At the present time, the Kwakiutl Band has stepped away from the British Columbia Treaty Process so that it can pursue claims under the Douglas Treaty. The Band’s Treaty Office is closed. Persons having questions related to either the BCTC process or the Douglas Treaty should contact the Kwakiutl Band Manager.
The Kwakiutl Treaty Process
At the end of 2003 we stepped back from negotiations at the Winalagalis Treaty Group (WTG) treaty table to pusue issues around the Kwakiutl Douglas Treaty (find out more about the Douglas treaties here). Our Treaty stands right now under suspension and we recognize that the WTG deals with some fairly complex issues. This past year has been particularly challenging in our relationship with the member nations of the WTG as our treaty table experienced delays and stalling tactics by Canada and BC. The other member nations of the WTG attributed these delays to the fault of Kwakiutl. We maintain all delays were the result of the conduct of the governments who, over the years, have refused to deal honourably with our Douglas Treaty rights. In recognition of the delays to the other member nations of the WTG, Kwakiutl has decided to temporarily step back from the BCTC treaty table. This decision was not made lightly because of the funding repercussions.
Fort Rupert Treaties (Kwakiutl)
The Hudson’s Bay Company and the British Colonial Office established the Fort Rupert treaties to protect British interests in the coalfields on northeast Vancouver Island. In 1835 Kwakiutl Indians informed the Hudson’s Bay Company of the presence of coal at Suquash, on the coast about 14 km southeast of Fort Rupert. In 1836, the Company’s steamer Beaver was sent to examine the coal outcrops. The “Quaquills” in whose territory the coal was located would not permit the Hudson’s Bay Company to work the coal as it was valuable to them; the Kwagu’l stated that they would mine the coal themselves and sell it to the Company.
A trade in coal at Suquash, known as “Coal Mine” by the Company, soon developed between the Kwakgu’l and the Hudson’s Bay Company. As this trade in coal went on for a number of years, the Hudson’s Bay Company recognized the economic value of the coal fields. They attracted the attention of the American firm of Howland & Aspinall, who where under contract to the United States Navy Department to transport mail in steamers between Panama and Oregon. Coal for these steamers was supplied from Wales, and the Americans Aspinal negotiated with the Hudson’s Bay Company to obtain Vancouver Island Coal. In May of 1849, the Hudson’s Bay Company began to build Fort Rupert in Beaver Harbour, as a base from which to develop the coalfields at Suquash and other places in the region. The Company also kept its traditional interest in the furs in the region, but this was a secondary economic consideration.