The native people of interior British Columbia did not sign treaties ceding their lands. The reserves of the Columbia Basin were created without benefit of treaties. As in the United States, the government reduced First Nation reserves several times. Furthermore, because they did not have their rights spelled out in treaties, aboriginal people found it hard to protect off-reserve rights. The follow are a selection of documents that have affected the First Nations of the Columbia Basin.
- The Royal Proclamation of 1763
The Royal Proclamation acknowledged aboriginal ownership of lands that had not been ceed to or purchased by the Crown:
And whereas it is just and reasonable, and essential to our Interest, and the Security of our Colonies, that the several Nations or Tribes of Indians with whom We are connected, and who live under our Protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the Possession of such Parts of Our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are reserved to them. or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds.
- The Oregon Treaty, 1846
This treaty between the United States and Great Britian set the boundary between the U.S. and Canada. As a result, it divided previously unified native people into those who lived south of the border, and came under the jurisdiction of the U.S., and those who lived north, and came under the control of Canada. This had a profound effect on native cultures in the border region and therefore the treaty is a watershed document in Indian and aboriginal history in the Columbia Basin. Suddenly, separate governments affected the lifeways of culturally similar tribal peoples.
- British North American Act, 1867
This document created a union of the British North American colonies by joining together the provinces of Canada (later to be divided into Ontario and Quebec), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. British Columbia would join the confederation in 1871.
- Indian Act
Subject to the terms of any treaty and any other Act of the Parliament of Canada, all laws of general application from time to time in force in any province are applicable to and in respect of Indians in the province, except to the extent that such laws are inconsistent with the Act or any order, rule, regulation or by-laws made thereunder, and except to the extent that such laws make provision for any matter for which provision is made by or under this Act.
- Fisheries Act
The British North American Act gave jurisdiction over the fisheries to the federal government which it exercises through the Fisheries Act. The courts have determined that, by-and-large, First Nations can be regulated by the Fisheries Act. Because the Fisheries Act provides separate regulations for each province, aboriginal people are treated differently in each region. Furthermore, provinces have the right, through the Constitution Act, to set seasons under which First Nations must abide.
- Columbia River Treaty, signed 1961, ratified 1964
The Columbia River Treaty between Canada and the United States provided for the development of four upper Columbia River Basin storage dams: Duncan (1967), Keenlyside (1968), Mica (1973), and Libby (1973). The reservoirs created by these dams largely benefited the U.S. which compensated Canada by agreeing to provide power and flood control.