Ice once covered parts of British Columbia and Salt
Spring was no exception. Fifteen thousand years ago ice was up to 2
kilometers thick but this varied. Not all of the coast was covered but
evidence of glaciation may be seen on Salt Spring. Large grooves are visible
in the bedrock on parts of the island, in particular Ruckle Provincial Park
between the picnic area and the campground.
Before contact, Salt Spring had a long aboriginal history
dating over 5,000 years before present. Today Salt Spring is a part of the
Te'Mexw (Sanich) and the Hul'qumi num (Cowichan and Chemainus) First
Nations. Many middens attest to very long occupations and sites are
extensive (protected by law The British Columbia Heritage Conservation Act).
In more recent prehistoric history it is believed Salt Spring was used
seasonally by the First Nations.
The island was explored by the Spanish and the British in the 1700's. James Douglas legislated access to indigenous lands in
1859. It is said that roughly half of the original settlers were African
Americans from San Francisco. Other settlers were Australians, Europeans,
Japanese, and from the British Isles. . Also included were former Hudson's Bay
Company employees some of whom were Hawaiian in origin so by the turn of the century the
population was quite multicultural.
When Salt Spring was first settled there were enormous
challenges. Forests had to be cleared, roads built and pioneers were often
challenged by inexperience. Abundant sea food, a hospitable climate and
fertile soil helped. Certainly by the 1930's vacationers discovered the
island and resorts began to open. By the 1950's the island started to
become cottage country for Victoria and Vancouver. Slowly infrastructures
have increased and Salt Spring is now home to approximately 12,000 people.
The diversity and pioneer spirit continues today and
flavours the creative spirit of entrepreneurship and individualism for which
the island is so well known.