The Colonial Present: The rule of ignorance and the role of law in British Columbia

Chapter 5

On Reserve


“Many of us were driven off our places where we had lived and camped from time immemorial, even places we cultivated, and where we raised food, because these spots were desirable for agriculture, and the Government wanted them for white settlers. This was done without agreement with us, and we received no compensation. It was also in direct opposition to the promises made to us by the first whites, and Government officials, that no white men would be allowed to locate on any place where Indians were settled or which were camping stations and gardens. Thus were we robbed by the Government and driven off many of our places by white settlers (backed by the Government), or coaxed off them with false promises.”

  • Memorial to Frank Oliver, Minister of the Interior and Superintendent of Indian Affairs, May 10, 1911. The affidavit was signed by some 80 representatives of Carrier, Talhltan, Lillooet, Secwepemc, Nlakapamux, Okanagan, Tsilhqo’tin and Sekani.
This map shows the existing Indian Reserves in British Columbia. (They are the little red dots.)

This map shows the existing Indian Reserves in British Columbia. (They are the little red dots.)

Today, Indian Bands are known, if at all, as First Nations. Largely because of the indifference to their situation one way or another, as noted above a hundred years ago, most British Columbians are still completely inarticulate on the subject of why there are Indian Reserves in the first place, or why the name change. They are most certainly unaware of how they came to be located where they are, or why indigenous nations continue to insist that when they talk about their title they are referring to the whole nation, not the places that were demarcated for them arbitrarily. If the Reserves are unknown, awareness of the traditional territories borders on the esoteric.


Reserve sites were usually somewhat near settler towns and roadhouses, or as close to them as the whites who came and took over those settlement-ready sites would allow them to remain. But British Columbians are similarly unfamiliar with the miners and homesteading characters so many of the communities are named after, at least in the interior: Yale, Boothroyd, Lytton, Anderson Lake, Pemberton, “Oregon Jack,” Hope, Williams Lake, Alexis Creek, Douglas. Contrary to the mysterious nature of early BC labour history as it is proposed by the circus act variety of historical illusionist, there are ample local records of the cheap native labour which financed the successful operation of those early road houses and their gardens and livestock between Langley and the Cariboo gold fields.[i] Villages had been made at those sites for good reasons, and people continued to live there, if a little to the left, for those same reasons, especially fishing.


The Bulkley Valley became site of a scramble for the goldfields in the Cariboo rush; the arable lands of the Kootenays, Fraser Valley, and Okanagan were soon re-populated, and coastal estuaries that had been home to as many as thirty different villages sites, in the case of Bella Coola, were also preferred by the colonist. The fields and shores of the “Pemberton Band,” the Kitsilano, Skohomish, Neskonlith, Saanich, Lillooet, Musqueam, Katzie, Comox, Nadleh Whuten, Kwikwitlem, Penticton, and so many others were taken out from under those people, or rather the people were pushed from them in any manner that was expedient. Cash settlements in the order of today’s “Benefits Sharing” arrangements, “legal” displays of paper folding, and simply re-settling the area with World War I veterans all assisted with the removal of ancient communities, backed of course by the BC Provincial Police, established in 1858.[ii] Every city in British Columbia today is built on a much older city.



How Reserves Came to Be


When Vancouver’s Island was made a colony in 1949, mainly to further discourage American notions of pushing north, the Colonial Secretary in England sent frantic instructions to Governor Douglas to make as many treaties as possible. He did, but the result was poor. The few acres here and there that he treated for, with blankets and HBC credits given in exchange, was very soon in the way of the settlers’ expansive taste and in many cases the treated lands were simply absorbed back under settler fences and structures, or the H&G Rail. It wasn’t until exactly 110 years after those exchanges, in 1964, that they were recognized as treaties in the Supreme Court of Canada, in Bob and White, along with the accompanying rights “guaranteed” by Douglas – rights hopelessly impossible to practice since the extermination of most forms of life that would have made those provisions meaningful. At the time, Douglas did not stand up for the treaties he made when the indigenous parties to them were denied their part of the bargains. Those treaties were sealed with a transfer of pocket change and credits at HBC stores.


Further up the coast and sometime later, the Fort Rupert Factor’s daughter, half Haida, helped collect exes in relation to the sacred Kwakiutl site of Tsaxis, a place where survivors of the Great Flood first emerged again. The HBC had not failed to spot the ideal location and built on it and called it Fort Rupert. She went door-to-door among the villagers with blankets, shirts and trade items, saying that the Chief of white men was “potlatching.” People made an “x” to show they had been the recipient of a blanket. Governor Douglas then claimed to own the area outright, he said he had paid three thousand pounds for it, and the HBC moved the Kwakiutl villagers along.[iii] This transaction has not since been designated a treaty by modern courts.

When British Columbia made itself indispensable to the crown by yielding up promising gold deposits, in 1858, it was made a colony. It was joined together with Vancouver Island in 1864, but without any treaties.

Douglas was in the position of making it up as he went along, most pretense of law having been utterly abandoned in attempts to keep stirring an international stew boiling over into as yet unmapped gold-producing areas. He wrote to his colonial overseers,

“I also explained to them (the Indians) that the Magistrates had instructions to stake out and reserve for their use and benefit, all their occupied village sites and cultivated fields, and as much land in the vicinity of each as they could till, or was required for their support; that they might freely exercise and enjoy the rights of fishing the Lakes and Rivers, and of hunting over all unoccupied Crown Lands in the Colony; and that on their becoming registered Free Miners, they might dig and search for Gold, and hold mining claims on the same terms precisely as other miners:…” [iv]

This sort of next-best idea became Douglas’s government policy with the Colonial Secretary of England: to demarcate as much land as any Indian community should recommend to be their Reserve.

Perhaps attracted to the scope offered by a new colonial government that didn’t particularly require qualification, an associate of the gold rush, Joseph Trutch succeeded Douglas in the area of making Reserves. He quickly assumed a power he most certainly did not have: the monarch’s prerogative to policy, and embarked on a practice of renegade politics that has seen the province through to the present day. By 1871 the new colonial administration had taken the approach of reducing Indian Reserves to ten acres per family head, or adult male.

Joseph Trutch was one of the first land surveyors in the 1870’s to be tasked with marking off minimal plots of land where the Indians should live. They should get the Indians off the way of the settlers. Soon Trutch was Chief Commissioner of BC for Land and Works.  By 1874, Trutch responded to the continuing correspondence from the Colonial Secretaries, who were responding to the continuing protests and petitions being undertaken by the tribal nations’ leaders, by saying that all the Indians now had Reserves that were quite to their satisfaction. What is remarkable about this is not only that the Reserves were categorically unsatisfactory and an 1874 petition signed by over a hundred Chiefs stated so, but that the northern interior of British Columbia was still basically inaccessible to Reserve Commissioners, or anyone but the Indians at that time, and was therefore very much bereft of the supposedly adequate land reserves. There were no Reserves in northern BC. Trutch was a liar.


