UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Caribou tribal council Zirnhelt, David


Traditionally, the native people of the North American continent did not evolve levels of organization beyond that of the band. In addition, political organizations as we know them did not exist. As a result there is no historical precedent for the levels of organization which the Indian leadership now recognize as necessary for the protection of what remains of their way of life, and for a rebirth of their culture under conditions that they control, independent of the Department of Indian Affairs which has controlled much of their lives over the past century. In the late 1960's, partly as a result of the permissibility of democratic ideology adopted by the DIA and partly because of the increase of sophistication of the Indian leadership in dealing with the white man's ways, the movement towards more local control has seen demands placed upon the DIA to respond to the Indian's needs as they themselves define them. This thesis traces the recent development in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region of the Interior of B.C.; and in particular, the development of the Caribou Tribal Council (CTC) as it increased its political capability and attempted to mount an independence movement and control the program funds of DIA following the rejection of government funds by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. Material collected for this thesis includes extensive interviews with Tribal Council members and resource people, the written documentation immediately relevant to this subject, and viewing video tape films of some recent important meetings. In developing this interpretive chronology, the author witnessed several meetings of the Tribal Council and one of their major workshops. In addition, various people associated with the Council have commented on the draft of the paper. The struggle to unify three distinct cultural groupings makes the alliance of bands at best a loose alliance. The Caribou Tribal Council was able to develop and maintain the initiative in policy matters towards the Department of Indian Affairs. That initiative, partly because of efforts of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, was given strength by the cultural movement towards independence of Indian people. Because the Department did not respond quickly and positively to the Indian initiative, the political strength of the CTC waned enough to a point where the DIA could re-establish its initiative and the CTC was forced to react. The DIA initiative was a return to its former position of stating that it would decide when the Indian people were ready for more control over Departmental programs and what form the training for that control would take. In the meantime the other major thrust of Indian political activity, that of the land claims, which is not directed at DIA, remains a focus of considerable energy. What will become of the land claim issue is difficult to say, but at least some bands seem to be resolute in their efforts to achieve recognition and settlement of the claim. In the meantime, the local DIA office remains a symbol of the presence of the agency which had controlled so much of the lives of the Indian people, and on which they seem to have become dependent. As a symbol, it remains a target for the alliance of the three tribes comprised of the 15 bands in the district. A recent political phenomenon which is related to the need for an increased administrative capability on the part of bands is the emergence of Area Councils based largely on tribal cultural lines.

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