By 1857 the Hudson Bay Company could no longer hide the fact that it was purchasing gold from Nlaka'pamux people a few miles upstream from where the Fraser River joins the Thompson River (near present-day Lytton). This discovery sparked the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush (1858) which attracted tens of thousands of prospectors, outfitters, speculators and land agents from around the world, making it one of the largest migrations of mining populations in North American history. As many as 20,000 people arrived in Victoria, the capital of the British Crown Colony of Vancouver Island, which until this time had a population of 562 Europeans. Victoria became the place to obtain mining licenses, buy provisions and gather information before beginning the journey to the Fraser Canyon.
In this critical thinking lesson, students analyze various textual and visual sources to determine what aspects of daily life in Victoria were changed by the gold rush, and what aspects changed very little. Students learn to make observations and draw inferences from a visual and then a text source, and to identify change and continuity over the history of Colonial British Columbia. They examine various historical sources to draw conclusions about daily life in Victoria prior to the gold rush in 1858. They then examine a parallel set of textual and visual sources to learn about daily life in Victoria after the gold rush. Finally, students identify and rate the degree of continuity and change in daily life between the two time periods.
Explain to students that historians use texts (diaries, letters, newspapers) and images (paintings, drawings, photographs, film) as sources of information about the conditions of life in a given place and time. As an opening activity, invite students to make observations and draw inferences about daily life based on a drawing of Fort Victoria in the Colony of Vancouver Island around 1857.
Distribute a copy of the image, #1 Drawing of Colonial Victoria, to each student or simply project the image on a screen for the entire class to see. As a class, invite students to describe things they see in the image.
After students have made a number of observations—describing exactly what they see in the image—invite them to draw possible conclusions about what it was like to live in Fort Victoria at this time. Explain that students are going to practise drawing inferences—conclusions that are not directly seen in the image but are reasonable based on what can be observed. For example, there appears to be livestock in the foreground of the image. This suggests that farming was an economic activity in the area, and perhaps that people had access to milk and cheese as by-products of these domesticated animals.
Distribute copies of the activity sheet, #2 Portrait of Daily Life, to each pair of students. Draw students’ attention to the aspects of daily life recorded across the top of the activity sheet. Explain that this image does not provide information about all of the themeslisted. Suggest that students focus on those aspects that most apply to the image. For example, the most relevant themes appear to be shelter/housing, economic activity, transportation, and landscape. Ask students to record up to seven observations, indicate the aspect(s) of daily life that features in each observation, and draw a plausible inference about daily life based on each observation.
Encourage students to look beyond obvious details, and try to extract as much information as possible from the image. One way to do this is to scan the foreground, middle ground and background when locating relevant details.
Invite several students to share their most interesting or informative inferences about daily life and to indicate the observations that support each conclusion. If useful, provide students with a copy of the illustrative observations and inferences that are found in #3 Sample Portrait of Daily Life.
Before exploring other textual and visual documents, use the ideas described above in the Introduction to explain to students the focus of the lesson and outline the activities they will undertake.
Explain that one purpose of the lesson is to explore how change and continuity are ongoing and ever present in history. In every aspect of our daily lives, things are changing and in other respects they remain constant. For example, the form of houses and much of the building materials used in homes in North America have remained fairly constant over the last century. In many other respects—heating, plumbing and sewage, appliances, insulating materials and fire retardants—housing has changed dramatically and with them the way we live. Invite students to suggest several ways in which schools have changed and have remained the same since students started attending school.
To reinforce the idea of ongoing change and continuity, and to provide background about the history of this region, invite students to speculate on the things that might have changed and not changed as a result of key events in the history of Colonial British Columbia. Duplicate copies of the four-page timeline, #6 Colonial British Columbia Timeline. You may choose to distribute one page of the timeline to different group of students. Their task is to discuss each of the dozen or so events in their assigned time period and to speculate on some of the changes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people as a result of each incident. As well, encourage students to mention a few (non-trivial) things that would likely not have changed as a result of each event. If students need more context to complete this task, use the briefing sheet, #5 Colonial British Columbia Before the Gold Rush, as speaking notes to provide an overview or invite students to read the background document aloud.
Once students have speculated on changes and continuity for each event in their section of the timeline, invite each group to prepare a one-minute summary of some of the main changes and constants for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from the time of the first event on their list to the last event. Arrange for each group to share its summary with the rest of the class. Encourage other members of the class to offer alternative suggestions about the major changes and constants during each time period.
Remind students that they have already learned to draw inferences about daily life based on observations of a visual source. They will now practice analyzing text documents. Distribute a copy of the document, #7 Sample Text Document, to each student or simply project the text on a screen for the entire class to read. As a class, briefly discuss what students make of the document.
After a short while, distribute a copy of the activity sheet, #8 Reading Around a Document, to each student (or pair of students). Explain that these six questions help to develop an overall sense of a document before actually analyzing its contents. Re-read the document as a class and invite students to offer their response and evidence for each question. Draw attention to the fact that students are being asked to note details from the text (find evidence) to support a response that may involve drawing inferences. Discuss their answers as a class.