During these years there is plenty of correspondence between the British overlords and the BC colonials. The British were still, for whatever reason, concerned with the appearance of upholding their Constitutional directives from 1763 and 1867 respectively, which stated that the land is Reserved to the Indians as their Hunting Grounds, and that the lands belong to the provinces but “subject to any Interests other than those of the provinces,” as per Section 109 of the British North America Act, 1867: “All Lands, Mines, Minerals and Royalties belonging to the several provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick at the Union, and all such Lands, Mines, Minerals or Royalties, shall belong to the several provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in which the same are situate or arise, subject to any Trusts existing in respect thereof, and to any Interests other than that of the Province in the same.” The Other Interest here is clearly that of the owners of the Reserved Hunting Grounds or otherwise unceded Indian Lands acknowledged by the 1763 Royal Proclamation.


Official records made by Surveyors and Reserve Commissioners went like this:

“They were then assured of protection, and that their tribes would not be disturbed in the possession of their homes, and their hunting and fishing grounds; and that the Dominion Government would provide them with the means of education, and assist them in their agricultural pursuits. The nature, also, of the Railway Survey was explained to them, and they were told that they need not apprehend any loss as the result of such survey.” [v]


Letters to the newspapers of the day went like this:

“Many of these reservations have been surveyed without their consent, and sometimes without having received notice of it, so that they could not expose their needs and their wishes. Their reservations have been repeatedly cut off smaller for the benefit of the whites, and the best and most useful part of them taken away till some tribes are corralled on a small piece of land, as at Canoe Creek or elsewhere, or even have not an inch of ground, as at Williams Lake. … Besides their lands were valuable to the Indians for hunting, and now the game is receding far away before the whites.” [vi]


The Royal Commission on Indian Affairs’ report, the Confidential Report of the Commissioners for McKenna-McBride, forty years later:

“The importance of securing, under the Provincial law, all requisite water rights for Indians cannot be over stated. In the dry belt water is an essential of the land. Without it the land is practically useless. It is evident that in the past systematic care was not taken to secure water rights in connection with the law. It seems to have been taken for granted that the allotment of water by the Commissioners who set apart Reserves was sufficient, though there is grave doubt as to whether the Commissioners had such power. And, from the evidence of Indians and enquiries made, it appears that there are numerous records of water for Reserves not noted in the Schedule of Reserves, and of which it may be the Department has no official record.

“Fishing and the policy in operation thereanent give very grave concern to the Indians. … At all meetings which the Commission held with Bands outside of the strictly agricultural and stock raising areas, expression was given to a sense of injustice consequent upon the operation of the fishery regulations as they bear directly upon the Indians.” [vii]


In April of 1873, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Victoria estimated there were 28,500 Indians in British Columbia. The Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works wrote back to him (in one of the later of a long series of letters back and forth with the Dominion Government asking for specifics and statistics, the province guaranteeing they had been sent – then later acknowledging they didn’t exist) saying not eighty but six acres should be reserved per family, and a family should be six people. So in 1873, the province intended that less than 30,000 acres be Reserved for the Indians of British Columbia. In 1873, the non-native population of BC was less than 10,000 (although they had upped it – on paper – to 30,000 for the benefit of the per-capita transfer agreements under the Terms of Union with Canada in 1871). BC claims a land base of about 25 million acres. The Indian share of the land would be one eight hundredth; 0.08 percent.

It is a wonder what he thought the Indian people would do in the next generation.

Although the point of this writing is not to discuss the justness of the size of Indian Reserves, far from it, the following exchanges speak to the character and competence of British Columbia’s early colonial leadership.


            The Superintendent of Indian Affairs to the Lieutenant Governor of BC.

                                                                                                June 21, 1873

   …in respect of the urgent necessity of adjusting existing Indian Reserves – extending them where required and of setting apart Indian lands for tribes not now provided for… I am informed at different places, just visited by me, that in some instances great injustice has been done to the Indians in not reserving sufficient land for their use… abundant discontent prevails among the Indians both on the Island and Mainland, and I regard it as a matter of urgent and paramount importance that … their complaints should be adjusted… .                                                                    I. W. Powell



            Report of a Committee of the Honorable the Privy Council

                                                                                       March 21, 1873

   … Mr. Powell… accordingly suggests that each family be assigned a location of eighty acres of land of average quality, which shall remain permanently the property of the family for whose benefit it is allotted.                        

                                 A. Himsworth, Clerk, PC



The Dominion government now recommends that 400,000 acres be reserved; just over 1% of BC’s land base. At this time, the single white male homesteader receives 160 acres as a pre-emption: his for two dollars. Indians may not buy or pre-empt land.



Report of a Committee of the Honourable the Executive Council, approved by His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor of BC

                                                                                       July 25, 1873

   …The Committee remark that this quantity is greatly in excess of the grants considered sufficient by previous Governments of British Columbia, and recommend that throughout the Province Indian Reserves should not exceed a quantity of twenty acres of land for each head of a family of five persons.                                       W J Armstrong, Clerk, EC




            The Provincial Secretary to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs

                                                                                                July 28, 1873

   … all future reserves for Indians will be adjusted on the basis of twenty acres of land for each head of a family of five persons.                       

John Ash




            The Superintendent of Indian Affairs to the Provincial Secretary

                                                                                                July 29, 1873

   I am not aware that any restriction of the kind is customary in the other provinces of the Dominion, and, before communicating the same to the Department at Ottawa, may I beg of you to inform me as to whether it is intended to restrict the proposed grant of twenty acres of land to a family “of five persons” and, if so, the particular quantity of land which may be reserved for a family of two, three, four, six or more persons.

                                    I W Powell




            The Provincial Secretary to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs

                                                                                                August 1, 1873

   …to each five persons there shall be allotted twenty acres of land.

                                    John Ash




            The Superintendent of Indian Affairs to the Provincial Secretary

                                                                                                August 23, 1873

   …I have the honour to state that I am authorized to accept the proposition of the Government to make the quantity of land to be hereafter reserved for each Indian family in the Province twenty acres. As the restriction of twenty acres to each family of five persons, besides being quite unusual in other Provinces of the Dominion, would tend much to complicate matters in connection with Indian lands, I am to express the hope that the Government will not insist upon the acreage referred to being confined to any specified number of persons in a family, and should be glad to have your earliest reply.  * emphasis in the original                   

I W Powell



No response from the Provincial Secretary was recorded in this collection in “Papers Relating to the Indian Land Question,” published by the Queen’s Printer for British Columbia.

What stands out is the total lack of definition of the process. As Amor de Cosmos pointed out in 1858, and to emphasize the aforesaid, “Our government – the guardian of our lives and liberties – must be systematized and receive a settled form.”  There was no reference to the 1763 Proclamation, or the 1867 Constitution, in those exchanges about Reserves. No legalistic guide was referred to in these letters and directions, merely overtures to the fact that it was indeed eighty acres per family that had formed the basis of treaty lands elsewhere in Canada, and apparently the whim of BC’s new government carried the day. That whim was quickly modified, at least in the case of some places in Secwepemc, where the Provincial Secretary then begged the Superintendent for permission to grant forty acres per family in hopes of averting the course of war then popular among interior Chiefs.

