Hope can trace its roots back 8,000-10,000 years ago with the Sto:lo FIrst Nations settlements.
Indigenous settlement period starts with the first traces of people living in the Fraser Valley, when the Sto:lo First Nations were in the area. An important Sto:lo community was located where the District of Hope sits today. The community, called Ts’qo:ls, was a major population and transportation hub, home to thousands of people, and an essential stopping point for trade between nearby communities.
In late 1782, a smallpox epidemic among the Stó:lo killed thousands, an estimated two thirds of the population. The European settlement period of Hope history begins in 1808. Explorer Simon Fraser arrived in what is now Hope in 1808, and the Hudson’s Bay Company created the Fort Hope trading post in 1848.
The area was transformed by the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush, beginning in 1858. The following year Governor James Douglas laid out the Fort Hope townsite. Hope became part of the Colony of British Columbia when the new British colony was created on 2 August 1858. Along with the rest of British Columbia, Hope became part of Canada in 1871. Late in 1859, Reverend Alexander St. David Francis Pringle arrived in Hope. On December 1 of that year, he founded the first library on the British Columbia mainland. Within two years, he founded Christ Church (Anglican). Today, Christ Church is the oldest church on the B.C. mainland still holding services on its original site, and is a National Historic Site of Canada.
Hope incorporated as a Village on 6 April 1929, became a Town on 1 January 1965, and was incorporated as a District Municipality named the District of Hope on 7 December 1992.
Human history in the Fraser Canyon dates back to over 9000 years ago. The salmon which make their way up the river every year made it a place of abundance and spots along the river were widely contested by Sto:lo and Nlaka’pamux families for generations. The large quantities of cedar trees in the forests along the Canyon contributed to all aspects of First Nations life. Living trees along the trails used by foragers, hunters, and traders still show the scars of bark harvesting – these trees are referred to as ‘culturally modified trees (CMT).’
Simon Fraser’s assisted navigation of the Fraser Canyon in 1808 (while searching for a fur trade route for the North West Company) marked the beginning of substantial change for the region’s First Nations as it sparked the beginning of European encroachment and an age of rapid transportation improvements in the Fraser Canyon.
In 1858, miners from across Canada and the United States started flooding the Fraser Canyon in search of gold and riches. The influx of gold, money, and people made it necessary to build safer and more substantial routes through the Canyon; thus, the Cariboo Wagon Road was built (by hand, pick, and shovel) between 1862 and 1864.
In 1885, predominantly Chinese labourers completed the famed Canadian Pacific Railway. This line connected British Columbia to the rest of the country. In less than 77 years, travel in the Canyon had gone from canoes and ladders to a major national rail-line.
Today, visitors travelling on Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway) are closely following the old Cariboo Wagon Road as they wind their way through Sto:lo and Nlaka’pamux territory, past historic gold claims, and along the river which arguably gave birth to modern British Columbia.