An introduction to First Nations'
history in the Gulf Islands
By Chris Arnett
The east coast of Vancouver Island is a rolling forested plain
that narrows towards the south where the mountainous spine of the island edges
towards the sea, and two rivers, the Cowichan and Chemainus, drain the ancient
forests through valleys and fertile deltas. Offshore, a maze of smaller islands
forms a seemingly impassable wall along the Gulf of Georgia - the inland sea
which separates Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands from the distant mountains
of the continental mainland.
A rain shadow cast by the Olympic Peninsula provides the east coast of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands with a distinctive climate characterized by mild, wet winters and long, cool summers. With the stabilization of present sea-levels some 5,000 years ago, human beings began to efficiently and sustainably exploit the riches of land and sea abound. Wealth was available from the air to the ocean. In winter, ducks by the thousands flocked to wetlands and natural harbours, the shorelines harboured numerous species of shellfish available year round. Deer and elk flourished in the forests and meadows, which contained many species of edible and medicinal plants. Fish of many kinds were always available. In spring, the myriad herring spawn in sheltered waters, attracting chinook salmon followed by stellar sea lions and, of course, the human beings in search of them all. Each summer the relationships culminated in the return of migrating salmon culminating in the massive run of sockeye salmon to the Fraser River.
But it was not always so.
In the shwi'em' (time of the ancient stories) when the world
was made "there was nothing on it - just ground and water."Then,
as the Elders tell us, Xeel's, the Changer, "came down to the world to
finish things ... he went about fixing things, making lakes and rivers, and
all things that grow, and then he made animals and all things like that."
Xeel's dropped the first people from the sky to populate the land. A man named
Syalutsa' landed on a grassy field called Tsuqwulu on the southwest side of
the mountain Swuqus overlooking the Cowichan Valley. A little further north
Stutsun fell from the sky and landed on the mountain Skwaakwnus above the
Chemainus River. Other people emerged out of the land itself. At Penelakut
on Kuper Island two great cedar logs lay by the shore. Warmed by the rays
of the sun, the bark on one of the logs cracked and out came the first man
on the island. Within a short time he was joined by the first woman, who emerged
from the sand between the two logs. Syalutsa', Stutsun, and the others who
landed atop the mountains and hills of Vancouver Island or emerged from the
driftwood and sands of Kuper Island are the ancestors of the Hul'qumi'num
First Nations. They are mustimuhw (human beings) also called hwulmuhw (people
gathered in one place).
The Changer, Xeel's, created biodiversity - the resources used by the first people and the snuw'uy'ul (the cultural teachings), which governed all manner of conduct and interaction with the physical and spiritual realm.
Hwulmuhw history 3,000 B.C. to 1849
Part of Xeel's plan including the use of specific places and resources by specific families. As Cowichan elder Angus Smith explains:
"Where you dropped is where you belong ... Particular areas were peculiar to certain groups or families, where our ancestors were dropped on earth. They were carrying the cultural teachings ... Several peoples would go up the Cowichan River to the lake gathering their food. They knew where food was available. They gathered elk, deer and trout at the lake. Each place was designated to them. The cultural teachings were shown them, instructing them what was good for their life. It was showing the first people what they could use. It was only from the Elders; they would decide as they would go up to the Lake area. That's the way it was with our ancestors; that's why the Cowichan people carry this tradition. All the places have names."
Upon completion of his work, Xeel's left the earth and, over time, with the retreat of the glaciers and the stabilization of the present land mass, the seasonal cycles of resource extraction by Hul'qumi'num First Nations became established. Nowhere else, in what is now British Columbia, was food procurable in such variety and abundance. People accessed resources throughout the year. Henry Edwards, an elder from Lamalcha who often visited Salt Spring with his family to hunt and gather, explains:
Some things are ready at a certain time of year and that's when you go and get them. It was like that on Salt Spring Island. People would go when that food was ready. They went in the springtime and the summer, even winter. That's where they got their groceries."
The elders say that Hwulmuhw place-names describe "either what grows there, or how the land was shaped, or what had happened to the land form." To give but a few examples Xwaaqw'um (merganser duck place) is the ancient name for Burgoyne Bay on Salt Spring Island and described the valued food resource found there at a certain time of the year; Prevost Island is called Xwes' hwum (place having hair seals), named for the seals sought for meat, oil and skins; Stsatx (halibut) was the name given Long Harbour on Salt Spring Island to indicate the fish found there; and, at the north end of the same island, P'q'unup (white ground) described the white shell beaches created by millions of discarded, bleached shells produced by the harvesting and processing of clams.
