Neil Vallance will speak on the lost treaties of Vancouver Island.

Museum to host treaties speaker

The Museum at Campbell River will host a UVic speaker to talk about the often overlooked Vancouver Island treaties

The Museum at Campbell River will host University of Victoria guest speaker Neil Vallance on Saturday, Feb. 7 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Vallance will speak to the topic ‘The Long Silence of the Vancouver Island (also known at the Douglas) Treaties of 1850-1854’.

According to Vallance, “Between 1850 and 1854, 14 treaties were negotiated by a number of Vancouver Island First Nations (including two near Port Hardy) with James Douglas, a Hudson’s Bay Company Chief Factor acting as agent of the Crown. My talk is in part a cautionary tale about the subsequent silencings of the Vancouver Island Treaties (the “VI Treaties”), but it is also a search for ways to restore their voice. I begin with a short description of the initial, nearly complete, silencing,” Vallance adds. “Next I present three long-neglected First Nation accounts of the VI Treaties, and compare them with the standard colonial narratives. I then argue that the written versions of the treaty do not accurately reflect the terms agreed upon at the treaty meetings.

“In my opinion, the First Nations accounts offer an alternate (and more convincing) narrative in which the agreements made were not to cede but to share land, resources and jurisdiction,” Vallance continues. “In a search for comparable land agreements, I have looked at Kemp’s Deed, entered into by Britain with the Ngai Tahu people of New Zealand in 1848, and the treaties entered into by the United States with Native Americans in Washington Territory during the 1850s. In the final section I describe the imposition of the second silencing and offer suggestions for ending it. Along the way I will describe my research adventures in the archives of Canada, the western United States and New Zealand.”

Vallance retired from the part-time practice of law in Victoria to begin his PhD at UVic in 2010. Since 1999 he has also been researching and preparing historical reports on claims by First Nations alleging the failure of the Crown to fulfil promises made in the so-called Douglas Treaties, fourteen of which were entered into with Vancouver Island First Nations between 1850 and 1854. Vallance is drawing upon this body of accumulated knowledge in his dissertation, tentatively entitled Sharing the Land: First Nation and Colonial Accounts of the Formation of the Vancouver Island (also known as the Douglas) Treaties of 1850-1854, in historical, legal and comparative context. The cost for the lecture is $7. Call the Museum at 250-287-3103 to reserve a seat.