Saturday morning started with an hours walk along the outer harbour, watching float planes take off, herons fish, sparrows flock about and a hawk glare at us from the top of a pine tree.
After breakfast crossed the bridge to the Royal British Columbia Museum. Went in at noon and came out at 6pm, with two breaks for refreshments whilst inside.
First up – the terrible way the British and then the Canadian settlers treated the indigenous people. The 1857 Gradual Civilisation Act was designed to assimilate the locals by making their traditions illegal, forcing their children to attend residential schools from 5 to 15 years old, where they had to learn English, and speaking their own language was a punishable offence. Christianity also came high on the list, though obviously not with any Christian spirit we might recognise today. The last residential school for indigenous people closed in BC in 1986, and lots of these people still live on reserves set aside for them when their lands turned out to be in a place I convenient for the incomers.
Anyway, back to traditional history. In 1778 Captain Cook sailed into an inlet on Vancouver Island to replace a broken mast. It wasn’t called Vancouver then, and they didn’t know it was an island, but he did have a young midshipman with him called George Vancouver. The natives seemed friendly enough and many sailors traded trinkets, especially bits of metal, small coins, nails, etc for sea otter pelts. Each pelt, it turned out, could be sold to the Chinese for the equivalent of two years wages. This led to a boom in trading ships visiting, and up to 75% of the indigenous people dying from diseases we also brought in the first 150 years of contact.
On the up side we did trade a lot of blankets and buttons, which they combined to make highly decorated cloaks and blankets.
Like the one above. Must have been quicker and easier and even more comfortable than the traditional Al beaten until soft and then woven together cedar bark cloaks.
Like this one from a late 19th century photograph. Anyway, back to traditional history. A mere 12 years after Cook landed Capt George Vancouver returned, and spent 5 years mapping the coast of BC, ultimately making further settlement and exploitation easier for whitey. George died before his maps were published, but they ensured his name lives on in history and geography. The next human story was the exploitation of resources for the betterment of humankind one. It started with forests.
Note the caption- without machines production was slow, wasteful and small scale – well that soon changed. Today half of every dollar earnt by the BC economy comes from felling trees. And now they have vast machinery to do it less wastefully. They even export raw logs to Chinese pulp and board mills, so they can make the packaging almost every consumer good comes back to Canada in. If you cannot even be bothered to add value to your raw materials then you are not thinking much about the future.
Anyway, the second floor of the museum is all about Natural BC, and the key theme throughout is climate change and the threat to the environment. Strange lack of tie – up between the floors.
Coal was first found here in about 1840 on the east coast of the island in Cretaceous deposits. That took me a while to process – coal that wasn’t Carboniferous? But perhaps most impressive to me was the delta of the Fraser river (on which most of Vancouver sits).
It’s like the mississippi, but with more sediment for its basin size because it’s so mountainous. It’s growing at 3 metres per year, the Fraser is 850 miles long and drains a quarter of BC. When we were there we noted that all of Vancouver seemed to be built on a grey sand, now we know why.