A Brief History of Aboriginal Politics in BC

The Allied Tribes of British Columbia, which included Secwepemc Nation communities, was formed in 1915 at a meeting in Spences Bridge. The Allied Tribes retained a lawyer, and in 1926 they presented their petition to Parliament. The Tribes requested that Parliament get a legal decision from the Privy Council on the land claim, and asked for action on the social and economic problems the Aboriginal communities were facing.

In response, Parliament formed a Joint Committee which ruled the Allied Tribes had not proven their claim. As a band-aid measure to alleviate the social and economic situation, an annual ‘special vote’ of $100,000 was instituted.

To add to the devastating rejection of the Allied Tribes claim, the Joint Committee recommended that raising funds and soliciting of legal help in pressing for ‘land claims’ become a criminal offence. Those recommendations subsequently were incorporated as Section 141 of the Indian Act. The Allied Tribes disbanded as a result.

Despite the prohibition to gather the struggle continued throughout the 1930s and ‘40s. In 1931 the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia, mainly made up of Coastal Tribes, was formed. Due to the constraints the Brotherhood focused on issues such as education, taxation, health care delivery, pensions, enfranchisement and veterans’ affairs, and represented the economic interests of the Coastal fishermen.

In 1944 the North American Indian Brotherhood (NAIB), representing the Interior people, was formed. The NAIB pushed for special rights of Native people arguing that “the Indians of B.C. (and Canada) as the Aboriginal inhabitants of the country, had special rights not shared by other citizens of the Nation.” (Van Dyke and Sanders 1975:15)

In 1951 the Indian Act was revised, and Section 141 was removed, as well as the law prohibiting the Potlatch. In 1969 the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs was formed.

Historically the Secwepemc Chiefs made several presentations to various levels of government, including trips to London, England in 1906, and in 1909. The 1909 delegation to London included representatives from 20 tribes, from around the province, including the Secwepemc.