Series GR-0123 - Dept. of Indian Affairs records with regard to British Columbia

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Dept. of Indian Affairs records with regard to British Columbia

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  • microform

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  • 1858-1968 (Creation)
    Canada. Department of Indian Affairs

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Physical description

23 microfilm reels : [B05631-B05653]

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The series consists of the records of the Office of the Indian Reserve Commissioner for British Columbia (1884-1898), the Office of the Indian Superintendent for British Columbia (1884-1894), plus records from the Office of the Indian Commissioner for British Columbia and its antecedent Office of the Chief Inspector of Indian Agencies (1910-1956). Also included are records of the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs for British Columbia [McBride-McKenna Commission] (1858-1930, but mainly from the period 1913-1916) along with field office records of the Nass, Skeena, and Queen Charlotte Indian agencies (1910-1968).

The records include correspondence inward, hearing transcripts, and exhibits. The following descriptions of the five series which comprise this unit have been adapted from the RG 10 Inventory, published by the Public Archives of Canada (PAC):
I. Office of the Indian Reserve Commissioner for the Province of British Columbia, 1884-1898 (RG 10 Volumes 11007-11015, microfilm reels B05631-B05633). Following a number of unsuccessful attempts to resolve the problem of Indian land in British Columbia, a three-man commission made up of dominion and provincial representatives and a joint commissioner was established in 1876. In 1878 the body was restructured and G.M. Sproat made sole Indian Reserve Commissioner. Upon his resignation in 1880, Peter O'Reilly was appointed to the position. The Indian Reserve Commissioner was given by order-in-council some discretionary power to act in allotting reserves although he was to follow suggestions of the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works (representing the provincial government) and the Indian Superintendent for British Columbia (representing the federal authority) concerning the locations to be visited and reserves established. His actions were to be subject to confirmation by these two officers and failing their agreement, questions at issue were to be put to the Lieutenant Governor for decision. O'Reilly served as Indian Reserve Commissioner until February 1898 when his duties were assumed by A.W. Vowell who also held the post of Indian Superintendent for British Columbia. Vowell served concurrently in both offices until his retirement in 1910 at which time the positions were abolished. The records in this series represent the incoming correspondence of the Office of the Indian Reserve Commissioner between February 1884 and November 1898. They are arranged chronologically and a number of maps and plans accompany the letters.

II. Office of the Indian Superintendent for British Columbia, 1886-1894 (RG 10 volume 11016, microfilm reel B 5633). The process of establishing a federal presence in the administration of Indian Affairs in British Columbia was a complicated one in the first years after that province entered Confederation. In 1872 a Superintendent of Indian Affairs was appointed, but in the following year it was decided that a Board of Indian Commissioners should, under the direction of the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, administer Indian matters in the province. Although commissioners were appointed, the Board was not a success and in 1875 British Columbia Indian administration was reorganized through the creation of two superintendencies (Victoria and Fraser). Four years later this system was replaced by one of several agents under the direction of a visiting Indian Superintendent until 1889 when he was succeeded by A.W. Vowell. The office was abolished in 1910. The records represent incoming correspondence to the Office of the Indian Superintendent for British Columbia between November 1886 and November 1894. They are arranged chronologically and were originally maintained in bound gummed stub files.

III. Office of the Chief Inspector of Indian Agencies/Indian Commissioners for British Columbia, 1910-1956 (RG 10 volumes 11001 – 11006, microfilm reels B5633-B5637). When the office of the Indian Superintendent for British Columbia was closed in 1910, agents were directed to conduct all business through headquarters in Ottawa. In the same year, an inspectorate system was inaugurated with the appointment of three Inspectors of Indian Agencies for the southeastern, southwestern, and northern agencies. In 1917 W.E. Ditchburn, who had held the position of Inspector for the Southwestern Inspectorate, was promoted to the post of Chief Inspector for British Columbia and his former position was abolished. In the following year the Northern Inspectorate was likewise dispensed with. In 1923 Ditchburn took up the new position of Indian Commissioner for British Columbia, but following his death in 1932 the office was left vacant. It was abolished in 1935, only to be resurrected the next year. Between 1929 and 1937 an Assistant Commissioner also served in the commissioner's office. In 1948 a major reorganization of Indian Affairs in British Columbia was effected. The office of Indian Commissioner was retained while that of the Inspector of Indian Agencies for the Southeast Inspectorate was reclassified Regional Supervisor of Indian Agencies. The records in this series consist of files of the office of the Indian Commissioner for British Columbia, its precursors (the Inspectorates and the office of the Chief Inspector of Indian Agencies), and the subordinate office of Indian Inspector for the Southeastern Inspectorate (after 1923). Files are grouped by responsibility centre for, while they are all records of, or which found their way into, the Commissioner's office, each refers to operations in individual agencies.

