 1850-54, Douglas made 14 land purchases with members of the Esquimalt, Songhees, Saanich, Sooke, Nanaimo and Kwakiult nations. • The treaties covered 930 km² around Victoria, Saanich, Sooke, Nanaimo and Port Hardy. • First Nations kept their villages and fields, and the right to hunt and fish on surrendered land. • In 1855, the colony had 774 settlers and 30,000 First Nations.

  19. Ongoing Land Claims • Treaty making in BC was ended after the Crown ran out of money. • Only three more treaties would be signed in BC: Treaty 8 in Northeastern BC in 1899, the Nisga’a Agreement in 2000, and a treaty with the Tsawwassen First nation in 2007. • The rest of BC is still subject to unextinguished Aboriginal title. • The treaty process, involving 60 First Nations, has been going on since 1993.