Russians were the first to record reaching the area, in 1741. In 1774, Spanish ships sailed up the Pacific Coast from Mexico and encountered the Haida. Britain sent Captain James Cook to claim a foothold in the area in 1778.
Russia and Britain were mostly interested in trading for sea otter fur. Eventually, Russian, British, and American traders were all competing for the fur trade. The people of the Northwest Coast were shrewd traders, and they were happy to exchange fur pelts for guns, iron, sugar, blankets, flour, and sails for their canoes. However, contact with the new arrivals brought disastrous results.