By Daniel Betts
What are you doing this coming Monday? Camping? Going for a hike? Throwing out a line in the hopes of catching that elusive big one? If you’re lucky you’ll be enjoying the statutory holiday while I’ll be up to my elbows in newspaper ink, figuratively speaking of course. I’m not trying to sound bitter, I actually love what I do. For instance, unlike many British Columbians you won’t take Monday for granted because you’re reading this week’s Viewpoint in The Valley Sentinel and I’m going to give you the skinny on B.C.’s special day.
The Legislative Assembly created B.C. Day in 1974 with an objective of recognizing pioneers in the province on the first Monday in August. Why August you may ask? Please read on.
When English explorer James Cook discovered Nootka Sound in 1778 and set his salty boots on shores of future British Columbia he shrewdly traded for sea otter pelts with the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation. Word of the enormous profit Cook had acquired in his impromptu business transaction brought an influx of fur traders to the British Columbian coast. Trading posts were quickly established, but of course conflict soon ensued between the Spanish and the English almost leading to war. That being said European colonists were here to stay.
In the 1790s mainland British Columbia began being explored by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, Simon Fraser and David Thompson, all employees of the North West Company, who were looking for a river route to the Pacific in order to extend the fur trade. During the initial explorations, Fort St. John became the first permanent European settlement in British Columbia. Simon Fraser and his crew established several forts including Fort George and Fort St. James. Following the river that now bears his name, Fraser ended up where present day Vancouver would one day stand. David Thompson’s expedition found the Columbia River, but those damn Yankee explorers Lewis and Clark had already claimed the territory at the mouth of the Columbia for the United States six years earlier. But that’s ok; we named a river after him anyway.
In 1858 lucky folk started shouting, “Gold!” along the banks of the Thompson River east of Lytton, B.C., triggering the Fraser Canyon Gold rush. 20,000 Americans rushed north. Fearing a threat to British sovereignty the British Colonial Office established the mainland as a crown colony on August 2, 1858, naming it the Colony of British Columbia.
So there you have it; how it all started. So while you are enjoying yourself out on your boat or kicking up your heals in the backyard go ahead and give a thought to what happened 154 years ago; you know you will now that you’ve read this. I will too, only I’ll be working, but that’s okay. I don’t mind. Really it’s ok, don’t give it a second thought. Enjoy yourselves. Honest.