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The Native Brotherhood of British Columbia 1931-1950 : a new phase in native political organization O’Donnell, Jacqueline Patricia

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine the organization and activities of the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia during the years 1931-1950 and to explore the impediments and incentives to native extra-kin organization in the province prior to and during this period. In preparing this thesis I have drawn on numerous secondary sources dealing with the historical development of Indian policy in British Columbia and also, works focusing on specific native organizations. In addition, I have used a report submitted by the Special Joint Committee appointed in 1927, to inquire into the claims of the Allied Tribes, as well as the Minutes and Proceedings of the Special Joint Committee which convened during the years 1946, 1947 and 1948 to revise the Indian Act. A native newspaper entitled The Native Voice was also utilized for the purposes of this study. The composition of British Columbia's Indian population is diverse, yet, despite the geographic, linguistic, social, political and cultural differences among the province's natives, organizations did develop. Two important catalysts existed within north coast society and pertained to the formation of native extra-kin organizations. For example, a hierarchical leadership structure which provided an able leadership base and the economic orientation of commercial fishing which provided the means of transportation and communication, both necessary to facilitate the growth and success of an organization. In addition, other factors acted as the triggering mechanisms which prompted natives to organize. First, a distinct historical experience; second, the concept of aboriginal title; and third, the Depression of the 1930's. The two organizations which preceded the Native Brotherhood were single issue, elite based organizations geared toward pressing the Provincial, Dominion and Imperial authorities to compensate natives for their loss of aboriginal rights to land and resources. Therefore, these organizations represent Phase One of native organization. The establishment of the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia in 1931 marked the beginning of a new phase of native organization in the province. The Brotherhood was a membership based organization which sought provincial representation. Furthermore, for the first time a native organization focused on a wider range of issues relating to the general welfare and inferior socio-political position of British Columbia natives. Therefore, the aims and objectives of the organization were Pan-Indian in nature.

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