The archipelago was discovered by Europeans in 1774 by Juan Pérez, at Langara Island, and in 1778 by James Cook. In 1794, the Haida captured and sank a pair of European vessels, Ino and Resolution, that were seeking to trade for sea otter pelts. Most of the ships’ crew were killed. In 1851, the Haida captured the Georgiana, a ship carrying gold prospectors, and held its crew for ransom for nearly two months.
The islands played an important role during the maritime fur trade era of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. During most of that era the trade in the islands was dominated by Americans. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 put an end to American claims to the islands. Following the discovery of gold in the 1850s the British made efforts to exclude whatever American territorial claims might remain.
The Colony of the Queen Charlotte Islands was a British colony constituting the archipelago of the same name from 1853 to July 1863, when it was amalgamated into the Colony of British Columbia.
The Colony of the Queen Charlotte Islands was created by the Colonial Office in response to the increase in American marine trading activity resulting from the gold rush on Moresby Island in 1851.
No separate administration or capital for the colony was ever established, as its only officer or appointee was James Douglas, who was simultaneously Governor of Vancouver Island. In essence, the colony was merged with the Vancouver Island colony for administrative purposes from the 1850s to 1866 when the Colony of Vancouver Island was merged with the mainland, which until that point was the separate Colony of British Columbia.
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