The tribes now dread the idea of being placed upon and confined to these reserves, as they have ascertained that the Indian Department intend, if possible, to carry out such a course. …and intimate their intention of resisting such a step.[viii]

A year later, in 1874, the Minister of the Interior characterized British Columbia’s actions in response to the Indian Land Question, “as little short of a mockery of the claims.”[ix] At about the same time, the petition of 109 Chiefs written at Hope included an alternate way of looking at the same matter:

Our hearts have been wounded by the arbitrary way the Local Government of British Columbia have dealt with us in locating and dividing our Reserves.[x]

And yet, the Minister and any other authorities shirked their responsibilities under the British North America Act, and even the 1871 Terms of Union, in Article 13:

The charge of the Indians, and the trusteeship and management of the lands reserved for their use and benefit, shall be assumed by the Dominion Government and a policy as liberal as that hitherto pursued by the British Columbia Government shall be continued by the Dominion Government after the Union.

To carry out such policy, tracts of land of such extent as it has hitherto been the practice of the British Columbia Government to appropriate for that purpose, shall from time to time be conveyed by the Local Government to the Dominion Government in trust for the use and benefit of the Indians on application of the Dominion Government; and in case of disagreement between the two Governments respecting the quantity of such tracts of land to be so granted, the matter shall be referred for the decision of the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

The Reserves would not have been big enough even for one generation to grow up on them and start new families. Indians were not allowed to pre-empt, or even own land – unless, hypothetically, with Special Permission of the Governor – which was never given, although often sought. The bleeding heart liberals of the time insisted that the presence of the whites could do nothing but good for the wandering Indian, “bind him to the soil” by agricultural pursuits and make him industrious and civilized. This is not even consistent with what was happening. The whites were going about making sure there would be no more Indians, civilized or not – they would be unable to provide for themselves as Indians, and if they were civilized, they would no longer – by government definition – be Indians.

The federal Indian Act, alternatively, would soon come to assist the province in 1876. Possibly as evidence of the solution this Act was meant to have provided, the Queen’s Press “Papers” relating to the “Question” collection somewhat inexplicably fails to include correspondence after 1875.

Thereafter the Joint Commission was appointed to survey the Indian Reserves, a collective approach between the province and the federal government. This Indian Reserve Commission, as it was also called, surveyed most of the Reserves in BC until its end came in 1910. It had not, however, resolved the disagreement between the governments which both claimed that they “owned” Indian Reserve land. The Province claimed the right to disallow any Reserve that the Indian Reserve Commission allotted and protested the amount of land that the Indian Reserve Commission set aside as Reserves.[xi]

Many more dispatches regarding the Indian dissatisfaction were authored.



How the Reserves were fought

In 1886 provincial surveyors arrived again in the Nass Valley to mark out Indian Reserves. The Nisga’a expelled them. Nisga’a and Tsimshian Chiefs went to Victoria, met Premier Smithe, refused to give in to his humiliating treatment, and succeeded in convincing him that the Haida, Tsimshian and Nisga’a all wanted a proper treaty. In 1887 the first Royal Commission, a joint federal and provincial endeavor, began hearing and documenting the debacle which was the fallout from Trutch’s Reserve selection process – mostly in response to the Nisga’a.[xii] David Mackay, Nisga’a, told the Commission:

“What we don’t like about the Government is their saying this: ‘We will give you this much of land.’ How can they give it when it is our own? We cannot understand it. They have never bought it from us or our forefathers. They have never fought and conquered our people and taken the land in that way, and yet they say now that they will give us so much land – our own land.”[xiii]

No one else liked the government’s approach either. Judging by the following exchange, the Chiefs were quite conscious of enduring an exercise in “passing the buck,” which left them constantly attempting to rectify “failed” communications between one level of government and another. The Surveyors, Commissioners and elected officers were in the habit of lying to the Chiefs’ faces and blaming any resulting misunderstanding on the absent official. In 1887, Fort Simpson, a series of meetings one after the other between Reserve Commissioners and Chiefs proved too intense for the strategy to work:

Shakes (Tsimshian): No; we only tell you what belonged to our forefathers, and what we claimed is getting smaller all the time. You said yesterday “the Naas didn’t belong to us,” and we were surprised to hear it.

Commissioner Cornwall: Who said that?

Shakes: Mr. Cornwall.


During those hearings, all the Chiefs within a two day journey of the meeting places at the Nass, Fort Simpson and Metlakatla insisted they did not want the Indian Act, they wanted the Queen’s law. “…we Tsimpseans want to take charge of our own land ; that is why we want power from the Queen to use her laws. Dr. Powell put laws into our hands, and those people made fun of them, so we know it is not strong.”

In 1906, Cowichan Chiefs along with some leaders from the interior went to England to register their complaints.

In 1909, the British Columbia Indian Rights Association was formed. Representatives of twenty nations traveled to England to assert to King Edward VII that British Columbia’s government was in need of check, and the Cowichan Petition went with them.

In February of 1910, James Teit wrote to Franz Boas,

“… I have been busy traveling around, and speaking to the Indians so as to get them united in an effort to fight the BC Government in the Courts over the question of their lands.

“Owing to the stringency in the laws, increased settlement in the country, and general development of the Capitalist system, the Indians are being crushed, and made poor, and more & more restricted to their small, and inadequate reservations. The BC Government has appropriated all the lands of the country, and claims also to be sole protector of the Ind. Reserves. They refuse to acknowledge the Ind. title, and have taken possession of all without treaty with or consent of the Indians. Having taken the lands they claim complete ownership of everything in connection therewith such as water, timber, fish, game, etc.

“They also subject the Indians completely to all the laws of BC without having made any agreement with them to that effect. The Indians demand that treaties be made with them regarding everything the same as has been made with the Indians of all the other provinces of Canada and in the US, that their reservations be enlarged so they have a chance to make a living as easily and as sufficient as among the Whites, and that all the lands not required by them and which they do not wish to retain for purposes of cultivation and grazing, and which are presently appropriated by the BC Government be paid for in cash. The Indians are all uniting and putting up money and have engaged lawyers in Toronto to fight for them, and have the case tried before the Privy Council in England.”

In 1910, “Friends of the Indians” was organized by white people, and they went to Victoria to interview the Premier on his plans to resolve the land title question. In March of 1910 another deputation of Indian leaders went to Victoria and were told by the Premier that it was his view that the Indians had no title to any lands whatsoever.

