For several years, the Salish peoples who populated the region had tapped the Fraser River gold deposits for trading purposes. In 1857, however, American gold-seekers discovered the deposits, and 25,000 prospectors poured into the area the following year. The chief of the Salish, Spintlum, opposed the destruction of Salish lands with his warriors, and the result was the "Fraser River War," a conflict that culminated in the deaths of 2 Whites and 30 Natives. Governor James Douglas attempted to assert the rule of British law, but could do little to stop the destruction of hunting and fishing sites, villages, and other Native properties in the rush to build roads to gain access to the goldfields. Nor could Douglas shelter the Native population from the debilitating effects of diseases such as smallpox. The Fraser River strike was the first of its kind in Canada, but it would not be the last incident of commercial exploitation that wreaked havoc on Native subsistence and culture.

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Chinook Multimedia

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