The preservation of large quantities of food during the bountiful months of summer, supplemented by localized resources, allowed the occupation of year-round village sites and the development, over at least 5,000 years, of complex social and environmental inter-relationships.
The ancestor Syalutsa' and other first people established villages
on the Cowichan River and its delta. They called themselves Cowichan after
the mountain which looms to the east of the river delta and resembles a great
frog "basking in the sun," or squw'utsun'. House sites on the delta
fluctuated with the changes in the river but by the time of first contact
with hwunitum, over a dozen villages and house sites including the major settlements
of Clemclemalits, Taitka, Comiaken, Quamichan, Khenipsen and Somenos, occupied
the shores of Cowichan Bay or the banks of the Cowichan River. Individual
families owned fish weirs on the river but hunting and food-gathering on the
delta was accessible to all.
Beyond the river and the delta, individual Cowichan families owned land and resources on the south end of Salt Spring Island from Xwaaqw'um to Tsuween and on various Gulf Islands at Hwes'hwum, Sqtheq and elsewhere. Food and other resource gathering sites extended across the Gulf of Georgia to such places as Theethuts'ton on the lower Fraser River where the majority of Cowichan people migrated every summer, to fish the great runs of sockeye salmon.
To the north of the Cowichan, a closely-related group of people occupy villages on the east coast of Vancouver Island and the adjacent Gulf Islands of Kuper, Galiano and Valdez. These people claim descent from Stutsun and other ancestors who fell from the sky onto the mountain Skwaakwnus overlooking the Chemainus River delta. The Hwunitum call them "Chemainus," but the people refer to themselves individually by the names of their winter villages - Halalt, Chemainus, Sickameen, Taitka (Lyacksen), Penelakut, Yuhwula'us or Lamalcha. Families from these villages at one time controlled various lands and resources on the east coast of Vancouver Island from Sthihum to Kwhwuyt and throughout the Gulf Islands.
Just as the Cowichan River was the focus of much economic activity for the Cowichan people, the smaller Chemainus River (Silaqwa'l) was a focus for food and other resource gathering for Hul'qumi'num First Nations. Families from Penelakut owned aerial duck nets and fish sites on Bonsall Creek, but the tidal flats and resources at the mouth of the river were shared by all. Upriver, resources and hunting grounds were said to be used exclusively by Halalt, Sickameen, and Chemainus families only.20 On the islands, Lamalcha and Penelakut families controlled access to certain lands and resources on both sides of Trincomalee Channel from Sqthaqa'l to Kulman, including the north end of Salt Spring Island from stulan on the west side to Shiyahwt on the east, and all of Galiano Island.
Taitka (closely related to the Cowichan village of the same name) controlled Valdez Island and shared with the Penelakut the annual sealion hunt at Porlier Pass. All of these people crossed the Gulf of Georgia each summer to Hwlitsum (Canoe Pass), on the south arm of the Fraser River Delta, Tluktinus, and further up the river at Qiquyt, to fish the sockeye.
The Hul'qumi'num First Nations of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands lived in villages ranging in size from one to fifteen large rectangular houses constructed of cedar posts and beams covered with split cedar planks. Each house contained one or more nuclear families which occupied its own section, referred to as lelum'unup, or 'the place where you are from." Together these nuclear families of brothers, cousins and brothers-in-law living in one great house formed the hw'nuchalewum, or house group, the "highest unit of common allegiance" within the village.
Despite shared ancestry, name and identification with a localized territory, the village was not an isolated, self-contained social unit under a single leader, but a loose alliance of hw'nuchalewum which might co-operate in food-gathering activities, labour exchange, or mutual defence. However, as anthropologist Wayne Suttles explains, "they were not obliged to do so by any formal village organization. There was no office of village chief and no village council. Co-operation was ad hoc. Leadership was for specific purposes and was exercised by virtue of specific skills, property rights, or supposed superhuman powers."
The institution of marriage connected hw'nuchalewum to house groups in other villages throughout the territories of Hul'qumi'num First Nations and beyond. As a result, "individual and family status was as dependent upon ties of marriage and kinship with other villages as upon economic rights and traditional identity with one's own village." These intervillage ties constituted the hwulmuhw community more so than the village itself.
