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Background: Indian Reserve Creation in Colonial British Columbia

Nass Indian VillageIndian Reserves did not exist in British Columbia until shortly after the region became an official British colony. Before this time, First Nations had no colonial restrictions as to where they lived on the land or how they used the resources that the land and water provided.

Once the colonial powers claimed sovereignty over the land and its resources, Aboriginal Title and Rights became a very controversial issue.

The first reserves were not created until the 1850's and 1860's after the colony of Vancouver Island was established in 1849 and the mainland of British Columbia became a colony in 1858. During this time period the Hudson's Bay Company was granted control of land and settlement in both colonies by the British colonial authorities.

Sir James DouglasSir James Douglas, Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company and governor of the colonies, recognized that in order to promote settlement he would have to extinguish Aboriginal Title and stabilize the relationship between First Nations and settlers. Douglas negotiated fourteen agreements for the cession of Title on Vancouver Island from 1850-1854. This process was intended to extinguish Title through treaty. These fourteen treaties along with Treaty 8 and the Nisga'a treaty, finalized in the year 2000, are the only treaties that have been signed in British Columbia.

After the fourteen Douglas Treaties, the Colonial office in Ottawa stopped funding efforts for the extinguishment of Title in British Columbia. However, the British Colonial office still expected Douglas to proceed with extinguishing Indian Title, but at the Colony's own cost. Although the Royal Proclamation of 1763 required the negotiation of treaties to extinguish Title and claim Aboriginal lands for settlement, Douglas created reserves throughout the colony without either negotiating nor extinguishing Aboriginal Title.

Joseph Trutch became governor of the colony in 1864 and while in power, reduced existing reserves and was unwilling to allot new reserves or add to pre-existing reserves. Trutch refused to recognize Aboriginal Title and, like Douglas, acted without any formal policy. Trutch's reductions to Indian reserves were the first of many "adjustments" or "cut-offs" that have been made to reserves.

Chief Simon Baker on reserves and aboriginal title [197?]
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