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Early Native Protests
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Land and Culture
Early Days
Sir James Douglas
Land Question
Early Native Protests
Unlawful to Protest
1969 White Paper
Calder Case
Coolican Report
Gitskan - Wet'suwet'en
Works Cited

Native Protests

In 1871, British Columbia joined Canada. Under the terms of union, Indians affairs were shifted to the federal government. Even though the federal land policy of treaty-making was well established, the provincial government refused to endorse this process in British Columbia. Native delegations protested the loss of the land and with it the loss of livelihood. In 1887, the Nisga'a spoke to a three main Joint Commission: "What we don't like about the Government is their saying this: 'We will give you this much land.' How can they give it when it is our own? We cannot understand it. They never bought it from us or our forefathers. They never fought and conquered our people and taken the land that way, and yet they say now that they will give us so much land - our land."

The continuing federal-provincial disagreement served only to complicate, confuse and delay recognition of just native claims. The Earl of Dufferin, in 1876, tried to persuade the province to negotiate by arguing, "No government . . . whether provincial or central had failed to acknowledge that the original title to the land existed in the Indian tribes and communities. . . . Before we touch an acre, we make a treaty with the chiefs representing the bands we are dealing with, and having agreed upon and paid the stipulated price. . . we enter into possession but not until then do we consider that we are entitled to deal with an acre." The arguments fell on deaf ears.

One major treaty, Treaty 8, which includes the north east corner of British Columbia, was negotiated in 1899. Natives gave up title for the land in exchange for one square mile per family of five plus other considerations. The Commission negotiating the settlement reported that, ". . . we had to solemnly assure them [natives] that only such laws as to hunting and fishing as were in the interest of the Indian and were found necessary in order to protect the fish and fur-bearing animal would be made and that they would be free to hunt and fish after the treaty as they would be if they had never entered into it." The native signers of the treaty wanted to ensure their historic relationship with the land.