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bastion3The history of Nanaimo has unfolded in a way that demonstrates the coming together of various cultures in a way that perhaps nowhere else in the world can. The Harbour City was first settled by people over 5000 years ago, and over time many cultures have come to call Nanaimo home for many different reasons. With the incredible variety of influences contributing to the art, music, and atmosphere that make up Nanaimo, it's no wonder that the city was named Cultural Capital of Canada in 2008. The human history of Nanaimo begins more than 5000 years ago, with the arrival of the forebears of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. The ample fishing and hunting grounds as well as the sheltering harbour made for the perfect spot to live for these people. The abundance of food and materials also meant that the Snuneymuxw peoples had the luxury of time in which to develop a culture of their own, with arts and crafts, particular celebrations, and unique architecture. The first Europeans to arrive in the Nanaimo area were the Spanish. An expedition under Francisco de Eliza sailed into Nanaimo Bay in 1791. In the early 1800s, Canadian fur powerhouse, the Hudson's Bay Company, established a trading post at Nanaimo. Snuneymuxw chief Ki-et-sa-kun informed the traders of the presence of coal in the region. The harbour was quickly transformed into a hot bed of mining activity, complete with the fort known as Nanaimo Bastion, which still stands today. Thus, the history of Nanaimo is one of a blending of cultures. First Nations, British, Spanish, and French cultures all have roots within the city, and what better way to celebrate than by creating city wide cultural projects? Today, you can find tours of historic parts of the city, old coal mines, and bathtub races throughout the summer months. During August, Nanaimo comes alive with celebrations of its culture with art shows, culturally specific exhibitions, and live theatre taking over the streets. It's no wonder that Nanaimo was one of only four cities to be named cultural capitals in 2008. The history of Nanaimo has made it a place where ideas and cultures meet and blend, where they are preserved and where they continue to grow!