Origin of the Name
British Columbia was inhabited by the greatest number of distinct First Nations of any province or territory in Canada. Because of the diversity of the Pacific coast — mild to cold climates, seashore to mountain tops — the nations that settled in this area developed completely different cultures and languages. They were different not only from each other, but also from the rest of the First Nations in Canada. Among the First Nations along the coastline were the Nootka, Bella Coola, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Kwakiutl and Salish. The nations found on the plateaus of the Rocky Mountains included the Tagish, Tahltan, Tsetsaut, Carrier, Chilcotin Interior Salish, Nicola and Kootenay.
In 1778, Captain James Cook of Great Britain became the first person to actually chart the land. George Vancouver, a 20-year-old midshipman on Cook's voyage, later led three expeditions of his own and charted more than 16,000 kilometres of coastline. Having firmly established her right to the area, Britain proceeded to settle disputes with both Spain and Russia.
The 1846 Oregon Treaty with the United States gave Britain sole ownership of Vancouver Island and the area north of the 49th parallel. In 1849, Vancouver Island was granted to the Hudson's Bay Company in the hope that it might be settled. Until that time, the only European settlements in that part of the country were fur-trading posts.
When gold was discovered in the lower Fraser Valley in 1857, thousands of people came in search of instant wealth. To help maintain law and order, the British government established the separate colony of British Columbia the following year. In 1866, when the frenzy of the gold rush was over, the colony of Vancouver Island joined the colony of British Columbia.
British Columbia was separated from the rest of British North America by thousands of kilometres and the imposing Rocky Mountains. The promise of a rail link from the Pacific coast to the rest of Canada convinced the colony to join Confederation in 1871
Coat of Arms
The Royal Union Flag, with an antique golden crown in the centre, occupies the upper third of the shield, symbolizing the province's origin as a British colony. The bottom of the shield features a golden half-sun, superimposed upon three wavy blue bars cast horizontally on white. The blue bars represent the Pacific Ocean and the sun signifies British Columbia's location as the most westerly province in Canada.
The shield, which was designed by Victoria clergyman Arthur John Beanlands, is supported by a wapiti stag and a bighorn sheep, representing the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.
The crest above the shield features a lion standing on a crown. The lion wears a garland of Pacific dogwoods and the provincial flower around its neck. Between the crest and shield is the golden helmet of sovereignty, a mark of British Columbia's co-sovereign status in Confederation. Above the helmet are the traditional heraldic elements of a wreath and mantling in red and white, the colours of Canada. The provincial flower is featured a second time by entwining dogwoods around the motto scroll at the base of the arms.
SPLENDOR SINE OCCASU (Splendour without diminishment)
Other Provincial Symbols
- British Columbia Tartan
- Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)
- Steller's Jay
- Spirit Bear
- Franco-Columbian Flag