In August of 1910, some 80 Chiefs of the Interior authored the Memorial to Sir Wilfred Laurier, Prime Minister of Canada, as transcribed by Teit. Laurier had met with the leaders at Prince Rupert and at Kamloops during the summer. Officially submitted by the Secwepemc, Okanagan and Nlakapa’mux, the document was also signed by Chiefs from further nations as witnesses. It reads, in part,

“After a time when they saw that our patience might get exhausted and that we might cause trouble if we thought all the land was to be occupied by whites they set aside many small reservations for us here and there over the country. This was their proposal not ours, and we never accepted these reservations as settlement for anything, nor did we sign any papers or make any treaties about same. They thought we would be satisfied with this, but we never have been satisfied and never will be until we get our rights. We thought the setting apart of these reservations was the commencement of some scheme they had evolved for our benefit, and that they would now continue until they had more than fulfilled their promises but although we have waited long we have been disappointed. We have always felt the injustice done us, but we did not know how to obtain redress. We knew it was useless to go to war. What could we do? Even your government at Ottawa, into whose charge we have been handed by the B.C. government, gave us no enlightenment. We had no powerful friends. The Indian agents and Indian office at Victoria appeared to neglect us. Some offers of help in the way of agricultural implements, schools, medical attendance, aid to the aged, etc., from the Indian department were at first refused by many of our chiefs or were never petitioned for, because for a time we thought the Ottawa and Victoria governments were the same as one, and these things would be charged against us and rated as payment for our land, etc. Thus we got along the best way we could and asked for nothing. For a time we did not feel the stealing of our lands, etc., very heavily. As the country was sparsely settled we still had considerable liberty in the way of hunting, fishing, grazing, etc., over by far the most of it. However, owing to increased settlement, etc., in late years this has become changed, and we are being more and more restricted to our reservations which in most places are unfit or inadequate to maintain us. Except we can get fair play we can see we will go to the wall, and most of us be reduced to beggary or to continuous wage slavery. We have also learned lately that the British Columbia government claims absolute ownership of our reservations, which means that we are practically landless. We only have loan of those reserves in life rent, or at the option of the B.C. government. Thus we find ourselves without any real home in this our own country.”[xiv]

A year later, on May 10, 1911, the Memorial to Frank Oliver, Minister of the Interior and Superintendent of Indian Affairs, followed it to the unresponsive governments. In part:

“Premier McBride, speaking for the BC Government, said “We Indians had no right or title to the unsurrendered lands of the province.” We can not possibly have rights in any surrendered lands, because in the first place they would not be ours if we surrendered them, and, secondly we have never surrendered any lands. This means that the BC Government asserts that we have no claim or title to the lands of this country. Our tribal territories which we have held from time immemorial, often at cost of blood, are ours no longer if Premier McBride is correct. We are all beggars, and landless in our own country. We told him through one of our chiefs we were of the opposite opinion from him, and claimed our countries as hitherto. We asked that the question between us be submitted for settlement to the highest courts, for how otherwise can it now be settled? His answer was: “there was no question to settle or submit to the courts.” Now, how can this be. That there is a question is self-evident, for Premier McBride takes one side of it, and we take the other. If there was no question, there would have been nothing to talk about; and nothing to take sides on. We wish to tell you, Chief, this question is very real to us.  It is a live issue.

“Then we were promised full freedom to hunt, fish and travel over our country unrestricted by the regulations of the whites, until such time as our lands were purchased or at least until treaties were made with us. Another promise broken, and so on with all.”[xv]

Following from Sir Wilfred Laurier’s promise in Prince Rupert of a judicial hearing of the tribes’ complaints against BC, finally Duncan Campbell Scott, Superintendent General for Indian Affairs, prepared an Order in Council to allow their claim to go to the Privy Council. George Manuel, Secwepemc, described the proposal in his book The Fourth World:

“But not directly to the Privy Council. The case would have to begin in the Exchequer Court of Canada, a court that mainly dealt with highly technical administrative questions and whose bench was traditionally filled with retired civil servants who are highly expert on obscure questions of tax law. But our fathers were told there was no other way to the Privy Council than through an appeal from a lower court. This much could have been accepted.

“But there were four other principle conditions:

  1. The Chiefs had to agree in advance that if the court upheld our claim to title, we must surrender the title to the Crown for whatever compensation they might choose to give; and, the Chiefs would accept in advance the judgement of the McKenna-McBride Commission as the full allotment of reserve lands.
  2. The province, by agreeing to this commission’s report – which its own Premier had helped to write – would have satisfied all claims against it;
  3. The Indians would be represented in court only by lawyers chosen by the Dominion government; and, the case could only go to court if the province agreed to be represented by lawyers it could choose for itself;
  4. If the courts decided that we did not have title, the Dominion government would ever after be the sole authority to decide what was in our interest, without further protest.”

The Indian Tribes walked away.

In late 1911, Laurier lost the federal election to Robert Borden, a Conservative. Laurier had taken considerable steps towards getting the BC question into a court room of the Judicial Committee. Borden went completely the other way and immediately struck a Reserve Commission in 1912. Robert McKenna was Canada’s Special Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and Richard McBride was still Premier of BC. The two set out the terms for the Commission. Forty-eight Chiefs then protested the Commission by meeting in Spences Bridge on May 23, 1913 – there was no Indian representation on the Commission. The Commission went ahead.

In the preamble to the Terms of the Royal Commission, it states: “it is desirable to settle all differences between the Governments of the Dominion and the Province respecting Indian lands and Indian affairs generally…” But the Commissioners did not attempt to do everything the preamble suggested. Specific reference to the land title question was not made in the eight paragraphs of agreement and instruction.

Opposition to the Reserve Commission had resulted in creation of the Allied Tribes of British Columbia, through much initiative by coastal Indians. The circumstances resulting are best, and most succinctly, reported in a statement from the “British Columbia Indian Conference,” held at Vancouver, 20th to 23rd June, 1916. Issued  by the Committee appointed by the Conference, and put into the hands of the Government of Canada and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, it was published in the press of Vancouver and was sent to each Indian Tribe:

The Indian Tribes of British Columbia have always claimed tribal ownership of the lands of the Province as the lands of their forefathers, and under Royal proclamation, but since the days of Sir James Douglas the local Government has not admitted their claims.

All the Indians of the Province have for many years desired that this land question should be decided, and to that end in the year 1909 sent a petition to the late King Edward VII., and his Imperial Minister, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, asking that the Imperial Government refer the land question to the Judicial Committee of His Majesty’s Privy Council.

When, by reason of refusal of British Columbia to agree to a reference, and the McKenna Agreement afterwards entered into by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia, it seemed that the door of the Judicial Committee had been closed against the Indians, the Nishga Tribe was advised that if one tribe presented a direct and independent petition to the King’s Great Court, His Majesty’s Privy Council, the door of the Judicial Committee might in that way be opened, not only for that one tribe, but for all other tribes. The Nishgas therefore decided to take the responsibility of presenting such a petition for the benefit of all the tribes.

With the approval of the Counsel for the Indian Rights Association, and after full consultation with the Government of Canada, the Petition of the Nishga Tribe was lodged in the Privy Council in May, 1913. That action was taken by the Nishgas with the earnest hope that the other tribes would unite in recognizing their petition as a test case relating to the claims of all the tribes.

After the Nishga Petition had been lodged, the London lawyers of the Nishga Tribe received from the Lord President of the Privy Council a letter stating as reason for not referring it to the Judicial Committee the supposed fact that the Royal Commission appointed under the McKenna Agreement was considering the aboriginal claims, which are the subject of the Petition. Soon afterwards the Nishgas presented to the Royal Commission a memorial in answer to which they were informed that the Commissioners were not considering, and had no power to consider these claims.

Subsequently the Nishga Petition was very fully considered at Ottawa, and as result in June, 1914, the Government passed an Order-in-Council asking that the Indian Tribes accept the findings of the Royal Commission, and agree to surrender their rights if the courts should decide that they have any, taking in place of them benefits to be granted by the Government of Canada.

