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History of the Border

A map showing the Oregon Boundary dispute.

An 1846 map showing the 49th parallel across the Oregon Country.

Prior to 1846, no boundary bisected the Okanagan Valley. The United States and Great Britain both had the right of entry to the area and joint occupancy based on the Treaty of 1818. The British knew the area as the Columbia District, a fur-trading division of the Hudson's Bay Company. Furs would be taken from Fort St. James to Fort Vancouver through the Okanagan Valley. Americans called the region the Oregon Country.

In 1844, James K. Polk, President of the United States, was seeking to establish an international boundary at the 49th parallel as previous U.S. administrations had discussed. Negotiations became tense between Britain and the United States as a number of expansionists had elected Polk based on his promise to annex the Oregon Country as far north as parallel 54° 40'. The term "manifest destiny" arose from American expansionists who believed that the United States had the right to secure as much land as it could.

In 1846, an arrangement between Great Britain and the United Sates was reached and the boundary disputes of years previous were settled. The northern boundary issue was ultimately settled because neither Britain nor the United States wished to engage in another war. The Oregon Treaty made the 49th parallel the official boundary between U.S. territory and British North America running west from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.