After first contact with the Europeans, the population of the First Nations people of British Columbia dropped dramatically. The reduction in population was approximately 90 percent.
The first contact was in the 1770s, as a Spanish ship sailed along the west coast meeting many First Nations along the way. Shortly after this, British and Americans began infiltrating the area, and “began an intense period of trading with coastal nations.”(Muckle) Initially these interactions were strictly business and trading was the primary objective. The results of this trading relationship on First Nations communities include: the enhancement of woodworking, easier cooking, and less nomadic settlements. (Muckle)
In 1858, settlers began to arrive in large numbers. Although First Nations people had very clearly already occupied the land, European settlers had quite the sense of entitlement and superiority. A direct result of these settlers, were land disputes and loss of the ability to undergo traditional subsistence activities.
Due to the massive differences between the Europeans and the First Nations, the diseases brought by the Europeans were deadly. Due to the differences in the genetic makeup of the people coming from Europe, they carried diseases that were completely foreign to the First Nations, and unfortunately the First Nations people had no natural immunity to them. (Muckle, p.76). These deadly diseases included small pox, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, influenza, and measles. Small pox was the most dramatically deadly.
Another introduction from the Europeans to the First Nations people which proved to be a deadly introduction, were firearms and alcohol. One of the most devastating results of this incredible population loss, is the loss of culture. As the First Nations people pass their histories along orally, “as leaders, healers, weavers, carvers, keepers of oral history, and other specialists died.
To see a timeline of important events from colonization on see this link.
Muckle, Robert James. The First Nations of British Columbia: An Anthropological Overview. Third ed. Print.