First Nations were self-governing long before the arrival of Europeans in what is now British Columbia, and across Canada. These Nations had distinct histories, languages, cultures, laws, and systems of governance. The Indian Act (introduced in 1876) imposed strict regulations and attempted to dismantle these systems of governance. Treaties are a means to reclaim and affirm Indigenous self-governance and are a pathway to reconciliation, and new relationship based on mutual respect and recognition.
In British Columbia, there are Historic and Modern Treaties. Treaties signed between the 1700s and the early 1920s are referred to as “Historic Treaties,” including the 14 Douglas Treaties on Vancouver Island and Treaty 8. “Modern Treaties” refer to treaties signed beginning in the 1970s and into the present day. There are eight Modern Treaties in British Columbia, in addition to a growing number of incremental Self-Government Agreements negotiated within and outside the treaty process.
The history of treaty-making in British Columbia and Indigenous-led processes for the recognition of rights and title is vast. Past and contemporary examples of direct action and numerous landmark court cases have established a legal and political landscape affirming Indigenous (Aboriginal) rights and title, as well as Crown (the Governments of British Columbia and Canada) responsibilities and obligations to address these rights.
The Calder case paved the way for Indigenous title and rights recognition in Canada, and was a key milestone affirming Nisga’a Nation self-governance. The Nisga’a Final Agreement (Nisga’a Treaty), which came into effect in 2000, was the first Modern Treaty in BC, and the first Modern Treaty to include self-government provisions in Canada. Since then, seven other First Nations have become self-governing through Modern Treaties negotiated in the made-in-BC negotiations process of the British Columbia Treaty Commission. Treaty-making in BC continues, and there are currently 17 First Nations engaged in negotiations to finalize treaties and become self-governing Nations.
The British Columbia Treaty Commission advocates for and facilitates the recognition and protection of Indigenous rights and title, through the negotiation of Modern Treaties and tripartite agreements among the governments of Canada, British Columbia and First Nations in BC.
Visit the BC Treaty Commission website, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to learn more.