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Key dates in BC First Nation History

Some key dates regarding aboriginal title and rights in B.C.

prepared by Project North (B.C.), 1993, Victoria, B.C.

before 10,000 B.C.
Evidence of aboriginal civilization throughout British Columbia
1763
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 recognizes aboriginal title to lands. Only the Crown can deal with Indians to obtain their lands. Over time, the Crown's policy is to obtain such lands through Treaties and compensation.
1850-54
First Nations on southern Vancouver Islands agree to share their lands with colony of Vancouver Islands (the Douglas treaties). The treaties promise that First Nations can hunt and fish on their lands and on Crown lands "as formerly."
1858
The colony of British Columbia is established. The Imperial statute refers to the territory as "wild and unoccupied." The government of British Columbia does not enter into treaties before taking land form the First Nations peoples.
1870-80
First Nations in B.C. protest the presence of government surveyors on their lands. The Chiefs assert rights to their traditional lands. They are ignored and settlement proceeds without treaties or compensation. The province if British Columbia says that the 1763 Proclamation does not apply.
1871
The federal government passes the Indian Act, the effect of which is to place the Indian people in a condition of dependence, as though they were wards of the state.
1884
The federal government bans the potlatch, an institution of major significance to most First Nations in B.C. because of its central role culturally, legally, politically, economically, spiritually, and ceremonially. The potlatch is a means of transmitting the laws and teachings of the people.
1890
The federal government forces Indian children to attend residential schools, the last of which closed in the 1980s. The residential schools policy tended to destroy the Indian family, undermine the role of elders, and denigrate First Nations culture, language, and spirituality. Family breakdown, alcoholism, and other abuses are linked to the residential school system.
1899
A few First Nations in northeastern B.C. sign Treaty 8; apart from the Douglas Treaties which applied to parts of Vancouver Island, no other treaties were signed.
1906-13
Nisga'a, Tsimshian, and other First Nations delegations travel to Victoria, Ottawa, and London to press for recognition of aboriginal title to their lands and protest reserve allotments. In 1911, 300 chiefs meet the B.C. premier (McBride) in Victoria, urging recognition of Indian title. Their requests are rejected.
1927
Federal legislation prohibits aboriginal people from raising money to press for recognition of aboriginal title in the courts.
1951
The potlatch ban is dropped. The federal government extends the vote to Indians. The ban on raising money to sue for recognition of aboriginal title is lifted.
1973
In a landmark decision in the Calder case, the Supreme Court of Canada holds that the aboriginal title to land continued after the arrival of the colonists but federal legislation could extinguish it.
1982
Constitutional recognition is given to existing aboriginal and Treaty rights; the content of the rights remains unclear.
1980-94
The federal government negotiates land settlements and self-government agreements with the Inuvialuit in the Western Arctic and with several other First Nations in northern Canada.
1984-90
The courts uphold aboriginal interests in land and resources in several B.C. cases: Guerin; Meares Island; and the right to hunt and fish for food in the Sparrow case.
1992
The First Nations Summit organization, the province of British Columbia and the federal government set up a Treaty Commission to settle lands questions in B.C. and negotiate self-government agreements.
1993
In the Delgamuukw case, the B.C. Court of Appeal holds for the first time that aboriginal interests in land survived the colonial period and continue to exist in B.C., protected by the 1982 constitutional amendment.