Proposal Title

SESSION 1.1: A Fresh Look at the History of the Vancouver Island Treaties

Presentation Type

Individual paper

Location

IB 1015

Start Date

4-5-2019 9:00 AM

End Date

4-5-2019 10:30 AM

Disciplines

Canadian History

Abstract

The scholarship on the history of the Vancouver Island Treaties is fundamentally flawed. Based on substantial original research, I will present a history very different from that literature. I will argue that the Vancouver Island Treaties are very important because they illustrate the British approach to indigenous land rights from the 1620s to the early 20th century, throughout the Empire. My paper will argue that a careful examination of the evidence will show that the idea to negotiate agreements with Indigenous people on Vancouver Island originated with the top governors of the HBC (not with the British Colonial Office, and not with James Douglas), despite the fact that the HBC normally did not conclude treaties with Indigenous people. The HBC sought those treaties for several expedient reasons, not because they (or personnel in the Colonial Office) believed the indigenous people of Vancouver Island had enforceable land rights. While I will agree that the Vancouver Island Treaties were, first and foremost oral agreements, I will also argue that it was to be expected that the HBC would look to New Zealand when it sought to render the agreements in writing.

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May 4th, 9:00 AM May 4th, 10:30 AM

SESSION 1.1: A Fresh Look at the History of the Vancouver Island Treaties

IB 1015

The scholarship on the history of the Vancouver Island Treaties is fundamentally flawed. Based on substantial original research, I will present a history very different from that literature. I will argue that the Vancouver Island Treaties are very important because they illustrate the British approach to indigenous land rights from the 1620s to the early 20th century, throughout the Empire. My paper will argue that a careful examination of the evidence will show that the idea to negotiate agreements with Indigenous people on Vancouver Island originated with the top governors of the HBC (not with the British Colonial Office, and not with James Douglas), despite the fact that the HBC normally did not conclude treaties with Indigenous people. The HBC sought those treaties for several expedient reasons, not because they (or personnel in the Colonial Office) believed the indigenous people of Vancouver Island had enforceable land rights. While I will agree that the Vancouver Island Treaties were, first and foremost oral agreements, I will also argue that it was to be expected that the HBC would look to New Zealand when it sought to render the agreements in writing.