Indigenous People in BC History and Terminology

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Indigenous People and British Columbia : 

Indigenous People and British Columbia History and Terminology

Aboriginal Title: 

Aboriginal Title Aboriginal Title affirms Indigenous People as the Original People of the Land, and as such they have Title and Rights to the land and its resources. Historically, the Federal and Provincial Governments have denied that Aboriginal Title exists, and have continued to exert sovereignty over Indigenous territories.

Union of BC Indian Chiefs Aboriginal Rights and Title Position Paper (1978): 

Union of BC Indian Chiefs Aboriginal Rights and Title Position Paper (1978) “Aboriginal Title and Rights means we as Indian people hold Title and have the right to maintain our sacred connection to Mother Earth by governing our territories through our own forms of Government.”

We Are NOT Going We Are NOT Gone!: 

We Are NOT Going We Are NOT Gone! May 25, 2000 Carrier-Sekani Demonstration Victoria, BC

Indigenous Sovereignty: 

Indigenous Sovereignty The inherent right of Indigenous People to exercise their own laws, to govern themselves, and their territories, and to enter relationships with other Nations of People.

Thunderbird Totem, Alert Bay: 

Thunderbird Totem, Alert Bay

Newcomers and “New” Land: 

Newcomers and “New” Land Under international law, any newcomers to the land inhabited by Indigenous People could only acquire land in one of two ways: Conquest – Land is won. Agreement – Land is voluntarily ceded through treaty or sale.

Royal Proclamation 1763: 

Royal Proclamation 1763 The Royal Proclamation, 1763, affirmed in law that while Britain asserted sovereignty over Indigenous territory, they could not extinguish Aboriginal Title. Land could not be taken unless Indigenous People and Crown agreed through treaty.

King George III: 

King George III Signed Royal Proclamation October 7, 1763


Treaty At the time of British and French arrival (contact) to Indigenous Territories in BC, the Nations signed “Peace and Friendship” Treaties. These agreements signed on North Vancouver Island, were known as the “Douglas Treaties;” and in North-Eastern BC, known as “Treaty 8.” These are the only treaties in BC.

Sir James Douglas: 

Sir James Douglas Governor of Vancouver Island 1851-63. Governor of BC 1858-64. “Douglas Treaties.”

Terra Nullius “Empty Land”: 

Terra Nullius “Empty Land” The argument of the Provincial Government that Aboriginal Title did not exist on the grounds that Indigenous People were so primitive and uncivilized that they were incapable of holding Title, or having laws to govern the land. Terra Nullius was used as an excuse not to sign treaties with Indigenous Nations.

Reserve Lands: 

Reserve Lands Instead of entering treaties, the Canadian Government set up Reserve Lands. These lands are set aside for Indigenous People, but are held In Trust by Canada. Indigenous People do not own Reserve Land. Reserve Lands are only a fraction of Indigenous Peoples’ Aboriginal Title Territories.

Constitution Act 1867: Indians: 

Constitution Act 1867: Indians Section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, declares that the Federal Government has responsibility to make decisions about “Indians and Lands reserved for Indians.” Federal responsibility stems from the fact it represents Canada as a Nation.

Constitution Act: Provinces: 

Constitution Act: Provinces Section 109 of the Constitution Act declares that Provinces are only given power to make decisions about land and resources where these lands did not already have interests in them. This section declares that the Province has no ownership over Aboriginal Title lands, because Indigenous People have pre-existing interests in the land.

Land Question: 

Land Question The ‘Land Question’ is used to describe modern day disputes between the Provincial Government and Indigenous Nations on the existence of Aboriginal Title.

Calder Case: 

Calder Case Landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision that determined Aboriginal Title legally exists. Dr. Frank Calder, Nisga’a, defended that Nisga’a People have an Aboriginal Right to the resources of the Nass watershed because of their Aboriginal Title.

Comprehensive Claims Policy: 

Comprehensive Claims Policy Federal Government created “Comprehensive Claims Policy” after Calder case. Indigenous People extinguish Aboriginal Title to whole territory in return for small land base. Many Indigenous People refuse to participate in modern land agreements.

Interior Cowichan Hatchery: 

Interior Cowichan Hatchery

Section 35(1) Constitution Act, 1982: 

Section 35(1) Constitution Act, 1982 Canada separates from British Crown with Constitution Act, 1982. Section 35 (1) promises: “The existing Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”

Delgamuukw v. British Columbia,1997: 

Delgamuukw v. British Columbia,1997 Groundbreaking Supreme Court of Canada unanimous decision that Aboriginal Title was never extinguished, nor could ever be extinguished. More than the right to practice activities (hunt, fish) on land – it is the right to the land.

Delgamuukw December 11, 1997 Gixtsan and Wet’suwet’en People : 

Delgamuukw December 11, 1997 Gixtsan and Wet’suwet’en People 35 Gixtsan and 13 Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, Plaintiffs Oral tradition included as legal evidence to exert Aboriginal Title. Aboriginal Title applies to modern uses of Land (mining, forestry)

Oral Traditions: 

Oral Traditions The passing down of knowledge, history, and laws orally. Valid form of evidence in court. Equal weight to written evidence.

Potlatch Duncan, BC: 

Potlatch Duncan, BC

Kyuoquot Fish Trap: 

Kyuoquot Fish Trap

Nass Village: 

Nass Village

School on Songhees Reserve: 

School on Songhees Reserve


In Indigenous spiritual understanding, all the spirits of the world are connected; in this way, people do not stand above the land, but at one with it. Unlike many world religions, sacred places exist on the land rather than in man-made structures. Losing land can mean the desecration of a sacred place.

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