The Nanaimo area was originally populated by native North Americans as the sheltered harbour and inherent natural resources proved conducive to life's necessities. Europeans, too, found the abundant fish, animal and timber a recipe for settlement. But it was the discovery of coal that proved to be the catalyst for Nanaimo's growth.
The name "Nanaimo" is a derivation of the region's First Nations people, the Snunéymuxw. They left numerous archaeological traces including longhouses 100 feet long. After settlement by the British, Snunéymuxw people remained in the area. Many were employed by the Hudson's Bay Company to mine the coal in what is today downtown Nanaimo.
Nanaimo was incorporated in 1874 and the area's natural resource industries like fishing, logging, milling, sandstone quarrying and mining helped shape the town's growth. In fact, mine tailings were used to expand the waterfront lands, a practice which has continued late into the 20th century.
Today Nanaimo stands as a city that avoided obscurity by diversifying its industries. Shipping and tourism have replaced mining as have many other industrial and commercial enterprises defining Nanaimo as the hub of Vancouver Island.