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A history of Gitxsan relations with colonial and Canadian law, 1858-1909
Jeremy David Richard Williams (author)Robin Fisher (Thesis advisor)University of Northern British Columbia (Degree granting institution)
Master of Arts (MA)
Number of pages in document: 91
In 1858 Governor Douglas passed into law a statute requiring that murder cases in British Columbia be resolved according to English law. This thesis addresses the Gitxsan First Nation's role in legal colonization to 1909, when the first permanent police station was established in their traditional territory of the Skeena river. It bases the inquiry on analysis of a series of case studies, including the Haatq case of 1884, the Skeena incident of 1888, and the Simon Gunanoot case, which were documented by British Columbia Sessional Papers, Attorney-General and British Columbia Police correspondences, and Gitxsan witness accounts recorded by Marius Barbeau. Colonial and provincial authorities successfully implemented English law in the upper Skeena area. Yet at the same time, Gitxsan resistance ensured that English law was not to have the total influence over homicide cases that it legally required. In the 1860's and 1870's, Gitxsan legal norms pertaining to homicides occurring on traditional territory continued to operate relatively unobstructed. By the 1880's this changed, however, when provincial authorities began to have greater influence than Gitxsan law over homicide cases, notwithstanding the Gitxsan's efforts to seek resolutions that respected the legal norms of both cultures. Indeed, their protests served only to convince local whites to lobby successfully for enhanced law enforcement, which took the form of a gaol and permanent constables stationed in the upper Skeena region in 1888. Following this development of local law enforcement, unprecedented numbers of Gitxsan "criminals" were prosecuted. Yet, the Gitxsan continued to preserve their traditional xsiisxw, or dispute resolution norms, in the 1890's and early 1900's. Their role in legal colonization helped to ensure that the gap between the theory of English legal hegemony in the upper Skeena area, and its practical realization, did not close altogether.
Gitksan Indians -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- History -- 19th century.Gitksan Indians -- Government relations.Gitksan Indians -- Colonization.Law -- British Columbia -- History -- 19th century.