Work of the
McKenna McBride Royal Commission
When the Dominion
and Provincial governments
Commission members in session at Victoria approved the terms of the McKenna McBride Agreement
the members of the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs in British
Columbia were appointed. The McKenna McBride Commission as it is
commonly called, was composed of four Commissioners, (two
representatives from the Provincial Government and two representatives
from the Dominion Government), and one chairman appointed by the four
Commissioners. The Commission had many tasks:
- To study all the
relevant materials pertaining
to reserve size, resource management, etc.
- Gather evidence
and testimonies from First
Nations, Indian Agents and other Government officials, Settlers, and
throughout British Columbia in order to
make recommendations on Indian reserve sizes.
- Conduct meetings
with all of the different
Bands from the fifteen
designated Indian Agencies.
The minutes from
these and other meetings are
referred to as "Evidence".
Through interpreters, the Commissioners conducted meetings with chiefs,
sub-chiefs, and band members. According to the Commission's guidelines,
the Commissioners were required to explain the scope and purpose of
Commission at each meeting. They were also required to listen to the
Indians and take evidence under oath. The Commissioners reassured the
Indians that no 'surrender', or reduction, of any reserve land would
occur without their consent, as required by Dominion law. The meetings
were generally arranged by the Indian Agents as the Commissioners
accepted them to be the local authority on issues concerning the needs
and requests of the Indians. The Agents' evidence and testimonies were
influential in the Commission's decision making especially in
circumstances where band members refused to meet with the Commission.
When this occurred, testimony given by the Indian Agent was the only
evidence used to inform the Commission's decisions about First Nations'
needs. The Commission refused to meet any organized body of Native
representatives, such as the Indian Rights Association, although the
request was made by First Nations.
these meetings offer insight into
the interests of the Commission and highlight the concerns raised by
the Indians. They reveal how the Commission believed that Indians could
not manage their own affairs. Indian evidence was seen as secondary to
statements from other sources such as municipal councils, boards of
trade, railway companies, and government departments. Through Interim
Reports, the Commission had the authority to speed up the granting of
land for specific reasons such as railway rights-of-way. Although
compensation was to be made for Interim Report cut-offs, for the 98
Interim Reports issued, it is not known what compensation was given.
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