Aboriginal Peoples and Politics: The Indian Land Question in British Columbia, 1849-1989

Aboriginal Peoples and Politics: The Indian Land Question in British Columbia, 1849-1989

Aboriginal Peoples and Politics: The Indian Land Question in British Columbia, 1849-1989

Aboriginal Peoples and Politics: The Indian Land Question in British Columbia, 1849-1989

Synopsis

Aboriginal claims remain a controversial but little understood issue in contemporary Canada. British Columbia has been, and remains, the setting for the most intense and persistent demands by Native people, and also for the strongest and most consistent opposition to Native claims by governments and the non-aboriginal public. Land has been the essential question; the Indians have claimed continuing ownership while the province has steadfastly denied the possibility.

Excerpt

The Indian land question is as old as British Columbia itself. The question remains as critical as it has ever been, and it is today more controversial than it has been for over a century. The Indian peoples of British Columbia have constantly sought to have the question resolved; their efforts to do so have been at the heart of their modern political history. White government officials have as constantly ignored, suppressed, and distorted the question. With very few exceptions, white scholars have avoided both the land question and modern Indian political history; implicitly, but effectively, they have sustained the official view and hindered informed public debate. My intent in this book is to remedy some of the deficiency. My purpose is not to test or demonstrate academic theories, nor is it to provide any detailed comparison with other jurisdictions. My purpose is to describe the history of the land question in British Columbia and to reveal something of the remarkable achievements of the Indian peoples in their steadfast pursuit of their land rights through peaceful political means.

Like most white British Columbians, I was raised and educated in ignorance of both Indians and the land question. In Kamloops, where I grew up, the Whites lived on one side of the river and the Indians lived on the other. The Indian reserve was the centrepiece of the local landscape, and the red-brick Indian residential school was for years the most prominent building in the valley. Yet, from the perspective I acquired, the Indians could have been on another planet. Only much later, as Indian students began to appear in my university classes and as they and other students turned to aboriginal issues, did I come to appreciate the creative political vitality of the Indian peoples of British Columbia and to see the need for a comprehensive examination of the Indian land question and Indian political activity.

My own research began in 1979. A visiting research scholarship . . .

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