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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


The provincial and federal governments continued their wrangling over the issue of Indian title. (These rights are defined as those property rights which affix to native peoples by virtue of their occupation of certain lands from time immemorial.) In 1913, a Royal Commission called the McKenna-McBride Commission was established to settle the "Indian reserve question." The Commission's instructions were to examine the reserves already established and to establish reserves in areas of the province where none existed.

The native nations held strong suspicions regarding the Commission and formed a society of Allied Tribes in 1916 to represent their case to the public and the government. Many natives boycotted the hearings. Though promises abounded regarding the safeguarding of reserve lands, the Commission recommended the cut-off of over 47,000 acres of valuable land and added approximately 87,000 acres of less valuable land to natives.

A statement was drafted on behalf of natives: "The Indians see nothing of real value for them in the work of the Royal Commission. Their crying needs have not been met. The Commissioners did not fix up their hunting rights, fishing rights, and land rights, nor did they deal with the matter of reserves in a satisfactory manner. Their dealing with the reserves has been a kind of manipulation to suit the whites, and not the Indians. All they have done is to recommend that about 47,000 acres of generally speaking good lands be taken away from the Indians, and about 80,000 acres of generally speaking poor lands, be given in their place (Cumming)."

The Allied Tribes continued their fight over the land question. They petitioned Parliament for increased reserve lands, rights over timber, water and tidal waters with adjustment of rights in regard to hunting, fishing, and trapping, as well as compensation for loss of land to non-native settlement. A special federal committee appointed in 1927 to deal with this petition unanimously agreed that "the petitioners have not established any claim to the lands of British Columbia based on aboriginal title or other title. . ." but advised that $100,000 a year be spent for technical education, hospitals, agricultural promotion, and irrigation. (This amount worked out to approximately $2/native person per year and became known as "the great settlement.")