Indian Affairs Commission

Above: "Indian Affairs Commission on the Bella Coola Indian Reserve," 18 August 1913.

This photo shows the government agents who had made the long trip by sea from Victoria to Bella Coola as part of the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs set up by Canada to further consolidate the colonial theft of our land and resources.

Left: Report of the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs for the Province of British Columbia, 1916. The Royal Commission Report consolidated colonial control over First Nations and their reserve land base through new legislation and regulations that reduced, eliminated and added land while ignoring Aboriginal Title and Rights.

"The Bella Coola village site surrounded by generally level arable land, easily cleared and bisected by the Bella Coola river, near its mouth. Its situation renders this reserve extremely valuable. Village is well built, beautifully situated and cared for." Bella Coola Agency Detailed Report

Above: "Bella Coola Indian Village."
Left: "Chief's House, Bella Coola I. R." Both photographs were published in the Royal Commission Report.

Today the Nuxalk own seven reserves, about 2,025 hectares in total, a tiny fraction of the land that was illegally stolen from us (0.1% of the 1,800,000 hectares of our ancestral territory). The BC government first allocated reserve land to the Nuxalk in 1882. In 1888 the land was surveyed and the "official" reserve maps were approved the next year. The largest reserve area was the Bella Coola Reserve which covered c. 1,355.5 hectares. Other reserves were tiny parcels of land at the mouths of the Dean River (Kemsquit Reserve, 203.2 hectares); the Taleomey River in the South Bentinck Arm of the Burke Channel (Taleomy Reserve, 202.3 hectares); the Kimsquit River (Chatscah Reserve, 173.2 hectares); the Kwatna River in Kwatna Bay (Kwatlena Reserve, 53 hectares); and the Nooseneck River in the North Bentinck Arm of Burke Channel (Nooseneck Reserve, 5,3 hectares).

In 1913 the reserve boundaries were readjusted by the Royal Commission and the Skowquiltz River Reserve (32.4 hectares) at the mouth of the Skowquiltz River in Dean Channel was added.

Left: Detail of the "Bella Coola Agency," map published in the Royal Commission Report. Click map for larger image.

Statements by Nuxalkmc Spokesmen, 1913

Kwlhanii (Jim Pollard)

We are very pleased to see the Indian Affairs Commission here.

We understand you represent the Government
and consequently we are very pleased at it.

We further understand that you will do what is
right by us and also understand that if we have
not enough land, you will recommend to the Government to let us have more, and that is satisfactory to us.

Eventually things will come to a head here, and our natural resources will be limited in time. When I was a young man we were able to go out and get cordwood wherever and whenever we liked and there was no Indian Reserve then.

I notice that the wood and the fish, etc are getting scarce. This means a lot to us. When I was a boy, my father and the old men of the tribe told us to be very careful with our land nd property here, not to give it away or sell it. We all discussed the matter a great deal among ourselves.

Some Indians in other places have sold their land and we don't approve of it. If we had enough land we would do as we did before the whiteman ever came here. We would use the roots, the herbs and the barks.

The lord gave us this land and we used this land and we used to eat these fruits which the lord provided. We would do the same again. We want to let you know that the fish is the same as a bank. This is where we derive our income.

Captain Schooner

I think the Government ought to help us as they have made a lot of money out of the Indians, and it is the duty of the government to do what they can for us.

I don't know why the Government won't pay us for what they have taken.

We used to get lots of berries, but now, when we get berries, the whiteman put us off the land.

We are telling you all our troubles.

The white people are not doing justice to us.

We have lost a lot of land up the river.

Chief Suncwmay (Tom Henry)

Now, all up and down the salt water there are posts saying that this land belongs to the whiteman who have bought it from the Government.

If I take any sticks from these places the whiteman will come along and say, 'Leave that alone, it belongs to me.'

I hear that the whiteman are making a good deal of money out of the land which formally belonged to the Indians.

If I were to go to USA, England or go on anybody's land like that I would be put in jail right away.

We should like to know, why our lands have been taken from us in this way. We don't want to lose any more land than we have already lost.

Umq'umklika (Albert King)

We cannot get the native foods as in the Old Day. Our means of getting these foods are curtailed. We have to have sufficient land that we may be able to provide ourselves and our children with food. We are very glad to know that you are willing to help us obtain more land, and also in the title of the Reserve here.

We have a grievance about Mr. Jacobsen who leased about 20 acres of land right in the centre of the village here and agreed to pay a stipulated sum of it every year. He got the land but we have not received a cent of it.

Chief Qwatsinas on the Commission, 1986

"It's kind of a bum deal . . . I guess the British government was afraid of colonization by other countries, so they started encouraging their travelers, I guess you'd call them, to explore land, and survey it, and occupy it. They'd survey the Hudson's Bay Company land and after that they'd establish the reserve land. But that's backwards.

John Clayton was the trader and he was living here with a Native woman; our people had said to him, 'sir, you have our permission to stay here.' There was a village there (by the Company store). There were longhouses. And then later we found out, 'that's not your land anymore.' We've done a lot of research and when we bring our land claims, this will all come out. [Left: Q'umk'uts', c. 1890.]

I looked at the McKenna-McBride (Commission) minutes. They didn't even let the Indian people know what was happening. . . The population of the valley today is about 1,800 and we make up 800 of the 1,800. We occupy just over 3,000 acres and the others have 600,000 acres from the head of the valley to here. Yet (when Alexander Mackenzie arrived) we had 34 villages from the mouth of the river to the precipice. We know where they all were; we've got them all worked out on the map." In Ruth Kirk, Wisdom of the Elders, 1986.


Nuxalk Smayusta Homepage