Early BC

For 150 years the Nation State has been the dominant for of government. People today can hardly imagine anything else. But for most of history a host of other forms have thrived. The Company State was both fully business and fully government. The Hudson Bay Company and East India Company were the largest. Between them they governed ten percent of the Earth’s surface and population. As governments they held the title “Honorable”. Their headquarters were next to each other in London. They shared both people and ideas. These Company States protected their interests from the Nation State. They occasionally turned their guns on the Royal Navy and had different foreign policies. The HBC government was neutral toward Russia in Alaska while Britain fought it in the Crimea. Company States were not just state-like or quasi-governmental nor “imitations” or ”extensions” of the Nation State. They should be understood as governments on their own terms. The Honorable Hudson Bay Company was the legal government in the Hudson Bay watershed and it governed Columbia to the Pacific Ocean through 21-year agreements. In proto-British Columbia it created and defended settlements, managed the economy and administered transportation, communication and legal systems. It was not a Nation State with total sovereignty over bound territory. It shared overlapping heteronomy with First Nations and it respected their legitimacy. Its economic success depended on healthy Native communities and cultures. Many Aboriginal people embraced the global economy, welcomed manufactured products and provided export goods. Some became the Home Guard around each trading community, acting as middlemen for trade and providing defence. The Hudson Bay Company state was secular Banned missionaries, encouraged mixed-race marriages and restricted European settlement. It practised harm reduction over prohibition and it managed resources to protect the environment, refusing to purchase endangered… Read More »Government in Proto-British Columbia

Government in Proto-British Columbia

During the Caribou Gold Rush, a ship with hundreds of miners from San Francisco arrived in Victoria. One of them had smallpox. It takes 12 days to get symptoms and become infectious; the trip had taken 4 days. The infected miner shared a room with others who got sick. Dozens of settlers and one third of all First Nations people would die. When the Hudson Bay Company governed western Canada Governor James Douglas had inoculated indigenous people and quarantined ships. But settlers petitioned London to end Company government and make the Governor accountable to an elected Assembly. When Douglas announced that smallpox had arrived and ‘strongly recommended…instant measures be adopted’, the House resisted, refusing to reinstate quarantine. Douglas warned native leaders and soon Dr. John Helmcken vaccinated five hundred. All the Songhees people moved to an island. Douglas had Helmcken send vaccine around the province. To Hudsons Bay Company officials in Fort Rupert and Kamloops, To a missionary in Nanaimo. Priest Fouquet in the Fraser Valley visited one hundred communities vaccinating thousands. The Lytton Police Commissioner hired a doctor to inoculate along the Fraser and Nicola Rivers. Douglas reimbursed him. Smallpox infection worst in northern British Columbia Southern and some interior First Nations avoided the worst. The north was a catastrophe. Douglas had an aboriginal wife and children; but anti-Company settlers spread rumours that Douglas was infecting them with blankets. Smallpox is an airborne disease spread through breathing and dies quickly when cold, making infection by blanket unlikely. Every summer hundreds of northerners camped near Victoria for work and trade. Newspaper editor Amor De Cosmos criticized Douglas for allowing this. Douglas refused to move them citing ‘faith of solemn engagement’ and benefits to native people. When the body of a white settler washed ashore, the… Read More »BC’s Deadly Smallpox Epidemic

BC’s Deadly Smallpox Epidemic

In the late 1800s, the Parliaments of British Columbia and Canada voted in racist laws against the Chinese minority. One institution that stood against them was the Canadian Senate. In the late 1800s, the Parliaments of British Columbia and Canada voted in racist laws against the Chinese minority. One institution that stood against them was the Canadian Senate. Few elected politicians at that time were willing to oppose the racist views of the white majority. When British Columbia was governed by the Honorable Hudson Bay Company, institutional racism was not tolerated. But in 1871 British Columbia became a full democracy in which the majority could make the rules for the minority. In the very first Parliament, the BC Legislature made it illegal for Chinese and native people to vote. When the Canadian Parliament passed the Chinese Head Tax the Canadian Senate revolted. Senator William Macdonald, former Hudson Bay Company man, called it ‘a diabolical Bill with not a shadow of justice or right on its side’. Senator Willliam Almon said, ‘how will we say there is a dividing line between Canada and the United States? Can we any longer point with pride to our flag and say that under that emblem all men… are equally free?’ When the legislation was sent to the Senate, Robert Haythorne said ‘it is difficult to amend a Bill based on a wrong principle, and the principle is a bad and cruel one.’ Senator James Dever contrasted Canada with the United States and said he could not understand how Canada could ‘prohibit strangers from our hospitable shore because they are a different colour and have a different language’. Senator Richard Scott said ‘it is so repugnant… one can hardly discuss it in a proper frame of mind’. The Parliaments ultimately… Read More »First Nations Architecture, Building, & Culture

First Nations Architecture, Building, & Culture

Chinook Wawa is linked with the history of British Columbia. Chinook Wawa is linked with the history of British Columbia. We might even call one form of it British Columbian. James Cook and his midshipman George Vancouver sojourned at Nootka Sound. Their Nuuchahnulth word lists became a Nootka Jargon that spread through the Maritime Fur Trade. Supported by Chief Concomly and the Chinook Nation, Fort George became the Canadian depot for Columbia furs. French-speaking traders married into Chinook families and learned a Broken Chinook. Proto-British Columbia Britain granted governmental powers to the Hudson Bay Company, although First Nations remained sovereign. Vancouver became the capital of Columbia, or proto British Columbia. Governor John McLoughlin’s son married the daughter of Chief Concomly. It may have been after the move to Vancouver that Broken Chinook, Nootka Jargon, French and other languages combined to form Chinook Wawa. No one had described or named the new language at Fort George. The first record of Wawa was among the mixed race families of Vancouver. Their schoolteacher made the earliest wordlist; Sunday School was conducted in Wawa. The Governor, his officers and workers used it among the thirty-five ethnic groups in multicultural Vancouver. Priests reached Vancouver and compiled the first dictionary. They noted the fathers spoke French, but mothers and children spoke only Wawa. And people who came to Vancouver for trade spread it widely. Aboriginal eyewitnesses confirmed the language arose from the Hudson Bay Company milieu. The 1849 Border Treaty shocked all; it gave away Columbia to the United States. Governor James Douglas led a caravan to his new capital, Victoria The US waged a dozen wars against native people, annulled their mixed marriages and banned black and Hawaiian people. Many went north and established a new Vancouver and a new… Read More »Can You Speak British Columbian?

Can You Speak British Columbian?