Hul'qumi'num First Nations evolved a society divided into three distinct levels of status. The majority of people were considered to be "high class people," individually addressed as si'em. The si'em descended from distinguished ancestors from whom they inherited important names which came with rights and privileges, including access to certain lands and resources. The si'em greatly outnumbered the commoners, or stashum, "low class" people who had "lost their history" and "had no claim to the most productive resources of the area and no claim to recognized inherited privileges." The stashum often lived in separate houses in their own section of the village or in a different location altogether where they remained subservient to the "high class" people. Slaves, or skwuyuth, persons captured in war or purchased, were few in number and lived in the houses of the wealthy where they were regarded as private property.
Si'em owned the property rights to the most productive food gathering areas in the surrounding countryside, but high status came from the sharing of food. Their rights and privileges were validated through the cultural institution of stlun'uq, or potlatch, an occasion when people from other villages were invited by a host hw'nuchalewum "to receive gifts of wealth to validate changes of status and exercise inherited privileges." Suttles writes that the stlun'uq: ... played an important part within this system of sharing access to resources. By potlatching, a group established its status vis-a-vis other groups, in effect saying "we are an extended family (or village of several extended families) with title to such-and-such a territory having such-and-such resources." And when a leading member assumed a name that harked back to the beginning of the world when the ancestors of the group first appeared on the spot, this not only demonstrated the validity of the group's title but perhaps also announced in effect "this is the man in charge of our resources."
Within the total socio-economic system, the most important function of the stlun'uq, as Suttles has demonstrated, was not the drive for high status but the redistribution of wealth derived from family-owned resources within the inter-village community - the recipients of which would, at some future date, be obliged to return.
Hwulmuhw land tenure was not a matter of exclusive title by individuals to separate pieces of land, but was based on the ownership of resources by individual hw'nuchalewum. Land was not viewed as a commodity, but was valued for the resources it provided to feed, house, clothe, and equip an individual and his extended family. Access and management of clam beds, seal rocks, fishing sites, camas and wild clover patches, and other resources formed the basis of a family's wealth. The exploitation and redistribution of these resources was the foundation of the basis of the Hwulmuhw economy.
The boundaries of family-owned lands and resources were well-known. As Bob Akerman explains:
Lots of people say that the Indians didn't own the land because it wasn't surveyed. But they had it surveyed by landmarks, rivers, creeks, mountains and rocks - That sort of thing.
Although there were hunting and gathering areas within the vicinity of the
winter villages which were accessible to all, access to privately-owned resources
was restricted and the penalty for unauthorized trespassing, at least in the
first half of the nineteenth century, was harsh. An early account of Hul'qumi'num
First Nations property rights comes from the son of a noble Quamichan woman
and an Englishman named John Humphreys who settled in the Cowichan River delta
possibly as early as 1856. According to his information "as told by the
Every family had its own hunting and fishing grounds, and the tract of land which each one claimed was in proportion to the size of the family, if it was a large family it had a large tract of land, and vice versa. Sometimes one family had to its credit many miles of land, for its hunting and fishing purposes. If one Indian found another man poaching on his land he immediately shot and killed him as it was within the law to do so. There were very few laws but what there were, were strictly kept, as the punishment for breaking them was very strict. Also every man could get nearly all the game he wanted on his own property and consequently did not have to trespass on his neighbour's land.
Recognition of family ownership was important, but access to family-owned resources was not denied those who followed protocol. When permission was asked of the owners to access a resource, it was rarely refused. Consider the resources owned by a "high class" Clemclemalits family at Xwaaqw'um (Burgoyne Bay) on Salt Spring Island:
They owned the property and they used to stay there. The Indians didn't just use the land occasionally - they owned it. If others wanted to fish or hunt in that area they'd have to get permission.
The land was the source of economic well-being and deeply venerated for its spiritual values. The landscape preserved the teachings of Heel's in strange rockformations, contained the bones of the ancestors, and was the abode of stlutle'luqum (dangerous little beings.) Wealth and success in life depended on supernatural power bestowed by stlutle'luqum, but it was only accessible to those who trained hard and maintained strict standards of conduct. This power enabled men and women to excel in their particular talents. Salt Spring Island, the largest of the Gulf Islands, harboured many sacred sites on its mountains and lakes where youths sought supernatural power.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Hwulmuhw prophets foresaw the impending change which would upset forever the established economic cycles and social order - contact with the expanding Christian trading empires of Europe and America:
"A Shaman dreamed that a great canoe came to his village,
moving without paddles. A man with a black face, black with hair and with
white skin underneath, smiled and called the old man friend. The stranger
gave the old man a little box, painted in bright colours, then departed in
his great canoe.