Explain to students that when analyzing documents (textual and visual) they are to make sure that their observations are accurate and relevant and that their inferences are plausible and imaginative (not completely obvious). Inform students that these criteria will be used to evaluate the quality of their observations and inferences.
accurate and relevant observations: offers many observations that accurately describe the details in the image and text that are relevant to the specified theme(s);
plausible and imaginative inferences: offers varied inferences that go beyond the very obvious conclusions, and are supported by details from the image, text or based on other known facts about the topic.
Invite students to draw upon what they already know about the topic featured in the text to help reach plausible conclusions. If the evidence for their conclusion is weak, encourage students to be tentative in stating their inferences. Ask that they qualify their conclusions, using terms such as “may be,” “possibly,” and “perhaps.” Also, encourage students when in doubt about particular details in the image to use terms such as “it looks like” or “it may be.”
After reading around the document, ask students to use the text as a source of information about daily life in Victoria. Distribute a copy of the activity sheet, #2 Portrait of Daily Life, to each pair of students for them to record observations and inferences about various aspects of daily life.
Before embarking on the activity, review with students the rubric, #4 Assessing Observations and Inferences. If desired, after completion of the activity arrange for students to assess their own or each others’ observations and conclusions.
Students are now ready to examine multiple visual and textual sources to learn about daily life in Victoria prior to the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. You may want to distribute the nine source documents found in #9 Pre-Gold Rush Sources in one of several ways:
with younger students, use only the four images (Pre-Gold Rush Documents #1-4);
assign students to work in pairs to analyze one image and one page of text documents (in most cases, there is one document per page);
create groups of four students, and expect them to analyze all nine documents.
Distribute multiple copies of the activity sheet, #2 Portrait of Daily Life, so that students have one copy for each page of source documents they are assigned to analyze. Remind students to look at the aspects of daily life listed across the top of the activity sheet. Not every image and text source will provide information about each of these aspects. Encourage students to focus on the themes that best apply to the particular documents they are analyzing.
Encourage students to use the questions on the activity sheet, #8 Reading Around a Document, as a pre-reading guide to each text document. You may want to require older students (individually or in groups) to provide a completed copy of this activity sheet for each text document analyzed.
Before embarking on the activity, remind students to review the rubric, #4 Assessing Observations and Inferences. If desired, after completion of the activity arrange for students to assess their own or each others’ observations and conclusions.
Invite students to check the accuracy of their observations and the plausibility of their inferences with other students who have been assigned the same documents.
Inform students that their task is now to learn about daily life in Victoria during the post-gold rush period. You may want to distribute the eleven source documents found in #10 Post-Gold Rush Sources in one of several ways:
with younger students, use only the five images (Post-Gold Rush Documents #1-5);
assign students to work in pairs to analyze one image and one page of text documents (in most cases, there are two short text documents per page);
create groups of four students, and expect them to analyze all eleven documents.
As was done previously, distribute multiple copies of the activity sheet, #2 Portrait of Daily Life, so that students have one copy for each page of source documents they are to analyze. Remind students to focus on the aspects of daily life that best apply to the documents they are analyzing. After completion of the activity, you may want evaluate the assignment and/or invite students to use the rubric, #4 Assessing Observations and Inferences, to assess their own or each others’ work.
Invite students to consider which aspects of daily life in Victoria have changed and which aspects have remained constant from the pre-gold rush to post-gold rush periods. Encourage students to consult the records of their observations and inferences and those of their fellow students. If students have worked in groups to analyze all the documents, arrange for each group to review its findings. Alternatively, post copies of the documents and completed activity sheets around the classroom, and invite pairs of students to examine the findings.
Distribute a copy of the activity sheet, #11 Looking for Continuity or Change, to each student (or pair of students). Inform students that their task is to identify evidence from the two time periods of continuity and change for four aspects of daily life. Students are to rate the degree of change or continuity for the four aspects using the scale included on the activity sheet. Remind students to justify their rankings with evidence.
Before embarking on the activity, review with students the rubric, #12 Assessing the Rating of Continuity and Change. After completion of the activity, in addition to your own evaluation you may want students to assess their own or each others’ identification of examples of continuity and change and their ratings of the degree of similarity and difference.
Arrange for individuals or groups to share their most notable examples of continuity and change and their ratings for various aspects of daily life, encouraging other students to offer evidence that supports or challenges the ratings.
Determining Progress and Decline in Daily Life. Invite students to consider whether the changes brought about by the gold rush were positive or negative. Begin by developing definitions for both progress and decline. When considering progress and decline remind students that change does not necessarily imply progress, nor does continuity necessarily imply stagnation. The assumption underlying many textbooks is one of progress and many students seem to believe if something is new it must be better. The purpose in distinguishing change from improvement is to discourage students from making simplistic judgments about the value or desirability of change or continuity in history. Invite students to use the activity sheet, #13 Progress and Decline in Daily Life, to record and rate the degree of progress or decline for each of the major aspects of daily life.
Writing a Document-Based Response. Using the document packages and other sources of information included with this lesson, invite students to write a document-based essay on the following question: “Was there more [continuity or change in the daily life…?] in common or difference in the daily life in Victoria before and after the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush?” Refer to the activity sheet, #14 Document-Based Essay for instructions.
Continuity and Change in Victoria: Then and Now. Invite students to identify the significant continuities and changes between Victoria today (use Google maps) with the map, #15 Victoria Harbour 1860. Direct students to record their finding on activity sheet, #11 Looking for Continuity and Change.