First Contact with Europeans

First contact with First Nations of BC was based primarily on trading goods rather than on colonial pursuits. These were rather peaceful exchanges of First Nations’ furs and fish for European weapons and copper. First Nations groups and Europeans both profited from these commercial pursuits.

European Explorer Sir Francis DrakeUnfortunately, contact with Europeans brought the spread of many foreign diseases such as smallpox, influenza and measles, that devastated large populations of First Nations groups. Little information is available on the daily lives of First Nations of BC up until the initial explorations of the Georgia Strait by English explorer Sir Francis Drake and his crew in June 1579.

The first wave of Europeans explorers in the Fraser Valley Region included Manuel Quimper in 1790, Navarez in 1791, followed by Dionisio Alcala-Galiano, Cayetano Valdès and George Vancouver in 1792. The fur trade was established as a result of the second wave of European explorations - most notably those of Fraser in 1808, McMillan in 1824 and Scouler in 1825.

At the end of the 18th century, there was an estimated population of 80,000 First Nations people in BC, and 200,000 for the entire pacific north coast region. This number rapidly decreased with the introduction of smallpox in the summer of 1792 – this disease decimated two thirds of the First Nations population along the northwest coast in less than two months.

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