The old man tried to open the box, but could not discover how the lid was fastened down. Suddenly the box flew open and out roared a great wind that dried up the springs and creeks. The fish left the waters of the sea and rivers and the deer ran to the other side of the mountains.
The great wind dried the old man's throat, so that he thirsted for whiskey, a drink he had never tasted. The warriors fell to quarrelling with one another and none would listen to wise advice.
Finally, out of the little box came the spotted sickness, and the shaman knew that the white man's gift was - death."
Long before the Hwunitum ("people who came out of no where")
settled on the Gulf of Georgia, their presence on the North American continent
had a deadly impact on the aboriginal people in the form of smallpox, which
reached the area about 1782 overland from the Columbia River region to the
south. The plague was spent by the time it reached the northern reaches of
the Georgia Strait but, in its wake, Hwulmuhw population centres were decimated.
Untouched Kwakwaka'wakw populations to the north took advantage of the situation
and launched devastating raids into the territories of their disabled southern
neighbours in search of slaves and wealth. & The end of the plague coincided
with the rise of the maritime fur trade, the main centre of which was the
Nuuchahnulth territories on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Although only
indirectly involved with the European and American traders at first, the Kwakwaka'wakw
procured European/American trade goods, and particularly muskets, which further
augmented their military superiority over their southern opponents, causing
great social unrest in the region.
The establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Langley on the Eraser River in 1827 gave Hwulmuhw increased access to European trade goods and muskets and restored the balance of power between Hwulmuhw and Kwakwaka'wakw fighting forces. Muskets allowed Hwulmuhw warriors to match their opponents' fighting abilities and allowed pre-emptive raids into Kwakwaka'wakw homelands which, over time, checked their southward advance.
The increase in musket-dominated warfare created innovations in Hwulmuhw tactics. Hwulmuhw warriors quickly learned the advantages of volley firing, whereby men fired their muskets in unison at a single target. Smoothbore muskets, by themselves heavy and slow to load, were almost less effective in combat than bows and arrows, but fired en masse their effect was devastating, especially when fired upon an unsuspecting foe from a concealed position. This tactic, the surprise volley, became a trademark of Hwulmuhw warfare and was responsible for several important victories over the Kwakwaka'wakw.
The introduction of firearms also caused modifications in defense works, such as the construction of earthwork trenches in combination with loopholed blockhouses. Built of stout squared timbers, loopholed for muskets and cannon, the blockhouse allowed warriors to mass their firepower from a protected strategic strong point against an exposed, unprotected enemy. In the Saanich village of Tsouwat, each household built a blockhouse with plank walls "outside its own house. It had doors with locks and loopholes. It was about twenty feet high in front but lower in back, about the height of a man's reach." These early blockhouses seem to have been simply smaller versions of the shed-roofed plank house. Possibly the most elaborate fortifications built by hwulmuhw were those erected by the Cowichan warrior, Tsosieten, at Taitka on the Cowichan River delta. Taitka was "surrounded by pickets and bastions out of which there poked three large cannon."
The continuous fighting between Kwakwaka'wakw and Hul'qumi'num First Nations gave rise among the latter to a number of famous warrior si'em, including Hulkalatkstun of Penelakut, Tsosieten of Taitka, Lohar of Comiaken and Tzouhalem of Khinepsen. Born of a Quamichan man and a Comiaken woman, Tzouhalem, under the guidance of his grandmother, trained to be a warrior. His "old granny ... taught him how to bathe himself every day, rubbing his skin with hemlock boughs, and to run in the woods and away back in the hills where the spirits would come and talk to him."44 Tzouhalem met a cannibal spirit that told him: "When you fight and when you kill people, I shall be with you," whereupon Tzouhalem "went back to his cave home and sang his mystery song ... which signified that he had been given human flesh to eat. When he danced he flourished his gun and knife."
