An Historical Look at Canada & B.C.'s
Relationship With First Nations

10,000 B.C. earliest evidence of aboriginal civilizations in British Columbia. Archaeological evidence found at Soda Creek in the summer of 1995 was carbon dated at approximately 4,300 years ago.

Pre colonial contact 30 million Indigenous people in North America.

1492 Columbus lands in the West Indies.

1763 Royal Proclamation by King George III recognizes aboriginal title and rights to land. To acquire land for colonization, treaties must be signed between the Crown and First Nations on a nation to nation basis.

1770s-1780s Captain Cook explores West Coast.

1774 Juan Perez Hernandez lands on Vancouver Island's west coast.

1778 Captain Cook explores the B.C. coast and established a British claim to sovereignty.

1793 Alexander McKenzie reaches the Pacific via an overland route.

1849 Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) given imperial grant to settle and colonize Vancouver Island.

1850-54 The Colonial Office directs James Douglas to purchase First Nations lands, first in his capacity as chief factor of the HBC, and later as Governor of the colony. He arranges 14 purchases, now known as The Douglas Treaties, mostly on southern Vancouver Island.

1858-64 Gold seekers flood the B.C. interior.

1860s Reserves are set aside. These first reserve allocations were larger than today's reserves, but these records were destroyed in 1871.

1862-63 Smallpox almost wipes out the Secwepemc Nation. Six reserves are left with only a few members who relocate to neighboring Bands in order to survive.

1867 The British North American Act creates Canada, giving the provinces jurisdiction and ownership of land and natural resources. Canada retains responsibility for Indians and lands reserved for Indians.

1872 B.C. joined Canada, at that time the aboriginal people in the province were the majority and still had the right to vote. The first thing the new Canadian province, B.C., passed was the Qualification and Registration of Voters Act of 1872, which stripped Natives of the vote in provincial elections.

1881 Indian agency opened in the Cariboo.

1884 90% of those involved in the commercial salmon fishery in B.C. were the First Nations. A move was launched to deny Natives commercial access to the fisheries resource.

1884 An Indian Act amendment prohibits the potlatch and sundance. The law was rescinded in 1951.

1887 The Nisga'a Nation begins pursuing its land claims 1888 Fisheries regulations restricted what Natives might do with their catch, they could fish for food but not for 'barter, sale or commerce'. The licensing system created a native labor pool for the fish canneries, which were owned by non natives.

1890 Treaty 8 (covering Saskatchewan's north, Alberta and part of northeast B.C.) signed with Beaver, Cree and Slavey people. The last treaty signed in B.C.

1891 St. Joseph's Mission opened south of Williams Lake, three generations of Chilcotin, Carrier and Shuswap were taken there in an attempt to make 'good British subjects' out of them.

1906 Squamish and Nisga'a delegations travel to England with a petition.

1910 Interior tribes in B.C. meet in Spences Bridge to present their views to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, then Prime Minister of Canada, on wanting to settle the land and aboriginal rights issue. The tribes were the Nl'kapmux, Stl'atl'imx, Okanagan, Tsilqht'in, and Secwepemc. The tribes signed the Sir Wilfrid Laurier Memorial. Laurier promised to take Native issues to privy council for resolution, his defeat in the 1911 election ended that initiative.

1916 The Allied Indian tribes is formed. Member tribes include the Coast Salish, Wuwutsun, Nisga'a, Tsimshian, Haida, Gitxan, Nuxalk, Tsilhqot'in, Dalkelh, Kaska Dena and Ktunaxa Kinbasket.

1916 The McKenna McBride Commission ruled the size of existing Indian reserves could be unilaterally reduced if Ottawa would obtain consent from the Natives, and that other lands would be added. Land to be cut off happened to be the most desirable for ranchers, farmers, developers and towns who wanted to expand. The Natives withheld consent stating the lands to be added were almost worthless.

1920 Ottawa enacts Bill 13 which overrode the need for Native consent. Canada passes the B.C. Indian Lands Settlement Act, the McKenna McBride Commission's recommendations go ahead reducing reserve land to less than 36% of the total area of B.C. Next came Bill 14, empowered the enfranchisement or removal of any Natives from 'status', those who went to fight in the wars, worked and lived off reserve were among those who lost their 'Indian status' under Bill 14.

1927 Aboriginal people are prohibited from raising money or retaining a lawyer for the purpose of pursuing land claims.

1943 B.C., Canada agreement requires the province gets one half of the mining revenues and the other half goes to Canada for the benefit of Indians in the province subject to the Indian agents veto, administers and disposes of reserve minerals.

1951 An Indian Act amendment removes major prohibitions against Indians. Canada recognized that Indians desired greater control over their lives. Some provisions allowed for more Indian involvement in decision making. However, Canada's control over Indian lands and property, money, local government and Indian status remained.

1960 Indians granted the right to vote in federal and provincial elections.

1969 Trudeau and Chretien's White Paper advocates the abolition of Indian status.

Early 1970s Band offices open in the area, Band administration budgets were set at $125.00 per month for a salary, office supplies, heat, light and whatever is left is to be used for travel.

1973 The Calder Case. The Supreme Court of Canada recognizes the existence of aboriginal title in principle. The Court ruled that aboriginal title is rooted in the 'long time occupation, possession and use' of traditional territories. Canada initiates a Comprehensive Claims process for treaty negotiations across Canada.

1975 The first modern treaty agreement under the new process is the Cree and Inuit of James Bay.

1975 Closure of Department of Indian Affairs office in Williams Lake.

1982 The Canada Constitution Act recognizes and affirms existing aboriginal and treaty rights.

1985 The BC Native Women's and national women's organizations long hard fight has resulted in Bill C 31 which sees women and children who have lost their status, as well as those who were enfranchised get their status back. Some are going through the lengthy process of regaining status even today.

1990 B.C. joins ongoing federal treaty negotiation with the Nisga'a Tribal Council.

1991 Chief Justice Allen McEachern of the B.C. Supreme Court rules that aboriginal rights in B.C. were extinguished by pre Confederation legislation.

1993 Delgamuukw decision, B.C. Court of Appeals overturns the McEachern decision, stating that undefined aboriginal rights continue to exist.

1993 B.C. Treaty Commission is established to negotiate land issues.

1993 Cariboo Tribal Council chiefs file 'letter of intent' to enter in treaty negotiations with the federal and provincial governments.

1995 Gustafson Lake standoff. A long hot summer.


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Last modified on October 7, 2002.