Russians were the first to report that they had reached the area. They got there in 1741. Three years later, Spanish ships sailed up the Pacific Coast from Mexico and found the Haida. In 1778, Britain sent Captain James Cook to stake a claim in the area.
Russia and Britain were mostly interested in trading for sea otter fur. Eventually, Russian, British, and American traders competed for the fur trade. The people of the Northwest Coast were smart traders. They were happy to exchange furs for guns, iron, sugar, blankets, flour, and sails for their canoes. But contact with the new arrivals brought disaster.