The Nishga Tribe and the Interior Tribes allied with them, were unwilling to accept these conditions, but made proposals of their own, suggesting that the matter of lands to be reserved be finally dealt with by the Secretary of State for the Colonies and that the matter of fixing compensation for lands to be surrendered be dealt with by the parliament of Canada.

These counter proposals the Government of Canada rejected by Order-in-Council passed in June, 1915, mainly upon the ground that the Government was precluded by the McKenna Agreement from accepting them.

The Nishga and Interior Tribes being still unwilling to accept the Government’s terms, and believing that all or nearly all of the tribes of the Province would be unwilling to accept them, in April last sent delegations to Ottawa.

The delegates spent six weeks in Ottawa, and placed the case squarely before the Prime Minister of Canada, the Minister of the Interior, and the Deputy Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs. They also interviewed Sir Wilfred Laurier, who when Prime Minister promised that the land question would be brought before the Judicial Committee.

The delegates devoted much attention to the expected report of the Royal Commission, and asked that the report be not finally dealt with until the issues contained in the Nishga Petition should have been decided, or at least until the Indian tribes should have an opportunity of making representations regarding its findings.

Having failed to secure any definite answer from the Government, the delegates, before leaving Ottawa, in a statement placed in the hands of the Governor-General of Canada, the Prime Minister of Canada, and the Minister of the Interior, and sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, declared their determination to do all in their power by independent efforts to secure that the Nishga Petition shall be referred to the Judicial Committee.

After making some progress at Ottawa, the delegates sent to the Executive Committee of the Indian Rights Association an invitation to join them in a conference for the purpose of considering the interviews had with the Government of Canada, and the whole position reached in efforts being made for the Indian cause, with a view to securing the fullest possible harmony and co-operation. This invitation was accepted and the Conference opened in Vancouver on Tuesday, June 20. At a number of meetings held from that day until the following Friday, outstanding features of the situation were discussed with some fullness. The members of the Conference also attended a gathering of natives held on Thursday, June 22nd, addressed by Mr. Duncan C. Scott, Deputy Superintendent-General, whose views then expressed were carefully considered at subsequent meetings of the Conference.

The main result of the Conference was that unanimously the following resolutions were adopted, the first on Tuesday, June 20th, and the second on Friday, June 23rd:

  1. That this meeting of the Chiefs of the Indians of British Columbia with the Executive of the Indian Rights Association assembled, repudiate any suggestion that we are satisfied with the terms of the Order-in-Council passed in June, 1914, and Mr. Clark, K.C., of Toronto, quite misunderstood our instructions if he stated to Hon. Dr. Roche that the Indian Rights Association accepted the terms of such Order-in-Council.
  2. That a committee be appointed to agree on a general plan of action for the Indians of British Columbia and report to all tribes the result of their deliberations, with power in meantime to take any necessary steps to preserve all rights and claims on the lines of co-operation with the Nishga Tribe.

continued: …In connection with the land question, and all other matters considered at the Conference, the Committee thinks it important to point out that, while the Indians of this Province are subjects of His Majesty, and an obligation for their protection has been placed upon and accepted by Canada, they are neither wards of the Government nor citizens of the Dominion, and that to this day there is no real relation between the Indian tribe and the people of Canada, the tribe remaining a community not yet part of the Canadian people.” [xvi]


The McKenna-McBride Commission continued apace, apart from Chairman Wetmore’s resignation, November 29, 1913 at Victoria. He explained his leaving in an illuminating letter:

“While I found the work very monotonous and uninteresting I cannot say that so far it has been strenuous. The Commission has visited and inspected the Indian Reserves in the Cowichan, Bella Coola, QCI [Queen Charlotte Islands, or Haida Gwaii], Okanagan and Kamloops Agencies, and a portion of the Reserves in the New Westminster and Lytton Agencies. …we traveled by car and rail…

“I have obtained information from the Agent of the Stewart Lake and Williams Lake Agencies, and those in the northern parts of the Province, the Babine, Stikine and Nass Agencies will have to be visited. I have obtained information from the Agent of the Stewart Lake Agency what the going through that Agency involves. Namely, a ninety mile ride on horse back and return, occupying eight days, another horse back ride occupying two days, and the rest of the travel (excepting possibly a short distance by the Grand Trunk Pacific, and that is very doubtful) will be partly in canoe and partly on Buck Boards. …. Now I am too old to go through what I have described; I will be seventy three years of age next March. Riding on horse back is entirely out of the question for me; I am also very obese and shorted winded (sic) and I cannot get into canoes and settle down in them without very great inconvenience and distress, and when I get in them I would suffer still greater distress in getting up and out of them. The matter of camping out is most objectionable to me; I have bodily infirmities that render it very desirable that I should have the facilities afforded by a bed-room, and to be without them I would undergo very great inconvenience and distress.

“About the 3rd January I expect to leave for England, and my address there will be The Grand Hotel, Trafalgar Square, London, England.” [xvii]

The chasm between Mr. Wetmore and the peoples whose lands he had been selected to preside over shaping defy overstatement. The Chairman was replaced in the form of N.W. White, no more suitable in terms of experience or worldliness in other cultures, and the Commission produced four boxes of transfers of Reserve land to the PGE Railway, now in the BC Archives in Victoria. Almost 40,000 acres of mostly good arable land, convenient land, was cut-off from Reserves while approximately 80,000 acres was added back in their place. The latter was characteristically steep or rocky terrain and valued altogether at about half what the cut-off lands were.[xviii]

On December 6, 1917, a meeting of the Tribes was held at Spence’s Bridge to protest the results of the Royal Commission. They passed a resolution rejecting the entirety of the four years of Commission work. They also said,

“We are sure that the government and a considerable number of white men have for many years had in their minds a quite wrong idea of the claims which we make, and the settlement which we desire. We do not want anything extravagant, and we do not want anything hurtful to the real interests of the white people. We want that our actual rights be determined and recognized; we want a settlement based upon justice. We want a full opportunity of making a future for ourselves. We want all this done in such a way that in the future we shall be able to live and work with the white people as brothers and fellow-citizens.” [xix]

A comprehensive indigenous counter-proposal was offered in their “Statement of the Allied Indian Tribes of British Columbia for the Government of British Columbia,” which rejected the Commission and its findings and was delivered at the end of 1919.

In 1920, the federal government passed Bill 13 to accept and implement the Reserve Commission’s report, and Indian Residential School became mandatory, on pain of imprisonment for withholding a child from independent contractors hired to round them up each September.

Approval by the provincial and federal  governments of the Reserve Commission, however, had to wait until 1923 and 1924 while adjustments were made by W.E. Ditchburn, the Federal appointee and a Department of Indian Affairs official, and Col. J.W. Clark from the Provincial Department of Lands and Works. They disallowed some of the new Reserve lands.

The Allied Tribes of British Columbia had worked since 1916 in pursuit of the land title answer. By 1919 they had attracted a larger membership, and appointed James Teit to the post of “Special Agent.” They researched and organized, and raised funds to support their work, which resulted in a hearing in Parliament through the appointment of a Judicial Committee in 1926. The two men who presented to the Committee were Reverend Peter R. Kelly, Haida, who was leader of the Allied Tribes, and Andrew Paull, Cowichan, who was Secretary. The Committee was dismissive, derisive and often openly hostile to the material which the men presented. They concluded that there was no merit to the Indian land question in BC.

