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About Victoria

A Rich History


Long before Captain James Cook became the first non-aboriginal man to set foot on Vancouver Island in 1778, Victoria's rugged yet pristine wilderness had been home to First Nations people.

Many aboriginal families lived on Southern Vancouver Island, each referring to themselves by distinct family group names. These peoples could be separated into three groups that spoke different dialects of the North Straits Salish or Lekwungaynung language and became known as the Songhees, the Saanich and the Sooke First Nations peoples. Victoria is very much influenced by Aboriginal culture and is still home to many First Nations groups. 


In 1843, James Douglas chose Victoria (then known as Camosack), as a Hudson Bay Company trading post. The post was eventually renamed Fort Victoria, in honour of Queen Victoria. Between 1850 and 1854, Governor James Douglas negotiated fourteen treaties with Coast Salish peoples on Vancouver Island. The Lekwungen were then relocated to reserves, one of which overlooked Victoria's Inner Harbour and was later moved to Esquimalt.

harbour empress historical 


In 1858, gold was discovered on the lower Fraser River, resulting in a population explosion in the fledgling settlement of B.C. Though gold was first discovered on the Fraser River by First Nations people in 1857, Governor Douglas was able to keep this information quiet for a year. Public announcements of the finds changed Fort Victoria and B.C. The estimated settler population in Victoria in 1858 was approximately 500, but news of the gold quickly spread and within two months, more than 30 000 gold miners descended upon the Fraser Valley through Victoria. Miners had to first get a mining license from Victoria before heading to the mainland. Many of the miners came from the United States, where they had participated in the California gold rush of 1848. Others were from Britain, Canada, and other parts of Europe. 



The allure of gold drew a diverse migrant population to the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Miners and adventurers from the gold fields of California and Australia, and indeed from all parts of the world, flocked to Victoria which was the only ocean port and outfitting centre for the gold fields of the Caribou. The first ship bringing these modern argonauts, the "Commodore" - a wooden side-wheel American steamer, entered Victoria harbour on Sunday morning, April 25, 1858, just as the townspeople were returning homeward from church. 

The gold rush was also a springboard for the arrival of several thousand Chinese immigrants, who continued to arrive throughout the late nineteenth century to labour on projects such as the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s.

CPR building_crop


On July 21, 1871, British Columbia became the sixth province of the Dominion of Canada and Victoria was proclaimed the Capital City. With Confederation, the continued establishment of the British or Canadian naval and military headquarters on the Pacific at Esquimalt, adjoining Victoria, was guaranteed.

Legislature haunted  


In the twentieth century, Victoria evolved as a city of government, retirement and tourism. The city remains, however, Canada's western naval base and home to a major fishing fleet. Information Technology is now one of the largest industries in the city and the area is increasingly developing as a marine, forestry and agricultural research centre. Victoria is also noted for its fine educational institutions which include the University of Victoria, University Canada West, Camosun College and Royal Roads University.

Today with a growing regional population, a moderate climate and scenic setting, Victoria has retained a very vital but comfortable quality of life. The Greater Victoria region is proud of its rich heritage, its historic downtown, the flowers and parks and of course, it's Inner Harbour with scenic vistas.


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