Prepared for the UBCIC 40th Anniversary Special Edition of
The St’át’imc Runner newspaper, November 2009.
Throughout the 1960’s, Indian leaders from across Canada had traveled to Ottawa to present to the Standing Committee formed to provide consultations on changes to the Indian Act. What surprised them was that they were all saying the same thing.
1965 – The National Indian Advisory Board was formed Board. It was a federal program to get advice on modifying the Indian Act, and had membership from Indians across Canada as well as Canadian politicians such as Arthur Laing.
December, 1967 – 28 Indian leaders from across Canada, who had been meeting as brought together by their roles in the National Indian Advisory, formed the National Indian Brotherhood. They would use their travel opportunities as NIAB members to meet with people in the communities about the Brotherhood.
Early 1969 – The North American Indian Brotherhood had two meetings – one in Ottawa and one in BC. They discussed the need for provincial and territorial organizations, and President Don Moses was charged with traveling throughout BC to talk to the Chiefs and community people about forming a BC organization.
Summer, 1969 – The 100 Mile Moccasin Walk was organized by the Indian Homemakers Association of BC. Participants walked from Vancouver City Hall to Hope, collecting pledge money for their walk. The focus was to raise money to bring all the BC Chiefs together. After a second walk, they had raised enough money.
November 18, 1969 – Approximately 180 leaders from the Indian Bands of BC met in Tkemlups to bring their common issues together. Faced with a new federal policy on Indians that would erase Indian Reserves, Indian Status, and Treaties, they united to form a single voice of resistance to extinguishment of title and rights. The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs was formed, and the Non-Status Indians present formed the BC Association of Non-Status Indians.
The first Executive of the Union was Heber Maitland from Kitimat, Phillip Paul from Tsartlip and the South Island Tribal Federation, and Forrest Walkem from Cook’s Ferry.
In solidarity with Indian organizations across Canada, they successfully forced the White Paper Policy into remission.
Immediately following the founding of the organization, the Union hired several people to travel the province promoting unity and drafting a Constitution and Bylaws in consultation. Bill Wilson and Doreen Swalkem were there.
The objective of the Union was to launch a single battle for all Indian claims.
1970 – Nisga’a Chiefs attended a Union meeting and asked support for their claim that Indian title, specifically Nisga’a title, had never been extinguished. They asked the Union to join their case, but they were denied by the argument that if the Nisga’a lost, they would all lose. The case proceeded with dozens of Nisga’a Chiefs as appellants, but was titled Calder et. al. vs the Attorney General of British Columbia.
1971 – The Union hired E Davy Fulton, previously a BC Judge, to prepare a submission to the federal government that would articulate the nature of the tribes’ complaint against the colony and frame their claim to the government. Demanding restoration, restitution and compensation of their lands and rights, the Chiefs’ paper was submitted in December after several drafts had led to an acceptable submission, and it was filed representing 160 Chiefs present at the meeting when it was accepted. This paper was a claim for compensation of lost use of lands and rights by the Indians to the whole of what was now BC. While it was not competing with the Nisga’a case for a Declaration of existing aboriginal title, it created a second approach to the governments – simply asking for compensation without prejudice to the title question.
Early 1970’s – Indian Agents throughout BC were replaced by District Indian Tribal Councils, who took on the job of administering Indian Affairs funds to their member Bands. The Districts were not nation-based, but regionally based. This was part of the Nations’ unified strategy to have administration of Indian funds devolved to the nations and Bands themselves, but only about half of the monies previously allocated actually reached the Councils.
1973 – The Calder case was concluded in the Supreme Court of Canada. Prime Minister Trudeau is known to have persuaded at least one, and probably three, judges to find against aboriginal title, and a fourth to suspend his judgement and cite a procedural flaw in the case. Still, three judges decided that aboriginal title in British Columbia had not been extinguished by any provincial or federal act.
1974 – The Trudeau – Chretien federal administration introduced the Comprehensive Claims Policy. Based on extinguishment of title in exchange for compensation to cut-off lands, the Policy remains the bottom line of “modern day treaty negotiations” in BC. Many Bands became involved.
1974 – The Union set up its own programs for social services, housing, education and culture to replace DIA in BC.
1974 – Fall – The first armed roadblock in many decades occurred at Cache Creek, when an Elder’s house burned down and the DIA would not provide assistance. The roadblock ended when the participants made stuffed replicas of themselves, sat them around the campfires at night, then snuck out past police lines.
April 1975 – The Union decided to reject all federal funding. The conditions attached to the funds, and the stark shortage of them, made the Chiefs realize they were simply being controlled and limited by what was really an inadequate amount of funds. People in the communities grew gardens, District Councils supported business, and the new economic initiatives created unwanted competition for the non-native businesses in the rural areas. By Fall time, Union Members began to receive funds again. Many were offered up to triple their previous payments, on the somewhat unwritten condition that they fall away from the Union. The split that was created here would see the formation of other organizations competing for membership and splitting the Union.
April – Robert Manuel, Bill Wilson and Steve Point were elected to the Union Executive.
Summer 1975 – The Constitution of the Union was read out in Assembly by Steven Point.
October 1975 – The World Council of Indigenous Peoples was formed in Nanaimo, with George Manuel becoming the first President.
