Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
January 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


The Indians of British Columbia



[This text was published by J. Castell Hopkins in 1898. For the full citation, see the end of the document. This text provides ample evidence as to the prejudices and stereotypes about Indians that prevailed in Canada at the end of the XIXth Century.]


The Indians of British Columbia, who number about 35,000, are being steadily raised in the scale of civilization, though it is too often through preliminary steps of degradation at the hands of low-class whites. Dr. Powell, in his Report of 1873, describes the coast Indians as particularly susceptible to these influences, while those of the interior - the Shuswaps - are a decidedly superior race. Many missionaries, however, are working amongst them, and about one-third belong nominally to the Catholic Church while probably a quarter more are Protestants. Their morals are not always good, and gambling is a frequent vice amongst them, but they are good workers as a rule, and in the early Seventies nearly all the exports of the province in furs and fish oils were credited to the Indians. They are chiefly engaged in farming and fruit culture, fishing and canning, hunting and trapping, and a Deparmental Report in 1890 describes their course as marked by "manly independence, intelligent enterprise, and unflagging industry."


The houses of some are said to be superior to the habitations of fairly well-to-do white people; while "flower gardens, house plants, and, in some cases, luxurious and ornamental articles of furniture make their homes very attractive." Good work has been done for many years by the missionaries in elevating the moral tone of the Indian, and the labours of the Catholic priests have been especially beneficial. Speaking of a most impressive religious celebration held by Bishop Durieu, "at which over a thousand Indians of different tribes were assembled," the Indian Superintendent for British Columbia, in his Report for 1890, stated that "It would have been impossible to find any such concourse of people more orderly and devotional than were these Indians, gathered together from distant places, who doubtless years ago came in contact but to war with one another, and who, not so long since, were imbued with the most cruel and heathenish superstitions."


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Source: J. Castell HOPKINS, Canada. An Encyclopaedia of the Country, Vol. 1, The Linscott Publishing Company, 1898, 540p., p. 245.

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College