In 1858 at least 30 000 gold seekers flooded the banks of the Fraser River from Hope to just north of Lillooet in British Columbia's first significant gold rush. Although short in duration, the Fraser Rush had a significant impact on the area's Aboriginal peoples. It also caused the nonsovereign territory of Britain known as New Caledonia to be quickly established as the colony of British Columbia in order to deal with the massive influx of foreign miners.

Unlike the Cariboo Gold Rush (1860-63), which attracted many Canadians, the Fraser Rush was an extension of California mining society. Yale, formerly a Hudson's Bay Co post, was quickly transformed into a cultural centre typical of 1850s San Francisco.

The Rush

By 1858, placer mining in California had depleted free gold and miners accustomed to the glory days of the California Rush were marginalized by capital intensive hydraulic mining. A large unemployed class leapt at the chance to join the rush to the "New Eldorado."

The richest discoveries of fine flour gold occurred between Hope and Yale in the Fraser River Canyon. This region was controlled by Americans who provoked conflicts between whites and aboriginals prior to the assertion of British sovereignty from the adjacent colony of Vancouver Island. All aboriginal lands of southern BC were invaded by large companies of miners that triggered the Indian Wars of Washington and Oregon, and by extension the Fraser River War of 1858.

Through diverse overland and maritime routes north, it was this rush that broke the back of full-scale aboriginal resistance, particularly among the Central Coast Salish, Interior Salish and southern populations of the Chilcotin. Above Yale waterfalls and steep canyons prevented steamers from further ascending the Fraser River. Miners excluded from the dominant culture in the lower Fraser, such as the Chinese, Chileans, Hawaiians and other ethnic groups, established diggings beyond Yale.