July 2004

During the late 1920s and early 1930s provincial and federal governments struggled with each other and managed to effectively sidestep the issue of existing Aboriginal title in BC.  While this political struggle was occurring between BC and Canada, another element of history that was playing itself out that was more global in nature.  The boom and bust era, that is, the rise of capitalism and the ensuing crash of the stock market in 1929 brought with it immense social, economic and political change the world over with the advent of the ‘Great Depression’.

During the early decades of the 20th century, Native political action continued to be a constant thorn in the side of both the federal and provincial governments.  The federal powers were shifting back and forth between the Conservatives and Liberals.  This shifting federal political reality determined the attention and treatment afforded the BC Aboriginal title issue.  That along with the Terms of Union and the province’s attitude served to complicate matters to the point where the issue could never really be dealt with.  As far as provincial politics went, it made little difference whether it was the Liberals or Conservatives who held the reins of power; settlement of the land question was effectively postponed time and again by Victoria officials.


The federal government attempted to deal with the continuing existence of Aboriginal title in BC, and the Allied Tribes pressed the matter forward with them at every possible opportunity.  However, Duncan Campbell Scott, the superintendent of Indian Affairs during the 1920s, did not think it would be a good idea to bring BC to court over the title issue.  He stated that “should the Indians win, there would be cloud on all the land titles issued by the province.  Eventually the provincial and federal governments reached some form of resolution and agreement amongst themselves regarding the BC land question and the existing Aboriginal title in BC.

After the two governments reached agreement regarding Aboriginal title and the 1927 legislation effectively outlawed the right of Native people to pursue the land question through legal avenues, the Allied Tribes gradually disintegrated as a formal organization.  As far as the federal and provincial governments were concerned the land question in BC was officially closed.  The two governments focused their efforts and communications on reserves and ‘Indian Administration’ responsibilities.

It was at this point in history that the Indian Agents and Indian Act system began its height of influence and control of Native communities in BC.  Also, the provincial government had unfettered access to the lands and resources without federal interference.  The Aboriginal title issue was to remain dormant for the next couple of decades.

During this same time period, BC was increasingly involved in capitalist ventures and experiencing an economic boom. However, this capitalist growth took a drastic turn due to the stock market crash of October 1929.  The immense social, economic and political changes that occurred during this era would prove to be a hallmark on a global scale.

Cathy Narcisse First Published in Bridge River Lillooet News July 2004
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