In 1927 the Indian Act was amended to prohibit gatherings of more than three Indians whatsoever; gatherings to discuss the land question; the hiring of a lawyer by Indians; and activities meant to raise funds to pursue the land question.

After the Second World War, a new era was ushered in by Veterans’ organizations, churches, and citizen groups across Canada who called for a Royal Commission to investigate the administration of Indian Affairs, and the conditions prevailing on Indian reserves. No doubt the veterans had fresh and deep-running sympathies for the native sharp-shooters and front-line sacrifices that had made their safe return from war possible. But all wanted a complete revision to the Indian Act and an end to discrimination against the Indian.

No Royal Commission was appointed, but a Parliamentary Joint Committee of both the Senate and House was created in 1946 to study and make proposals on Canada’s Indian Administration, and the revision of the Indian Act. After two years of hearings, the Joint Committee recommended:

a) The complete revision or repeal of every section in the Indian Act.

b) That Canada’s Indian Act be designed to make possible the gradual transition of the Indian from a position of wardship to citizenship. To achieve this goal the act should provide:

i. Indian women be given a political voice in band affairs.

ii. Bands should be allowed more self-government.

iii. bands should be given more financial assistance.

iv. Indians should be treated the same as non-Indians in the matter of intoxicants.

v. Indian Affairs officials were to have their duties and responsibilities designed so as to assist the Indians attain the full rights of citizenship and to serve the responsibilities of self-government.

vi. Allow bands to incorporate as municipalities.

c) The guidelines for future policy were to be:

i. The easing of enfranchisement procedures.

ii. Indians should be given the vote.

iii. When possible cooperate with the provinces in delivering services to the Indian people.

iv. Indian education should be geared for assimilation; therefore it should take place with non-Indian students. [xx]

In 1949, Indians in BC could vote in provincial elections. In 1951, the Indian Act was amended and possession of alcohol was decriminalized. In 1960, Indians could vote in federal elections. The prohibition on hiring lawyers to pursue land claims was lifted.

The North American Indian Brotherhood had closely pursued the Joint Committee’s work, holding meetings across Canada and especially in BC where it was clear that the first concern was the land question. A BC Chapter of the NAIB formed. They were, a century after the land dispute had started, gripped with determination and conviction that they would get justice.

  1. Canada has already agreed that the Indians have title to British Columbia, otherwise the Indians would not be receiving $100, 000 per year by way of the BC Special in lieu of Treaty monies.
  2. The difference is that at least theoretically the Indians in other parts of Canada agreed to their treaty money by having treaties signed by the Indians.
  3. But BC Indians never signed treaties, …”



They sent a Brief to their colleagues concerning employment, saying they couldn’t get any in BC and most had to travel to Washington State for work, and concerning the recent Senate and Parliamentary Committee recommendation regarding the formation of an Indian Claims Commission. The Brief, dated November 19, 1963, made elaborate points about who should populate such a Commission: a senior American anthropologist, a Canadian lawyer specializing in international and British constitutional law, and a Chairman selected by the Secretary General of the United Nations. The BC Chapter claimed, by way of introduction in this document, that its membership could be characterized as,

“…mainly an interior of British Columbia organization with token representation on the coast of this province. The Interior comprises approximately 15,000 natives, Chief Richard Malloway of the Fraser Valley and Chief Edward Thevarge, hereditary Chieftain of the 2,000 member Lillooet tribe were picked as delegates for these submissions.

“Clarence Joe, Senior Counsellor of the Sechelt Band, represents four different Indian Bands on the Southern Coast of British Columbia and Ross Modeste appears as a selected spokesman for approximately 7,000 Indians living on the West Coast and the southern portion of Vancouver Island.”

Thevarge, Malloway and Joe, along with their lawyer Henry Castillou, had just returned from a trip to New York and Ottawa where they were recruiting support for their position and giving television and radio interviews. During the trip they attended a luncheon in the Green Room of Parliament, they met with 23 Members of Parliament on the question of the Indian Claims Commission and Indian Affairs, and they had separate meetings with a number of Ministers and Indian Affairs officials. They also visited the Brantford Indian reservation and Kahnewake.

The Liberal Party of Canada had issued a pamphlet before their election stating that, in 1963, the Liberals promised as follows:

  1. Liberal policy now is to appoint as soon as possible an Indian Claims Commission, an independent, unbiased unprejudiced body with broad terms of reference, to review all matters pertaining to this issue.
  2. With the objectives of achieving a fair and just settlement of all outstanding claims, it is Liberal policy that the Commission will include qualified authorities on British Constitutional law as it affects aboriginal hereditary and usufructuary rights.
  3. To assure the objectivity which Indians of Canada have the right to expect after years of procrastination, Commissioners may be appointed from other parts of the Commonwealth such as New Zealand, where achievements in this field are regarded as outstanding. It is Liberal policy that the Commission will be unbiased and independent.
  4. Appointment of the Indian Claims Commission, as described, is based on the fundamental Liberal policy that Canada’s Native Indians must now achieve full equality without loss of aboriginal, hereditary and usufructuary rights. Canada, at this time in our history and today’s war of ideologies, must erase the blot of second and third-class citizenship.

The Liberal promise in 1963 was adopted by the Federal Liberal Party under then Prime Minister Lester Pearson. It was no secret, it was much anticipated, as MLA Frank Calder indicated in comments after the White and Bob case had won recognition of hunting rights: Calder said: “In view of the forthcoming establishment of the federal Indian claims commission, the Nanaimo court decision is evidence in favour of the Indians land and aboriginal claims.”[xxi]



Pierre Trudeau became the new Liberal leader and this next promise of a Commission disappeared. In 1969 Trudeau attempted to disappear Indians altogether.




Agents in Right of Canada


“Many of us have been led to believe that our aboriginal rights have been curtailed, restricted or taken away. This belief exists because foreign powers, meaning Canadian federal and provincial governments, have assumed authority over our lives, resources and our lands. The key word is ASSUME because that is how it was done. The problem that exists now is that many of our people have also assumed that the foreign powers had the right to control and manage our affairs.”

–          Aboriginal Rights Position Paper – Resource Kit, Indian Government Portfolio, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, October 15, 1979. Part II, “Our Aboriginal Right to Govern Through Our Unique Forms if Indian Governments”


In 1968, indigenous leaders from across Canada were engaged by the Department of Indian Affairs in a series of nineteen meetings of discussion around revising the Indian Act. The delegates insisted that a commission into their claimed lands was prerequisite to any discussion of the Indian Act.[xxii]

Instead of doing that, Canada attempted to write Indians off the books with a white paper the following year. A sea-to-sea wave of indigenous confidence and conviction followed the failure of Trudeau’s white paper of 1969, which would have eliminated Indian Status without resolving the land question. The Red Paper Policy written by Alberta Chiefs to contradict it had been a huge success. A new era of Indian Agent began in British Columbia. That is, the Indian Agents were retired and the Band Councils took over their administrative duties. The elected Chief would perform the function of the Indian Agent directly. This represents a stage of colonialism that has never been reached by any other British colony, all of which were lost to new “national” independence movements while still at the point of delegated area control provided by the District Administrator.

