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Scope and content
Series consists of correspondence and reports created and maintained by officials from the Department of Indian Affairs on the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs for the Province of British Columbia.
Copyright belongs to the Crown. In order to protect the fragile originals, the microfilm copies of these records must be consulted rather than the originals.
Biography / Administrative history
The Commission Respecting Indian Lands and Indian Affairs Generally in the Province of British Columbia was established under Order in Council, P.C. 3277, 27 November 1912 and Order in Council, P.C. 644, 31 March 1913, under Part I of the Inquiries Act (R.S.C., 1906, c.104) and on the recommendation of the prime minister. By Order in Council, P.C. 1401, 10 June 1913, the terms of reference were broadened. The commissioners were authorized to conduct a more general investigation on issues such as water rights and fisheries rather than being confined to matters affecting native lands. The Commission was mandated to inquire into the following: (1) The commission shall have power to adjust the acreage of Indian Reserves in British Columbia in the following manner: (a) At such places as the Commissioners are satisfied that more land is included in any particular Reserve as now defined than is reasonably required for the use of the Indians of that tribe or locality, the Reserve shall, with the consent of the Indians, as required by the Indian Act, (R.S.C., 1906, c.81) be reduced to such acreage as the Commissioners think reasonably sufficient for the purposes of such Indians. (b) At any place at which the Commissioners shall determine that an insufficient quantity of land has been set aside for the use of the Indians of that locality, the Commissioners shall fix the quantity that ought to be added for the use of such Indians. And they may set aside land for any Band of Indians for whom land has not already been reserved. (2) The Province shall take all such steps as are necessary to legally reserve the additional lands which the Commissioners shall apportion to any body of Indians in pursuance of the powers above set out. (3) The lands which the Commissioners shall determine are not necessary for the use of the Indians shall be subdivided and sold by the Province at public auction. (4) The net proceeds of all such sales shall be divided equally between the Province and the Dominion, and all moneys received by the Dominion under this clause shall be held or used by the Dominion for the benefit of the Indians of British Columbia. (5) All expenses in connection with the commission shall be shared by the Province and Dominion in equal proportions. (6) The lands comprised in the Reserves as finally fixed by the Commissioners aforesaid shall be conveyed by the Province to the Dominion with full power to the Dominion to deal with the said lands in such manner as they may deem best suited for the purposes of the Indians, including a right to sell the said lands and fund or use the proceeds for the benefit of the Indians, subject only to a condition that in the event of any Indian tribe or band in British Columbia at some future time becoming extinct, then any lands within the territorial boundaries of the Province which have been conveyed to the Dominion as aforesaid for such tribe or band, and not sold or disposed of as hereinbefore mentioned, or any unexpended funds being the proceeds of any Indian Reserve in the Province of British Columbia, shall be conveyed or repaid to the Province. (7) Until the final report of the commission is made, the Province shall withhold from preemption or sale any lands over which they have a disposing power and which have been heretofore applied for by the Dominion as additional Indian Reserves or which may during the sitting of the commission, be specified by the Commissioners as lands which should be reserved for Indians. If during the period prior to the Commissioners making their final report it shall be ascertained by either Government that any lands being part of an Indian Reserve are required for right-of-way or other railway purposes, or for any Dominion or Provincial or Municipal Public Work or purpose, the matter shall be referred to the Commissioners who shall thereupon dispose of the question by an Interim Report, and each Government shall thereupon do everything necessary to carry the recommendations of the Commissioners into effect. The Commissioners appointed by the federal government were: Edward Ludlow Wetmore, Chairman; Nathaniel W. White and James Andrew Joseph McKenna, Commissioners. James Pearson Shaw and Day Hort Macdowell were appointed Commissioners by the government of British Columbia. In 1914, Wetmore resigned and White became Chairman. Further, Saumarez Carmichael was appointed Commissioner in place of White (Order in Council, P.C. 1059, 17 April 1914 and Order in Council, P.C. 923, 3 April 1914). The secretary was J.G.H. Bergeron, who resigned on 1 May 1915 and was replaced by C.H. Gibbons.
Between 1875-1908, most of the Indian reserves in the Province of British Columbia were laid out. During the process, the Government of Canada insisted that adequate lands be set aside for the benefit and use of the aboriginal peoples. But, the Province of British Columbia wanted a reduction in the size of the reserves and insisted on a reversionary right by which it would become the owner of any native lands that were given up.
After lengthy negotiations, on 24 September 1912, an agreement was reached between the Government of Canada, represented by J.A.J. McKenna, and the Government of British Columbia, represented by Premier Richard McBride, which was intended to resolve the dispute between the two governments. The McKenna-McBride agreement not only provided for the establishment of a royal commission to adjust the size of Indian reserves, but the Province of British Columbia agreed to give up its claim to a reversionary interest, except in the case of abandoned reserves. It was further agreed that the province would receive half the proceeds from the sale of those reserve lands designated by the royal commission as surplus to the needs of each band, while the other half would be held in trust by the Government of Canada.
The Commissioners, who were appointed by letters patent dated April 1913, were further authorized, in June 1913, to prepare "a general report on the conditions of the Indians with suggestions as to future policy and administration of Indian Affairs in the Province of British Columbia."
The report of the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs for the Province of British Columbia was published in 1916. It contained specific recommendations with respect to each and every reserve in the province but the opposition of the aboriginal peoples caused delays in its acceptance. The Association of Allied Tribes of British Columbia, which was made up of the Salish, the Nisga, and some of the coastal tribes of British Columbia, rejected the work of the royal commission because it wanted the issue of claims to aboriginal title resolved. The dispute over these and other issues, supposedly settled, came up again at other times. (See Report of the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs for the Province of British Columbia, Victoria: Acme Press Limited, 1916, pp. 1-20; Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs, Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1924, pp. 7-8; and John Taylor, Canadian Indian Policy during Inter-War Years, 1918-1939, Department of Indian Affairs Northern Development, Ottawa, 1983, pp. 69-85).
From 1913 to 1916, the Commissioners, accompanied by the District Inspectors of the Department of Indian Affairs, conducted hearings with the various Indian tribes and bands in the Province of British Columbia. They also took evidence from Indian agents, municipal councils and boards of trade. The commission filed 253 exhibits. RG33-104 General Inventory
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