IV. Royal Commission on Indian Affairs for the Province of British Columbia, 1858-1930 (RG 10 volumes 11019 – 11028, microfilm reels B 5637-B 5650). In order to resolve the long-standing federal-provincial dispute concerning Indian lands in British Columbia, an Agreement was reached in September 1912 between special commissioners J.A.J. McKenna and provincial premier Richard McBride. It was decided that a Royal Commission be established with power to investigate Indian land matters, to adjust reserve acreage by reducing the size where the Commissioners deemed that the Indians had more land than needed, to determine the area to be added in cases where bands had insufficient land, and to set aside reserves for bands that had not yet received any. After acceptance of the McKenna-McBride Agreement by both governments, the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs for the Province of British Columbia was established in April 1913. N.W. White and J.A.J. McKenna were appointed commissioners by the federal government while J.P. Shaw and D.H. Macdowall were selected by the province. The fifth commissioner, E.L. Wetmore, was appointed Chairman. Upon the latter's resignation the Commission was re-constituted in 1914 with the addition of S. Carmichael and the elevation of White to the position of Chairman. From 1913 to 1916 the Commission travelled the province compiling evidence. Five progress and over one hundred interim and special reports were produced during the course of work in addition to the final Commission findings presented in 1916. The Commissioners were also authorized by a separate federal order-in-council of June 1913 to gather information on issues which, although extraneous to the terms of the McKenna-McBride Agreement, were nevertheless considered to affect the rights and interests of the Indian population. Their findings were the basis of a general report also submitted in 1916. In order to be implemented, the recommendations of the Royal Commission had to be approved by both governments. Following the passage of enabling legislation in 1919 and 1920, the task of adjusting the Commission's recommendations was delegated to W.E. Ditchburn and J.W. Clark (Federal and provincial representatives, respectively) who altered a number of the 1916 Report's suggestions. The Royal Commission report with the Ditchburn-Clark amendments was approved by provincial order-in-council #911 of 26 July 1923 and by federal order-in-council PC 1265 of 1924. The records in this series consist of correspondence relating to the Royal Commission's activities and an almost complete set of exhibits. In addition to land issues the files deal with such topics as surveys, water rights, hunting and fishing privileges, timber, and organization and administration of the Commission's work. The main files are arranged by agency. The series also includes copies of the hearings for each agency. Maps and plans accompany many of the files. With a few exceptions, the records date to the period 1913-1916.

V. British Columbia Field Office Records: Nass, Skeena, and Queen Charlotte Agencies, 1910-1968 (RG 10 volumes 10874 – 10883, microfilm reels B05650-B05653). When the agency system was adopted for Indian administration in British Columbia, the northern portion of the province was not immediately included. An agent was not appointed to the Northwest Coast Agency until 1886. In 1909 this agency was split into three: Bella Coola, Queen Charlotte, and Nass. The Nass Agency underwent further organizational changes, being divided in 1919 into two parts, Nass and Skeena. In 1922 these two offices were reunited as the Skeena River Agency. In the 1960s the Queen Charlotte and Skeena superintendencies were brought together in the Skeena River District, later named the North Coast District. Later field office amalgamations placed the bands of the North Coast District under the administration of the Terrace, and finally the Northwest District. The records in this series relate, for the most part to land in the Nass, Skeena, and Queen Charlotte agencies. Other subjects include water, timber, elections, mining, schools, adult education, and returned soldiers. The series is comprised of shannon files, some of which have now been divided and their parts given the artificial letter designations A, B, C, etc.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Purchased from the Public Archives of Canada in 1985.


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Originals held by Library and Archives Canada.

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There are no access restrictions.

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Associated materials

For related records see:
GR-1303 Canada. Department of Indian Affairs. Correspondence re McKenna-McBride Commission,
GR-1995 Canada. Department of Indian Affairs. Royal Commission evidence,
GR-2043 Canada. Department of Indian Affairs. Records of B.C. Indian Agencies,
GR-0931. British Columbia. Executive Council (Ditchburn-Clark Report)
See also MS-1056 (Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs: Transcripts of Evidence taken at hearing of the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs in British Columbia.)

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Researchers should contact the source archives mentioned above to ensure that they have the most recent description/finding aid for these records.

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Accession number(s): G85-092

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