Tzouhalem's seemingly invincible fighting ability and unruly behaviour led to his being asked to leave the village of Quamichan, which he did, establishing himself and his followers in a single fortified house at Khinepsen at the mouth of the Cowichan River near Comiaken, the village of his mother. Tzouhalem maintained his association with Quamichan. An 1853 hwunitum census identified him as the preeminent "chief," and it seems likely that Tzouhalem's fighting prowess helped to establish Quamichan as the largest and wealthiest of the Cowichan villages with a reputation for opposition to hwunitum encroachment.
The Battle of Hwtlupnuts (Maple Bay, c.1840 )
Hwulmuhw military ascendency culminated in the battle of Hwtlupnets (c.1840), when an unprecedented alliance of Hul'qumi'num First Nations, Nanaimo, Saanich, Songhees, Esquimalt, Musqueam and Squamish warriors gathered to defeat an invading armada of Kwakwaka'wakw-speaking Lekwiltok and their Comox allies. The mobilization occurred when word reached the south that an invasion by a large force of northerners was imminent. After entering the territories of Hul'qumi'num First Nations, the northerners reached Hwtlupnuts (Maple Bay) where they made camp on the beach. Under the leadership of Tzouhalem and Tsosieten, the hwulmuhw army divided into two divisions, one on either side of the bay. A third party, dressed to appear as women, canoed into the bay where they were sighted by the northerners who set off in pursuit only to be caught as the hwulmuhw allies, following a system of pre-arranged signals, closed in to slaughter them. It was the first and last time such a diverse group of First Nations united to defeat a common enemy. The battle of Hwtlupnuts ended large-scale raids by northern peoples into the south, although smaller raids and violent encounters with Hul'qumi'num First Nations continued for another three decades.
Worried by the pending American annexation of the Columbia River
region, where Fort Vancouver was the Pacific Ocean depot for the Hudson's
Bay Company, George Simpson, the company's governor, directed that another
fort be established on the southern end of Vancouver Island. Acting on these
instructions, Chief Factor James Douglas in March of 1843 left Fort Vancouver
in the Hudson's Bay Company steamer Beaver and proceeded to Vancouver Island.
Born in 1803, in British Guiana of a Scottish father and an Afro-American
mother, Douglas had been in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company in the
Pacific Northwest since 1821. As a result of his long tenure with the country,
he understood intimately many aspects of aboriginal culture. Over six feet
tall, this "stout powerful man of good conduct and respectable abilities"
who was "furiously violent when aroused" loomed larger than any
other over the early history of British Columbia.
Upon his arrival on southern Vancouver Island on March 14th, 1843, the 39-year-old Douglas selected land owned by Lekwungaynung-speaking people adjacent to a protected harbour for what was to be the site of Fort Victoria. The first meeting between the British and the owners of the land involved a degree of confrontation and uncertainty. As one member of the expedition observed:
It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when we arrived there. At first we saw only two canoes; but, having discharged two cannon shot, the aborigines left their retreats and surrounded the steamboat. The following day canoes arrived from all sides.5'
A mutual understanding was soon reached. Douglas "informed them of our intention of building in this place which appeared to please them very much." With their co-operation and assistance, a log stockade was soon erected and the fort's buildings were under way. On the evening of March 17th, a "luminous column" appeared in an arc across the sky. Having heard about the hwunitum and attracted by the celestial event, some 1,200 Cowichan, Clallam, and Saanich people converged on the site where they were greeted by the first Roman Catholic priest to set foot on Vancouver Island, Father Jean Baptiste Bolduc. He conducted mass on Sunday the 18th, and proceeded to a nearby village where he performed 102 baptisms. A young man told Bolduc that his arrival had been prophesied many years earlier.
Attack on Fort Victoria
Hwulmuhw welcomed the presence of the new Hunitum fort on Vancouver Island because it meant increased access to Hunitum merchandise, particularly firearms, ammunition, blankets, hardware and liquor. Within a year, however, a dispute arose over jurisdiction which threatened to erupt in violence and all-out war between the Hwunitum traders and the coalition of warriors who had recently defeated the northern raiders at Hwtlupnets. To provide meat for a feast, a Hwulmuhw hunting party shot what a Hudson's Bay Company employee claimed were "some of our best working oxen & horses." The animals were not in the fort, which the Hwulmuhw seemed to acknowledge as Hwunitum property, but were "left feeding on the surrounding grounds": fair game, as it were, for the Hwulmuhw owners of the land outside the Hudson's Bay Company establishment. Roderick Finlayson, who had recently assumed the position of Chief Trader, responded by suspending trade and issuing ultimatums: "I then sent a message to the chiefs demanding the delivery of the perpetrators of this unprovoked deed, or payment to be made for the animals killed which they declined doing - I then suspended trade or any dealing with them until this matter was settled - Whereupon they sent word to some of the neigbouring tribes - to come to their assistance, as they intended to attack the Fort." The Hwulmuhw in the vicinity of Fort Victoria called for a gathering of the same alliance of warriors who had recently defeated the Kwakwaka'wakw and their allies at Hwtlupnuts.
