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Coast Mountains along the Torres Channel, an arm of Atlin Lake, northern British Columbia.—E. Otto/Comstock
Province, western Canada. Area: 364,764 sq mi (944,735 sq km). Pop. (2009 est.): 4,419,974. Capital: Victoria. It is bounded by Yukon, Northwest Territories, Alberta, the Pacific Ocean, and the U.S. (including Alaska). The area was inhabited by indigenous peoples, including Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka), Kwakiutl, and Haida. It was visited in 1578 by Sir Francis Drake and in 1778 by Capt. James Cook, who was searching for the Northwest Passage. Capt. George Vancouver surveyed the coast (1792–94), and overland expeditions were made by several explorers, including Alexander Mackenzie and Simon Fraser. The British and Americans contended over Vancouver Island for years, until it was recognized as British and made a crown colony in 1849. The mainland became the colony of British Columbia in 1858; with the colony of Vancouver Island, it joined Canada in 1871 as the province of British Columbia. The province now has a prosperous diversified economy based on logging, mining, agriculture, and services (including shipping and tourism).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on British Columbia, visit Britannica.com.