1977 – George Manuel was elected the first President of the UBCIC. Delbert Guerin had also run for President. Saul Terry was elected Vice President.
1978 – The Western Indian Agriculture Corporation was formed with Gordon James and Robert Pasco at the center.
Fishing wars erupted in the Fraser fisheries. DFO arrested dozens of people for fishing during closed times, or for failing to comply with the regulation that they cut off the snout and dorsal fin of each salmon they caught. Almost 40 court cases ensued, and all but one was won on the argument of aboriginal rights.
People occupied and shut down Indian Affairs offices throughout the Interior.
BCANSI becomes the United Native Nations
Early 1980 – Spallumcheen Chief and Council approach the Union for assistance in reclaiming their children from the provincial welfare bureaucracy. The Indian Child Caravan ensued. In late 1980, the Indian Child Caravan rolled into the UBCIC’s General Assembly and provoked a debate about the new repatriation of the Constitution that Prime Minister Trudeau was promoting. The Constitution Express ensued.
December 1980 – The Constitution Express rolled out of Vancouver and Prince George bound for Ottawa. Almost a thousand people were to join that train as it made its way across Canada to protest the lack of reference to Indian rights in the new Constitution, which would replace the BNA Act of 1867.
1980’s – the Aboriginal Council formed to pursue a common platform for land-claim negotiations. Later it became the First Nations Summit, in 1992, with the creation of the BC Treaty Commission.
1980-81 – the Constitution Express riders made their way to Europe. Along with fifty Chiefs, ordinary people from the villages traveled to Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France, Belgium and England to make the people aware of the Indian position in Canada. Their travels and influence, particularly on the House of Lords in England, caused the adoption into the Canadian Constitution Section 35 (1): “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”
1984 – Grand Chief George Manuel died.
1990 – The Union submitted its proposal for treaty-making in BC to the federal government: “A Comprehensive Framework Treaty between First Nations in British Columbia and Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada.”
Late 1990 – Federal Indian Affairs Minister Tom Siddon returned to the Union with an ultimatum in response to their treaty proposal. The result was the BC Claims Task Force, which the Union did not participate in but criticized severely when its report came out.
1992 – The report of the BC Claims Task Force produced 19 recommendations for treaty making in BC. The BC Treaty Commission came to life, with the First Nations Summit as an administrative body for treaty loan funding.
The Tsilhqot’in Tribal Council prepared: “Stolen Jurisdiction Reclaimed: The Control of Indigenous Education in Canada.” for the UBCIC.
1995 – The Institute of Indigenous Governance was borne of five years of negotiations in the Union and BC’s Joint Policy Council. Post-secondary accredited, it was part of the approach to nation governance and received over $1million a year employing Native academics.
The Gustafsen Lake stand off near 100 Mile House saw Canada respond to Sundancers’ request for a third party, independent and impartial tribunal to hear the land question with a ground force larger than any since the Korean War. The Union declared their support for the Sundancers’ position.
1998 – Chief Stewart Philip became the fourth President of the Union.
2002 – The Union mobilized people across the province to demonstrate against the new Liberal government’s referendum on treaty making in BC. They staged many ballot-burning events.
2002 – The Tsawwassen Accord was signed between the First Nations Summit, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and the Assembly of First Nations. This accord was an agreement that the three main provincial organizations would do whatever they could together to advance the cause of Indian jurisdiction over Indian children.
The Accord resulted in an attempt by the federal government to have Indian Bands assumes full responsibility over their children and families without a fraction of the usual federal budget, and by cutting the fiduciary obligation of the crown to ensure the safety and well-being of Indian children.
The Regionalization of Family and Child Services was stopped short early in 2008 because most regions of arbitrarily drawn child-welfare maps across the province could not gain majority support of the Indian Bands they were supposed to represent.
2004 – The New Relationship was drawn into existence by Premier Gordon Campbell and the Presidents of the FNS, AFN and UBCIC.
2007 – The New Relationship Trust, $100m, was established. This Trust was said to be an open fund to the Bands of BC to pursue their stated priorities. Unfortunately, after six months of touring through the communities, the Trust Board failed to adopt the priorities as laid out to them by people from the communities, who said repetitively that their priorities were youth and Elders, health and language. Instead, while the Elders die and the youth languish, the Board decided to invest 80% of the $100m in Canadian companies on the stock exchange. It has been reported recently that this Trust has been recommended to many Bands and Indian Affairs bureaucrats to help fulfill their mandates.
2009 – The UBCIC, AFN and FNS revealed their legislative action plan to make Indian title and rights a legislative directive of the province of BC. In a reported attempt to legislate the impetus of the New Relationship, the Indigenous Recognition and Reconciliation Act written by the First Nations Leadership Council and BC in partnership was rejected overwhelmingly by almost every single Band in BC, and at least in part by the remainder.
While the rejection of this major action did not result in the immediate call for election in each of the three provincial organizations, it did influence the Assembly of First Nations’ National Chief campaign. BC Chiefs made it known that they would not support Shawn Atleo if he continued in support of the so-called Recognition Legislation. Atleo withdrew his support for the proposed legislation, and won the national Chieftainship, with many other factors in play.
Timeline created by Kerry Coast in 2009, on the occasion of the Union’s 40th anniversary.