History of Galiano Island: Jewel of the Gulf Islands

The history of Galiano Island began centuries before European explorers arrived on the West Coast of British Columbia, with evidence of settlements over 3,000 years old found in Montague Harbour. For thousands of years, sea-going Coast Salish people fished the abundant waters off Galiano’s shores for salmon and hunted for sea lions. The forests provided them with a harvest of Oregon grapes, salal and salmon berries, as well as deer and grouse, while the shores yielded mussels, crabs, and clams. An extensive midden is evidence of their presence: a beautiful shell beach in Montague Park.

European contact began in the 18th century, with both the British and Spanish sending exploratory missions to this area and collaborating on its mapping.

Captain Galiano   Galiano received its name from a British cartographer, in honour of an officer of the Spanish Navy, Captain Dionisio Alcala Galiano (1762-1805). Captain Galiano was part of a 1792 expedition exploring the area in search of the Northwest Passage.

Shortly thereafter, the region was claimed for the British Crown by Captain Vancouver, who referred to Galiano as being located in the "Gulf" of Georgia. While apparent now that the Gulf Islands are not in a gulf at all, the name has remained. Spanish and English names dot the maps of this area. In fact, the Inn suites are named for local islands and landmarks with Spanish names: Cortes, Flores, Quadra, Redonda, Saturna, Gabriola, Valdes, Flores, Texada, Sonora, Bodega, Dionisio, Malaspina… and of course, Galiano.

The Inn overlooks Mayne Island, and the waters of Active Pass. Active Pass is not named, as you would think, because of the turbulence of the tides, but after the merchant vessel SS Active, the first steamship to pass through the area.

In more recent days, many other peoples have come to the region. On Galiano, overlooking Georgeson Bay and Active Pass, stand five large tear-shaped, rock-walled structures. These charcoal pit kilns are a testimony to the history of the Japanese settlers that came to British Columbia in the 1890s. It was this same charcoal-making technology that made the Japanese renowned worldwide for their ceramic and sword-making arts.

The first Japanese settlers were also accomplished fishermen and loggers, and many families settled in the Gulf Islands. A saltery and fish cannery were started by the Japanese on both Galiano and the Pender Islands, but these industries were short-lived because of the subsequent internment of Japanese citizens during WW II.

Galiano is a long and narrow island, the second largest of the Gulf Islands, and the driest. Just 25 kilometres long and 6 kilometres wide, it has a population of about 1100 residents, while Salt Spring Island, the largest, has a population of over 12,000. Galiano remains a quieter island refuge for people seeking respite from the pace of city life. With a history of logging & fishing, the economy has changed and today the majority of island residents are engaged in tourism & the arts.
  Japanese charcoal pit kiln on Galiano Island

"Greenways" became the "Galiano Lodge" prior to becoming the Galiano Oceanfront Inn and Spa

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