A Scotsman credited with expanding the fur trading west into what is today known as B.C., was honoured with a special plaque unveiled today – 209 years later – at the Fort Langley National Historic Site.
Simon Fraser was an explorer who has a university, river, lake, fort, highway, rose, and even a coast guard vessel named after him.
Back a few centuries, when he was 32, Fraser was credited with establishing the first permanent European settlement west of the Rockies – which he named New Caledonia.
Well it’s this adventurous sort that Parks Canada recognized Monday in Langley with this special tribute before a crowd of about 125.
The bronze plaque expelling his contribution will not live at the Fort, but was unveiled there Monday, in conjunction with Brigade Days and the annual re-enactment of a fur trade expedition from Hope to Fort Langley.
As the plaque states, Fraser was a partner with the North West Company in times of “intense corporate rivalry” and he established a Euro-Canadian presence in what became B.C., founded the first non-indigenous settlements in Fort McLeod and Fort St. James, then in 1808, with aid of indigenous guides, became the first “outsider to traverse the treacherous rapids in passing down the Fraser River.”
The large plague, siting his lifespan from 1776 to 1862, said his “determination, the skill of French-Canadian voyageurs, and the knowledge he gained from indigenous peoples, allowed him to explore the river to the Strait of Georgia.”
Jati Sidhu, MP for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, was on hand for the unveiling.
His riding will be home to the plaque. It is being installed at Hell’s Gate. This section was named after a comment in Fraser’s journal about an intimidating stretch of the river seeming like the gates of hell.
As part of the centennial of national historic sites, Parks Canada invites Canadians to be inspired and captivated by the stories of the people, places, and events that shaped the Canada of today.
This dedication happened, in part, because of a high school teacher.
Charles Hou is a history teacher in Burnaby, who felt it was about time to see one of the founders of B.C. honoured. Hou himself is so passionate about history and teaching that he won the Governor General’s first award for teaching.
“I am proud to honour Simon Fraser as a national historic person. This great man, assisted by Indigenous peoples and French-Canadians, played a crucial role in the exploration of British Columbia and the development of Canadian territory,” Sidhu said.
“Fraser’s story is a reminder of the vital contributions of past generations in our country’s history. While we are celebrating Canada 150, I encourage all Canadians to take this opportunity to learn more about our history and our shared legacy.”
This unveiling was part of a three-day celebration held at the Fort Langley National Historic Site during the B.C. Day long weekend.
It also featured a series of educational exhibits and events within the Fort walls throughout the weekend, as well as a train-dedicated display at the nearby BC Farm Museum.
This year, as part of Canada 150, the Bedford Rowing Society re-enacted a 100-km fur trade excursion to Fort Langley, that culminated with a ceremony on the shores of the Fraser River and a procession to the Fort in the heat on Monday afternoon.
Dozens of canoeists participated in the expanded Brigade Day celebration.
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