Archeological evidence show Indigenous peoples presence on the lands that now make up BC for more than 14,000 years–more than 10,000 years before the construction of the Pyramids of Giza, which date back just over 4,000 years. Indigenous oral histories however, speak about the birth of these lands, going back to time immemorial.
In the 269 years since British, Spanish, Russian, and American sailors began visiting the area and British Columbia was established, the many Nations signed few treaties across the province. Certain legal rights are guaranteed to the Indigenous peoples in BC, as well as a formal requirement for consultation by Industry and the Government of BC. The passing of Bill 41, a commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples across all legislation in BC, strengthens the need to respect Indigenous traditional territories and rights.
In November 2019, the Government of BC passed the BC Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which looks to align all legislation with the United Nations Declaration Act on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Federally, many Indigenous rights stem from the Indian Act, which outlines services, the rights of ‘Status Indians’, on reserve and when doing traditional practices, such as hunting and fishing. The federal framework for relationship building is also informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
An important subcategory of Indigenous rights is Indigenous title. Indigenous title is a unique interest in the land that encompasses a right to the land’s exclusive use and occupation. There are currently multiple Indigenous title cases before the BC Courts to reaffirm ownership over traditional territories.
Treaty rights are constitutionally protected rights set out in solemn and binding agreements between the Crown and First Nations. Historic treaties generally refer to land surrendered by First Nations in exchange for benefits that may include hunting, fishing, and trapping. These include Treaty No. 8 in northeastern BC and the 14 Douglas Treaties on Vancouver Island. These treaties were signed before 1925. Modern treaties set out rights and obligations for all parties, including land ownership and any consultation obligations. The Nisga’a Treaty, signed in 2000, was the first modern treaty in BC. Since then, treaties with Tsawwassen and Maa-nulth First Nations have concluded. Several other negotiations are currently completed or in the final stages of completion.
Visit the BC Treaty Commission website for information on treaties in British Columbia.Explore More