Now people voted for their own Indian Agent, or Chief as he or she would be called in another game of appropriation, and that Indian Agent / Chief would administer the federally sponsored poverty, rather than the white, usually retired army officer, Indian Agent. This system continues today. Originally the elected Chief was imposed in 1925 – that person would deal with the Indian Agent. Hereditary chiefs, Elders’ Councils, the family head system – or traditional governance, was denied its existence – it was criminalized.[xxiii] The Agent, a federal delegate, came about on request of the BC government in the 1880’s, and the elected Chief later became his local informant and source of authority.

Prior to the reformation of the 1970’s, Indian Band Chiefs just signed blank Band Council Resolutions which the Indian Agent took back to their offices and filled in as necessary, legitimizing infringement of water rights, concessions to Reserve land cut-offs, or acquiescence to housing money schedules. In spite of our academics’ assertions about the importance of residential schools, many Chiefs couldn’t read.

Forty years later, the elected Chief and Council system has become so entrenched that many have lost the hereditary lineages, and certainly the socio-economic-political structures that had allowed them to function are no more. But whole tribal nations now repose all their confidence in the DIA Chief – a man or woman who is on payroll with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and whose reporting accountability goes up to the feds; never around to the community. Indeed, any Band employee is entitled to receive the same benefits that any other federal government employee receives.

It should be understood, but it is not, that elected Chiefs and Councils on Reserves are not representing the indigenous title position, or indigenous rights of any kind, when they are representing the Reserve within Indian Act business. An elected Band Council and its Chief often, and their administrative staff always, are salaried members of Canadian government staff. When the on-Reserve Chief was made mandatory, the introduction of elections was purportedly meant to dispel the implied inequality under the previously held traditional systems.[xxiv] These were systems of familial autonomy, each family having a representative, lands, titles and other assets. For the first part of the elected Chief era, the family heads chose him together, at least they did so in many communities, just as they had made decisions previously.

What eventually happened in the elected system, once the family head system was fully bankrupted by displacement of the economy and viciously stripped of social power, was that any individual contender with the most voting family members would automatically attain the Chieftainship. This situation is a DIA construct, but often and popularly remarked on as a flaw unique to indigenous cultures. While no majority group within an individual indigenous community or nation could have ever held sway under the traditional system, which involved family heads of equal decision making power, the government of Canada insisted on having a single individual to deal with in each Reserve, as the indigenous communities were confined at the point at which this development occurred.

The elected Chief is, correspondingly, a servant of Canada. His or her role is to administer the Indian Act on his or her Reserve. That is the extent of his powers. This may mean he or she must strike up a housing committee, a social welfare department, a department of lands and resources, and so on. And he or she will receive an annuity, at least, or a salary, if the community wishes to do so, but certainly honoraria for attending meetings with the government. Given the imposition of this titular position in the community: the one that Canadian agents will deal with; the elected Chief was originally, naturally, one who could speak English. This prerequisite did not necessarily select the one who was most capable of articulating the community’s political or legal position. More recently, Chiefs with a western education were favoured, and, lately, those with western business experience.


Off Reserve

When indigenous refugees from other colonies in the world arrive in Vancouver, it takes them an average three days to return to their social support worker with questions about why there are so many native people on the streets, and why are there native people here at all? They never knew there were indigenous people here. And why are they not at home, and why do their people from back home not come and get them? Are they outcasts?

They are not outcasts. They are driven out of their proper homes by economic circumstances, by pain and by conflict. The poorest postal code in Canada is in the downtown east side of Vancouver, where the single dominant population is indigenous to BC. This does not distinguish Vancouver from Prince George, Kelowna, Kamloops or Fort St. John in BC, just in Canada. The situation of indigenous individuals forming the majority of the inhabitants on Skid Row also does not distinguish Vancouver from Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, or Saskatoon; it’s just that Vancouver is the very poorest.

The Reserve policy has successfully depopulated native villages. Urban aboriginals, as they are called, can be an important pawn in the politicking in Victoria, Ottawa and back On Reserve. “This Agreement will benefit our members living off-Reserve,” states a Chief in regard to his latest capitulation agreement, in spite of the fact that there are no supporting plans in place to justify the announcement, in order to gain those mail-in votes that will prove critical to the ratification of the Agreement.[xxv] The Corbiere decision in the Supreme Court made it necessary for Indian Bands to provide their members living off-Reserve with a vote.

The Aboriginal Peoples’ Congress is a Canada-wide lobby agency for urban aboriginal people. Organizations like the Council of Canadians publish reports on the well-being and needs of those natives displaced to cities while the title issue, the reason so many leave, is ignored. The BC Association for Non-Status Indians formed at exactly the same time as the Union of BC Indian Chiefs in 1969, and there was great sympathy between them – nearly a union at one time.[xxvi] Not everybody was at home when the Indian Agents or other state agents came by for enumerations and to assign Indian Status to the unwitting recipients, record their names and replace them with the serial numbers that were all the statistics department would need.

Poverty on Indian Reserves in Canada puts that population at 76th in the United Nations’ index on development. Poverty on the Reserves forces young people to leave them. Away from home, it will become very difficult for future generations to prove such things as “continuing use and occupation,” upon which aboriginal rights are contingent in Canadian courts. It makes retaining culture and language very difficult.

Professor Hawthorn of UBC produced two reports in response to his commission from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, in 1964, to conduct “A Survey of the Contemporary Indians of Canada.” Among his recommendations, “Special facilities will be needed to ease the process of social adjustment as the tempo of off-reserve movement increases.” He acknowledged, “Integration or assimilation are not objectives which anyone can properly hold for the Indian,” and suggested the department focus “on a series of middle range objectives, such as increasing the educational attainments of the Indian people, increasing their real income, and adding to their life expectancy.”[xxvii] The Professor was dealing in foregone conclusions, and merely making observations as to how the assimilation objectives might be accomplished – such as having provincial agencies replace the federal government in increasing provincial services not equally enjoyed by native people.

In some ways it is easy to mark government indifference against any kinds of politic statements it may make. It was not until 1999 that people who lived off-Reserve could participate in their Band’s elections. This includes people living in the white towns that share a seam with the Reserves, people who lived just down the road, as well as people who crossed provincial borders to work in slaughter houses and mining camps to remit the achingly absent cash to their families at home. The Corbiere decision did what individual Bands couldn’t do, or wouldn’t do, given there was no funding earmarked for the procedure: it is now mandatory for each Band to provide for its members living away to vote in Band elections.[xxviii]

It was recommended by some now bleary figure in an earlier era of extinguishment that if the government set the blood quantum at one quarter, all it would have to do was wait until native people inter-married themselves out of existence. In 1985, Sharon McIvor had that fixed.[xxix] A Penticton member, Sharon lost her Indian Status when she married a non-native man. So had every other woman who “married out,” and her later children too, even if their father was a Status Indian. McIvor sued The Registrar and won. It is the only aboriginal rights case to ever cause legislation, and in 1985 Bill C-31 was introduced, reinstating women who married out and their children. It also gave Status to those people whose great/ grandparents weren’t home on enumeration day, almost a hundred years before, if they could prove their family history.

