I’ve been a visitor in these various occupied Coast Salish territories for the past 5 years, for which I am very grateful. This is where I’ve learned the most about local history and of colonialism, which admittedly, is not much yet.
Most of my knowledge of local history comes from books and papers written by white anthropologists and historians, though I have gleaned a bit of information from local and visiting indigenous people about our shared history.
I don’t want to attempt to describe any of these cultures, their history or their issues. That’s not my place. I speak as someone of the dominant settler culture, of the history and reality of my culture’s occupation of this territory and of a desire for myself and other settlers to acknowledge what has been happening.
I believe in the need for all of us, not just indigenous people, to be involved in the processes of decolonization.
Each of us will approach these processes in our own way, but one thing that many of us who have put time into trying to define the meaning of colonialism and anti-colonialism recognize is that for now, the journey is the destination, and no
‘answers’ or ‘end results’ exist. To start, it’s a learning process, and there is a lot to learn that has been omitted from our history textbooks and our cultural mythos.
Despite the somewhat negative tone of this article, I am underneath it all optimistic, knowing that there is a strong current of anti-colonialism in the local radical activist community, and that uncovering these difficult truthes has great potential to lead to some positive changes.
Here’s some things to consider as we approach the 150th birthday of the ‘City of Victoria’, an institution given it’s right to rule these territories by the Province of ‘British Columbia’.
Canadian title is rooted in the Doctrine of Discovery: a fraudulent fiction and a foundation of white supremacy. The Royal Proclamation of 1763, which Canada was and is bound to, states that Nation to Nation treaties must be negotiated and signed before aboriginal land is settled by non natives. Not only did this not happen, but British Columbia perpetrated a fraud to enter confederation by claiming the land was Terra Nullius: which generally meant uninhabited. It wasn’t that BC was claiming that there were no people here, they merely adopted an expanded definition to include any area devoid of “civilized” society. Although the term was commonly accepted as meaning “uninhabited,” it was considered that certain tribal lands could be said to fall within the scope of “uninhabited” if the peoples of the area exhibited an unwillingness to exploit the land in a “civilized” fashion. The present state of international law precludes a region from being termed “uninhabited” if nomadic or resident tribes with a degree of social and political organization are present in the area. All indigenous groups met this requirement at the time of ‘discovery’, and this has even been recognized in Canadian case law. As such, the legitimacy of the British Columbia and Canadian governments is invalidated as per it’s own requirements for legitimacy.In the area known as Greater Victoria or the Capital Region of BC, there exists treaties with the indigenous families that resided in this territory in 1850. According to oral histories, these treaties were not understood by the local people to be extinguishment of title to the land, but peace treaties. Even if we are to accept that ownership of the land was ceded to British Columbia, the indigenous peoples did not cede their right to self-government. Even if the treaties are to be accepted as extinguishment of indigenous title, the Crown acquired only those rights expressly specified in the treaties, while all others, including the right to self-government, were retained by the indigenous nations. A great deal of British Columbia law violates and permits the violation of indigenous rights, including, as expressed in the Douglas Treaties that exist within my electoral district, ‘the right to hunt and fish as formerly’.
Currently the government of British Columbia is involved in a treaty process in which they are not negotiating in good faith. The assumption of the BC and Canadian Governments is that they own and rule this land and that it’s just a matter of how much they have to pay for it. I don’t see it that way. I see it that the land was never for sale, and that we were welcomed to live here in peace and cooperation, not to claim it for our own.
So, if the province of British Columbia is an illegitimate institution enforcing itself unjustly upon sovereign nations, then what is the City of Victoria (whose authority is issued by the province)?
I think you can figure it out.