History of Canada / BC towards aboriginal

Compiled by Canadians For Reconciliation

1452   Pope Nicholas V gave legal sanction to colonial expansion by calling upon the Portuguese King Alfonso "to invade, search out, capture, vanquish and subdue all Saracens and pagans... and other enemies of Christ"

1492   Columbus "discovered" the Americas

1493   Pope Alexander VI issued the papal bull Inter Cetera decreeing that "barbarous nations be overthrown" and all "discovered" nations be converted to the catholic faith. According to this colonial decree, all land not occupied by Christians were considered vacant. The indigenous people were not looked upon as human but as part of nature like the penguins and turtles. They thus could "occupy" the land but could not have title to it.

1537   Pope Paul III issued the papal bull Sublimus Dei overturning the previous papal bull and establishing that indigenous people were rational human beings capable of jurisdiction over their territories. As such, the settlers were required to enter into treaties with the indigenous people in order to purchase or gain an interest in their land.

1752   Beginning of the Seven Year's War between the French and British with both seeking alliance with the indigenous people in eastern Canada

1759   Most Indian Nations in the east sided with the British since they promised to protect the Indian lands. With their help, the British settler forces won a decisive battle over the French settlers on the Plains of Abraham, resulting in the Treaty of Versailles.

1759-1763 British refused to remove the 10 forts built on Native territories during the battles with the French. Under the leadership of Ottawa Chief Pontiac, the native Confederacy started the Pontiac War against the British.

1763   Upon seeing 7 out of the 10 occupied forts fell, King George III of England issued the Royal Proclamation in October 7, 1763. This Royal decree declared that aboriginal title could not be either purchased or taken by the colonists. Only the British Crown could negotiate the secession of Aboriginal lands in a process that required agreed consent of all members of the indigenous nations in a solemn treaty with the Crown i.e. treaty can only be conducted between nation to nation, not between nation and a governor or company. Indeed any occupation or taking of aboriginal lands outside of this process was declared to be a fraudulent act of treason. This offer of protection became formally binding on Britain as it was accepted and relied upon by the Indian Nations and formed the basis for the Treaty Process. Over 80 Treaties were concluded on the East Coast with the understanding by the Native Nations that the British could settle in their territories but no secession of land or governance occurred.

1778   Captain James Cook was the first European to land in BC west coast

1786   The British developed a flourishing fur trade with the BC coastal natives

1808   Simon Fraser explored the now Fraser River

1823   Early European settlements and trading posts in BC

1841   The Hudson Bay Company has its "Columbia" district extended down to the Oregon territory. A dispute arose over whether British or US had title to the territories and an arbitrator set the border at the 49th Parallel.

1849   Hudson Bay Company was given the responsibility by the British government to colonize Vancouver Island.

1851-3            James Douglas, an officer with Hudson Bay, became the first governor of the colony of Vancouver Island. He signed 14 treaties (358 sq. miles) with the Nations in south Vancouver Island. Natives were paid with blankets & were promised their right to hunt on unsettled land & to fish "as formerly". The British were undecided about continuing with the treaty process, but after coal was discovered at Nanaimo, they decided to colonize. No more attempts were made by BC to sign treaties until nearly a century and half later.

1853   Gold was discovered in the Fraser River and 30,000 miners moved up from California for the Gold Rush.

1858   Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution: a natural selection process based on the survival of the fittest. Sadly it changed many minds about making treaties with the indigenous nations.

The British established the colony of British Columbia on the mainland, with Governor Douglas serving between 1858-64. A colonial proclamation was made stating that all land was vested with the Crown.

1860   The gold rush to the Cariboo region began.

1862   Smallpox epidemic killed every 1 out of 3 aboriginal people

1866   The British united the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island to form British Columbia

1867   Fearing an American invasion, the British Parliament passed the British North America Act to unite the 5 eastern colonies to form the new nation Canada. No Indian Nation was invited for discussion or to obtain consent for the formation of a country upon its land. No Indian Nation was even informed of such happening. In order to expand from sea to sea, the new Canada sent out Indian Agents to make treaties with the various Indian Nations in other provinces. The agents claimed they did so in the Queen's name. As a result, the treatied Nations thought their treaties were with the British Crown and continue to believe so today. Canada has thus committed a massive fraud but has consistently used such post-confederation Treaties Number 1-11 as evidence of having Title to the Indian lands.

1871   BC, with over 99% of its land without any treaty, joined the new Canada. Article 13 of the Terms of Union reads "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....". As with the eastern colonies, no Indian Nation in BC was part of any discussion, negotiation or agreement regarding the new Union. From 1871 to 1923, Indians were not allowed to fish commercially.

1872   Hundreds of Coast Salish people rallied outside the Provincial Land Registry in New Westminster seeking settlement of the land question.

1873   56 chiefs approved a petition to federal Indian Commissioner asking implementation of a federal proposal of reserves

1875-79 Land was available to settlers free of charge.

1876   Indian Act: a federal legislation set up to break the right of Indian people and Nations through breaking their spirit-via ugly assimilation tactics like residential school system, restriction of food collection like fishery and trapping, Reserve system, Band Council system (an indirect control technique developed in Africa by the British to further divide the people while shielding the British from the blame), etc.