This move was not welcomed by every Band. Suddenly the enrolment numbers leaped, in some cases by 500%, and no implementation funding accompanied that increase other than the usual per-capita accounts. It was not an exercise in self-determination. Suddenly claims on housing and services increased, a demand few Bands can dream of affording since the housing crisis has been a hallmark of Reserve life since the 1950’s. Before that it was more of an infrastructure crisis.

In 2007, McIvor did it again.[xxx] Her grandchildren would not be Status Indians, while a Status man’s grandchildren would be – until the new ruling in her case. The resulting changes to Status, rolling out since 2008, will dramatically expand the Status population again, again with no financial assistance to the Bands to cope with that, and the population will be poised to crash back towards previous numbers in the next generation. The earthquakes in community administration may level out in a couple of decades, but the inequality in registration is still present – great grandchildren’s status will depend on whether they are eligible for it because of a man or a woman. It may end in the old prophecy that the mixed bloods will be substantially in the majority, and people who have grown up away from home – in urban centers with more access to western education and opportunity – will be running affairs.[xxxi]

The Indian Reserves have proven to be a temporary, rather than a final, solution for British Columbia. Those surveys are now only so much evidence in the case against the colonial government. And as for the people confined to them and their DIA regime, in Williams, 2007, it was established that the proper title holder of an indigenous nation is – the entire nation.

Today, First Nations are involved in a new kind of Reserve Commission, where they play a very important role at the Commission table. It’s the BC Treaty Commission, and the people are negotiating over little more than the previous Reserve allocations, although now with a larger population and providing the added certainty of their full consent to having their lands forevermore thus confined, and, instead of being Reserved to them, the Treaty Settlement lands will be owned in fee simple with the release of underlying title to British Columbia.

[i] British Columbia Ghost Town Series 3 – Fraser Canyon; by T.W. Paterson, Sunfire Publications Limited, Langley BC, 1985

[ii] These exiles are not well documented in archives or scholarly publications. My sources include, for Kitsilano, Dr Peter Cole; Pemberton, Harold Pascal, Rosalin Sam, James Louie; Squamish, the location of the Reserve and city today; Musqueam, exhaustive litigation by the Musqueam against the City of Vancouver and the province; Katzie, Reserve location under the Golden Ears bridge and excavations of village during the building of the bridge; Bulkley Valley, the Gitxsan web archives; Neskonlith, Arthur Manuel and Chief Judy Wilson and actions against Sun Peaks and the province, as well as a map of the 1862 Reserve which is still in their possession; Lillooet, Ceda Scotchman; Bella Coola, BC Archival documents of the village sites; Saanich, recent court action for compensation; Kwikwitlem, fishing rights to collect from the Albion test fishery and miniscule fishing reserves on the Fraser. “Penticton,” means in Okanagan, “people always there” (Thomson, Duane; The Response of Okanagan Indians to European Settlement). This list is by no means exhaustive or even in number to be representative.

[iii] In Time Immemorial, by Daisy Sewid-Smith, BC Studies No. 89, Spring 1989

[iv] PABC, B.C., Colonial Despatches, 1860: Douglas to Newcastle, 9 October and 25 October 1860. Registering to be Free Miners was a process designed to alleviate the fellows of their identity as per the aims of the Act for the Civilization of the Indian Tribes of Canada, 1857.

[v] Geo. A. Walkem; Chief Commissioner of Land and Works to Superintendent of Indian Affairs, December 5, 1872; Papers Related to the Indian Land Question in British Columbia 1850-1875, page110

[vi] To the Editor of the Victoria Standard, August 28th, 1874.   by C. J. Grandidier, Okanagan Mission. Papers Related to the Indian Land Question in British Columbia 1850-1875

[vii] Confidential Report of the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs for the Province of British Columbia,

Victoria, B.C., June 30, 1916.

[viii] Geo. A. Walkem to AG of Superintendent of Indian Affairs, December 29, 1873.

[ix] Papers Related to the Indian Land Question in British Columbia 1850-1875, Report of the Governor of BC on the Survey of Indian Reserves, page 2

[x]The petition of the Chiefs of Douglas Portage, of Lower Fraser, and of the other tribes on the seashore of the mainland to Bute Inlet,to the Indian Commissioner for the Province of British Columbia, 1874.

[xi] The Lands We Lost – A History of Cutoff Lands and Land Losses from Indian Reserves in British Columbia, by Reuben Ware, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, 1974.

[xii] Appellants’ Factum, by Thomas Berger, Counsel, on appeal from the Supreme Court of British Columbia from Gould J., October 17, 1969. Signed by Berger February 27, 1970.

[xiii] Naas Harbor, October 19th, 1887. 436 REPORT OF COMMISSION N. W. COAST INDIANS. 1888

[xiv] The Memorial to Sir Wilfred Laurier, August 25, 1910.

[xv] The Memorial to Frank Oliver, Minister of the Interior and Superintendent of Indian Affairs, May 10, 1911.

[xvi] Statement from the BC Indian Conference, Vancouver, 1916.

[xvii] Letter of resignation from Chairman of the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs for the Province of British Columbia, E L Wetmore, November 29, 1913. The original is with the Commission Reports in the BC Archives, Victoria.

[xviii] Our Homes Are Bleeding, Union of BC Indian Chiefs

[xix] As reported in the North American Indian Brotherhood paper on Jurisdiction and the Indian Claims Commission, apparently written in or about 1964.  A copy is with the author.

[xx] “Aboriginal Rights Position Paper – Resource Kit,” Indian Government Portfolio, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, October 15, 1979, Part F. Alliance for Assimilation 1944-1969

[xxi] Gov’t to appeal Indian Hunt case, Nanaimo (Staff), March 5, 1964, The Sun. 

[xxii] Memo, David Munro, Assistant Deputy Minister (Indian Consultation and Negotiation) April 1, 1970. A copy is with the author.

[xxiii] “Aboriginal Rights Position Paper – Resource Kit,” Indian Government Portfolio, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, October 15, 1979. Part II, pp. 22,23,33

[xxiv] A Position Paper, Aboriginal Rights and Title Resource Kit, National Indian Brotherhood, 1979.

[xxv] St’át’imc Chiefs Support St’át’imc-Hydro Agreement, youtube video, posted April 6, 2011

[xxvi] The St’át’imc Runner, November, 2009 Special Edition on the UBCIC; interviews with Rose Charlie and Bill Lightbown

[xxvii] H.B. Hawthorn, A Survey of the Contemporary Indians of Canada, Vol. I and II, Ottawa, Indian Affairs Branch, 1966-1967.

[xxviii] Corbiere v. Canada (Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs), [1999] 2 S.C.R. 203

[xxix] McIvor v. The Registrar, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 2007 BCSC 827

[xxx] McIvor v. The Registrar, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 2007 BCSC 827

[xxxi] This situation was predicted by Elders grappling with the repercussions of the Indian Act generations ago.