History of B.C.

Last reviewed: March 20, 2024

The history of British Columbia begins with the Indigenous peoples, who have lived and flourished here for thousands of years.

Indigenous art, culture, languages, festivals and history are an important part of B.C.’s cultural make-up. Everywhere you travel, you will see Indigenous names for towns, cities, rivers, lakes, mountains and fjords. Some of these names go back many thousands of years. The city names Nanaimo, Kamloops and Chilliwack, for instance, are all derived from Indigenous words.

British, Spanish, Russian and American explorers began to visit the B.C. area in the 1750s. In the first half of the 19th century, the Hudson’s Bay Company expanded to the west of the Rocky Mountains and set up posts for trading fur and other goods. In 1849, Vancouver Island was colonized by the British. Soon after, the Gold Rush attracted tens of thousands of people to the interior of B.C.

B.C. was a British colony until 1871, when it joined Canada. In 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed, opening the country from east to west. The railway increased trade and the movement of people and resources from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

The 20th century was a time of expansion and growth. Major dams were built to power a growing province. The TransCanada highway was completed, allowing for easier movement of goods and services. Many people moved to B.C. to take advantage of its quality of life and abundant economic opportunities.

In 2010, B.C. hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler.

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