No. 24, Legislative
25 March 1861
I have the honour of transmitting a Petition from the House of Assembly of Vancouver Island to Your Grace, praying for the aid of Her Majesty's Government in Extinguishing the Indian
Title
Title to the public lands in this Colony; and setting forth, with much force and truth, the evils that may arise from the neglect of that very necessary precaution.  
2. As the native Indian population of Vancouver Island have distinct ideas of property in land, and mutually recognize their several exclusive possessory rights in certain Districts, they would not fail to regard the occupation of such portions of the Colony by white settlers, unless with the full consent of the proprietary Tribes, as national
wrongs;
wrongs; and the sense of injury might produce a feeling of irritation against the Settlers, and perhaps disaffection to the Government, that would endanger the peace of the Country.  
3. Knowing their feelings on that subject, I made it a practice, up to the Year 1859, to purchase the Native rights in the land, in every case, prior to the settlement of any District. But since that time in consequence of the termination of the Hudson's Bay Company's Charter, and the want of funds, it has
not
not been in my power to continue it. Your Grace must indeed be well aware that I have, since then, had the utmost difficulty in raising money enough to defray the most indispensable wants of Government.  
4. All the settled Districts of the Colony, with the exception of Cowitchen, Chemanis, and Barclay Sound, have been already bought from the Indians, at a cost in no case exceeding £2:10/- Sterling for each family. As the land has since then increased in value, the expense
would
would be relatively somewhat greater now, but I think that their claims might be satisfied with a payment of £3. to each family. So that taking the Native population of those Districts at 1000 families, the sum of £3000 would meet the whole charge.  
5. It would be improper to conceal from Your Grace the importance of carrying that vital measure into effect without delay.  
6. I will not occupy Your Grace's time by any attempt to investigate the opinion expressed by the House of Assembly, as to
the
the liability of the Imperial Government for all expenses connected with the purchase of the claims of the aborigines to the public land, which simply amounts to this, that the expense would in the first instance, be paid by the Imperial Government, and charged to the account of proceeds arising from the Sales of public land. The land itself would therefore be ultimately made to bear the charge.  
7. It is the practical question as to the means of raising the money, that at this moment more seriously
engages
engages my attention. The Colony being already severely taxed for the support of its own Government, could not afford to pay that additional Sum; but the difficulty may be surmounted by means of an advance from the Imperial Government to the Extent of £3000, to be eventually repaid out of the Colonial Land Fund.  
8. I would in fact strongly recommend that course to Your Grace's attention, as specially calculated to extricate the Colony from existing difficulties, without putting the Mother Country
to
to serious expense; and I shall carefully attend to the repayment of the sum advanced, in full, as soon as the Land Fund recovers in some measure from the depression, caused by the delay Her Majesty's Government has experienced in effecting a final arrangement with the Hudsons Bay Company for the reconveyance of the Colony; as there is little doubt when our new system of finance comes
fully
fully into operation, that the revenue will be fully adequate to the expenditure of the Colony.  
I have the honor to be
My Lord Duke,
Your Grace's most obedient
and humble Servant
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Elliot
The early settlement of this matter is of much importance. I frequently am called upon to see at this office persons of all classes, desirous of settling in V.C. Isld or B. Columbia and one of the questions proposed to me is usually how the claims of the Natives to Land are arranged; To which I have had to ansr that I concluded they wd have to be bought up. But this has not been quite satisfactory to an enquiring settler, who, before he leaves these shores naturally desires to know exactly & positively what he may expect in the acquisition of Land in the Colony he has selected as his residence. Therefore if these Indian claims cd be fairly extinguished the arrangement wd facilitate immigration. But buying them by means of a Loan from the British Exchequer is probably questionable. I do not see why a loan sh. not be raised in the Colony, the amount wanted being only £3000. It is, however, to be observed that the Colony has lately borrowed £10,000 for harbor improvements.  
ABd
28/5
Mr Fortescue
Refer to Land Board?  
TFE
28 May
At once.  
CF
29
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
  • J.S. Helmcken, Speaker, to Douglas, 6 February 1861, asking that the enclosed petition be forwarded to the Duke of Newcastle.  
  • Members of the House of Assembly of Vancouver Island to Newcastle, 6 February 1861, petition asking that Indigenous peoples' land claims in the colony be extinguished. Transcribed below.  
Documents enclosed with the main document (transcribed)

His Grace, the Duke of Newcastle, Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies.