1880's            European population surpassed native population in BC. Christian missions were widely established.

1881   Chief Mountain led a Nisga'a protest delegation to Victoria

1884   The government banned the native Potlatch (the major social, economic and political institution of the coastal people) to prevent them from organizing and exercising their self-governance (not repealed till 1951).

1886   The Dominion completed the transcontinental railway to BC. Nisga'a in the Upper Nass resisted surveyors & began organizing land claim.

1887   Nisga'a & Tsimshian chiefs paddled to Victoria to discuss the land question with Premier W. Smithe, who responded with the myth that Indians could no more be owners of land than birds or bees.

1888   Federal fishing permit system introduced.

1898   After gold seekers to Yukon were blocked by natives at Fort St. John, Treaty 8 was extended westward from Alberta to include 5500 sq. miles of land in BC Northeast. Treatied land now reached 1.6% of BC.

1909   A delegation representing 20 BC Nations traveled to England to make a presentation to the Crown regarding the land question.

1913   Nisga'a Land Committee petitioned to British Privy Council but was referred back to Canada.

1916   McKenna-McBride Royal Commission report recommended changing and redistributing reserve lands, enlarging some but also advising that much valuable land be removed. The Allied Tribes of BC, the first Province wide native organization, was formed to pursue land claims & secure treaties.

1920   BC Indian Land Settlement Act implemented the reduction of reserve land without consent of the indigenous people, contradicting the Indian Act.

Enfranchisement (giving up legal Indian status to become Canadians) was made compulsory whenever natives went to university, joined a profession, stayed over 5 years off-reserve, married a non-aboriginal, etc. Such were not repealed until 1952.

1926   Chief W. Pierrish of Neskonith went to London to petition the British government. He and others were intercepted by the High Commissioner of Canada who undertook to deliver the petition & persuaded Chief Pierrish to return to Canada.           

1927   The government banned the Sundance, hereditary governments, fund raising for land claim efforts and any off-reserve meeting of more than 3 Indians. The above were not repealed until 1952.

1928   BC aboriginal population dropped to less than 30,000, lowest since European contact.

1949   BC aboriginal was granted provincial voting right.

1960   On reserve Indians were granted federal voting right.

1965   A Nanaimo native was arrested for hunting in unsettled portion of Nanaimo Treaty area. The Province argued that the Douglas agreements were not treaties. Supreme Court of Canada disagreed.

1968   Nisga'a took the land claim to court

1969   The federal government White Paper Policy was such a one-sided attempt to change Indians into Canadians and to obtain title to all Indian lands that it was withdrawn in early 1970. However this galvanized the aboriginal people to form a powerful political movement. UBCIC was given birth.

1973   Supreme Court of Canada overturned the lower court's decision on Calder v Attorney General of BC and recognized land rights based on aboriginal title.

1982   Repatriation of the Constitution: When the BNA (1867) was brought back to Canada from London, the totality of treaties, proclamations and other British laws governing the British relationship with the many sovereign aboriginal nations in British North America were incorporated into the Canadian Constitution. The incorporation was vital, as failure to do so will leave Britain exposed to disputes with native nations it had signed former treaties with. The Royal Proclamation, together with the many treaties now is part of our Constitution, the fundamental law of the land. Furthermore, under pressure from the indigenous nations, Section 35 (1) was added to the Constitution to recognize and affirm the "existing" aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal people in Canada.

1985   The Indian Act was amended to remove the discriminatory sections inside due to intense pressure regarding human rights violations pointed out by United Nations to Canada in 1982.

1990   Native road block at Duffy Lake Road to oppose the encroachment of logging into Ure Creek, the area of sacred burial grounds as well as the imposition of illegal PCB storage.

BC government abandoned its 119 year long policy of refusing to acknowledge aboriginal rights and title. In December it approved the establishment of a treaty negotiation task force.

1993   Formation of BC Treaty Commission: for the first time in Canadian history, a Province has joined with Canada to negotiate treaties with the First Nations. (However due to a variety of reasons, there were no treaties made over the last 8 years. With the coming of the new adversarial Provincial government, most of the initial 42 participating Nations have left the negotiating table.)

1995   Gustafsen Lake standoff: the largest peacetime mobilization of Canadian Armed Forces against a dozen or so natives celebrating Sundance on unceded territory.

1997   Supreme Court of Canada handed down the historic Delgamuukw decision overturning all the former BC court decisions on the same case and affirming the native's oral history and their claim to land.

2000   Ts'kw'aylaxw First Nation withdrew from the treaty process since the government refused interim measures protecting its interest in the Pavilion Creek watershed

Natives set up a protest camp at Melvin Creek to protest the approval of a Nancy Greene ski resort on unceded territory. With occupants asleep, their camp was torched one early winter morning.

2001   Arrest of natives for "trespassing" in their homeland and destruction of native house and cabin by RCMP at Sunpeak Ski Resort. Issue: opposition to ski resort expansion into their territory.

2002   BC Government referendum


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