The Hwulmuhw soon received these reinforcements, including a contingent of Cowichan warriors under Tzouhalem, who assumed command of the military operation. After two days of negotiations, the warriors of the alliance "opened fire on the Fort riddling the stockade & roofs of the House with their musket balls." The fusillade was intense and according to Finlayson, "it was with the greatest difficulty I could prevail on our men not then to return the Fire, but wait for my orders." The Chief Trader knew that any response on the part of the Fort would plunge the Hudson's Bay Company into a disastrous war against a numerically superior and well-armed foe. Finlayson decided on a display to intimidate the attackers, without harming them, in order to re-open negotiations. He loaded a cannon with grape shot and fired it at a nearby empty Hwulmuhw house, completely demolishing it. The firing ceased and the two sides agreed to a parley. The dispute was settled according to Hwulmuhw law, whereby compensation was accepted for alleged wrong. Finlayson later wrote that he "was determined to have the offenders punished, or payment made for the animals killed - They preferred the latter, and before that day closed furs to the full amount were delivered at the gate. After which we smoked the pipe of peace."
The Colony of Vancouver's Island
On June 15th, 1846, in the face of increasing militancy by American squatters in the Oregon and Washington Territories, the Treaty of Washington was signed by the United States and Great Britain, conceding to the Americans the 49th parallel as the boundary from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, but leaving Vancouver Island within the British sphere of influence. In that same year the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, Sir John Pelly, wrote to Earl Grey, the Colonial Secretary of Great Britain, informing him that:
The Hudson's Bay Company having formed an establishment on the southern point of Vancouver's Island, which they are annually enlarging, are anxious to know whether they will be confirmed in the possession of such lands, as they may find it expedient to add to those which they already possess.
Earl Grey agreed that the interests of Great Britain in the
region would best be served by an active policy of British immigration and
colonization to check American settlement. Despite controversy over the plan,
on January 13, 1849, Queen Victoria signed the grant making the Hudson's Bay
Company "the true and absolute lords and Proprietors" of Vancouver
Island, "together with ah" royalties of the seas upon these coasts
within the limits aforesaid, and all mines royal thereto belonging."
The days of the fur trade were coming to an end as the Hudson's Bay Company operations diversified to include farming, salmon-curing, logging and now colonization. The company was to assume responsibility for all civil and military affairs in the new colony, the costs of which were to be borne by land sales. The grant would be reviewed every five years and, if cancelled, the imperial government "might repurchase the Island, provided it reimbursed the Company for its expenditures and for its establishments and property."
The only reference to the island's aboriginal owners in the letters patent was a statement that British colonization under the auspices of the Hudson's Bay Company "would induce greatly... to the protection and welfare of the native Indians residing within that portion of Our territories," presumably in contrast to the state of war then existing between aboriginal people and Americans to the south, in the company's former domains of the Oregon and Washington Territories. In London little was known regarding the aboriginal people of the region, and the question of extinguishing aboriginal title prior to occupation of the land was left to local Hudson's Bay Company officials. However, the intent of the Colonial Office regarding this issue is revealed in a confidential draft of a parliamentary paper prepared in March 1849, for the consideration of cabinet, which stated that:
... in parting with the land of the island Her Majesty parts only with her own right therein, and that whatever measures she was bound to take in order to extinguish the Indian title are equally obligatory on the Company.
Recognition that such title did indeed exist was acknowledged in discussions concerning the creation of legislation to provide for the administration of justice in the new colony which referred to "that part of the Indian Territories called Vancouver's Island."
For more on the story read Chris Arnett's book "The Terror of the Coast: Land Alienation and Colonial War on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, 1849-1863" by Chris Arnett,(Talon Books, 1999)
Two Houses Half-Buried in Sand: Oral Traditions of the Hul'q'umi'num' Coast Salish of Kuper Island and Vancouver Island