 
We, Her Majesty's Faithful and loyal subjects, the Members of the House of Assembly of Vancouver Island in Parliament assembled, would earnestly request the attention of your Grace to the following considerations:  
1. That many Colonists have purchased land, at the rate of one pound sterling per acre, in districts to which the Indian title has not yet been extinguished.  
2. That, in consequence of the non-extinction of this title, these persons, though most desirous to occupy and improve, have been unable to take possession of their lands—purchased, in most cases, nearly three years ago; and
of
of this, they loudly and justly complain.  
3. That the Indians, well aware of the compensation heretofore given for lands, appropriated for colonization, in the earlier settled districts of Vancouver Island, as well as in the neighbouring territory of Washington, strenuously oppose the occupation by settlers of lands still deemed their own. No attempts of the kind could be persisted in, without endangering the peace of the Country, for these Indians, though otherwise well disposed and friendly, would become hostile if their supposed rights as regards land were systematically violated; and they are still much more numerous and warlike, than the petty remnants of tribes, who in 1855 and 1856, in the western part of the adjacent United States territory of Washington,
kept
kept up for nearly a year, a desultory and destructive warfare, which compelled the whole agricultural population of the Country, to desert their homes, and congregate in blockhouses.  
4. That, within the last three years, this Island has been visited by many intending settlers, from various parts of the world. Comparatively few of these have remained, the others having, as we believe, been, in a great measure, deterred from buying land as they could not rely on having peaceable possession; seeing that the Indian Title was still unextinguished to several of the most eligible agricultural districts of the Island.  
5. That the House of Assembly respectfully considers, that the extinction of the aboriginal title is obligatory on the
Imperial
Imperial Government.  
6. That the House of Assembly, bearing in mind, that from the dawn of modern colonization until the present day, wars with aborigines, have mainly arisen from disputes about land, which by timely and moderate concession on the part of the more powerful and enlightened of the disputants concerned, might have been peaceably and economically adjusted, now earnestly pray that Her Majestys Government would direct such steps to be taken, as may seem best, for the speedy settlement of the matter at issue, and the removal of a most serious obstacle to the well being of this Colony.  
J.S. Helmcken
Speaker
l February 6th 1861
Other documents included in the file
  • Elliot to G.A. Hamilton, Treasury, 22 June 1861, forwarding copies of the despatch and petition and recommending Douglas's proposal for favorable consideration (see full transcription below).  
  • Elliot to Emigration Commissioners, 4 June 1861, forwarding copies of the despatch and petition for their observations.  
  • 22 June 1861 Geo. A. Hamilton Treasury

    Sir  
    I am directed by the Duke of Newcastle to transmit to you for the consideration of the Lords Commisss of the Treasury a Copy of a Despatch from the Governor of Van Couver Island, enclosing an Address from the House of Assembly on the Subject of the extinction of the Native Title to land in that Colony.  
    Their Lordships will observe that Governor Douglas suggests that the settlement of these claims should be effected by means of an advance from Imperial Funds to the extent of about £3000 to be eventually repaid out of the Colonial land fund.  
    Looking to the importance and practical economy of extinguishing a claim which must be a Continual source of danger, and which can scarcely fail to grow in amounts, and also to the great disadvantage to which the Colony has been exposed by the protracted negociations between H.M.'s Govt and the Hudsons Bay Company, the Duke of Newcastle cannot but admit that the Inhabitants of Van Couver Island have strong & peculiar claims for assistance upon this occasion, and his Grace would therefore recommend the Governor's proposal to their Lordships favorable consideration.  
    I am to add that this Department is not in possession of the Materials necessary to enable his Grace to form an estimate of the probable amount of Revenue which would be immediately available for the repayment of the advance in question, but in the event of their Lordships entertaining the proposition, the Governor would be instructed to supply the requisite information on this head, and it can hardly be doubted that the public Lands of the Colony must soon yield the means of repaying so moderate an advance as £3,000.  
    I have [etc.]
    T.F. E[lliot]
    *end  
 
Despatch to London:
Douglas to Newcastle, 25 March 1861, National Archives of the UK, 4779, CO 305/17. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871. Ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria: University of Victoria. http://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/getDoc.htm?id=V61024.scx. Accessed 18 September 2018. 

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