A Trip to London, Friday 3 August 1906
In 1906 a delegation consisting of Chief Joe Capilano (Squamish), Chief Charley Isipaymilt (Cowichan), and Chief Basil David (Shuswap) travelled to London to seek an audience with King Edward VII. After years of getting nowhere with the BC and Canadian governments, BC native communities selected Chief Capilano to lead a delegation that would petition the King in person.
Their demands included repealing the ban on potlatches and hunting regulations that undermined the self-sufficiency of BC First Nations. More importantly, the delegates lobbied the King to make good on the promises that had been made in the crown’s name concerning compensation for alienated lands. They pointed out that, unlike the rest of Canada, aboriginal title had not been extinguished in BC.
The 15 minute meeting with the King itself failed to bring about any concrete change, but the visit nevertheless marks a significant milestone in the history of native/settler relations in BC.
Planning for the trip was two years in the making. It involved numerous intertribal conferences and Capilano travelling the province to seek a mandate to speak on behalf of all BC First Nations. When speaking with the British press, he was able to tell them that he “carried to the king the handshakes of all 200,000 Indians in British Columbia.”
Back home, Capilano again spent months going around to native communities reporting back on his trip. Three years later, the first of many province-wide native political organizations formed to pursue land claims in BC, a struggle that continues over a century later.
See this article by Keith Thor Carlson for more details of the 1906 trip.
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