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Tangled Webs of History

Tangled Webs of History: Indians and the Law in Canada's Pacific Coast Fisheries

Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 306
  • Book Info
    Tangled Webs of History
    Book Description:

    Awarded the Canadian Historical Association's British Columbia and Yukon Certificate of Merit Award for 'Professor Newell's courageous critique of a history of mismanagement and misunderstanding in one of the region's key sectors should provide pause for thought to anyone with an interest in the workings of the modern state.'

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8035-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 Introduction: The Politics of Resource Regulation
    (pp. 3-27)

    Thomas Berger, former justice of the British Columbia Supreme Court, tells us that aboriginal rights constitute both the oldest question of human rights in Canada and the most recent.¹ Only lately has it entered ʹourʹ political consciousness. Pacific Coast Indian men and women have always claimed aboriginal title, or rights, to their fisheries. They understood that they could not survive as ʹdistinct societiesʹ without a great deal of control over their economic destinies. The fisheries were and still are, I argue, a key to those destinies.

    The fact that most bc Indian societies never signed treaties has raised questions about...

  6. 2 The Aboriginal Salmon Fishery and Its Management
    (pp. 28-45)

    For Pacific Coast Indians before contact with Europeans, adaptation to the Pacific inshore, intertidal, and riverine environment was as crucial as adaptation to the land. For thousands of years, Indians harvested all types of aquatic resources, preserving most of the harvest and using it for subsistence, trade, and ceremonial purposes. These people were accomplished traders, and fish was a major trade item in aboriginal British Columbia. Many types of fish, shellfish, and sea mammals were available to coastal peoples, but the staple of diet and trade was the anadromous Pacific salmon. Indians harvested tremendous amounts of salmon in the centuries...

  7. 3 Indian Fishery Invented, 1871–1888
    (pp. 46-65)

    In the colonial era, the bc fisheries were not regulated to any extent. Indians continued to catch and to process fish for trade, subsistence, and ceremony. Newcomers encouraged Indians to continue fishing for their own needs and for the food and commercial requirements of the colonial population of fur traders, gold prospectors, and settlers. They considered fish to be an inexhaustible resource. The bc Indians themselves seemed threatened, however; as indicated earlier, disease had slashed their population by about 80 per cent between 1774 and 1874. A new era for Pacific Coast fishing began in 1871, when the British Columbia...

  8. 4 Indian Labour Captured, 1889–1918
    (pp. 66-97)

    After 1888, the business of fishing and fish-processing in British Columbia passed through a long period of intense structural change and growth, with production continuing to soar well into the 1920s. Along the way, the provinceʹs ocean fishing ground became among the most productive and heavily regulated for its size in the world, and by 1905, the bc fishery ranked first in Canada. Every aspect of the industrial salmon fishery, including the processing sector, came under heavy regulation. The industrial harvest was increased after 1900 by both more intense fishing in areas currently used and the finding of a market...

  9. 5 Battling a Revolving Door, 1919–1945
    (pp. 98-121)

    The interwar period witnessed significant changes in fleet size and gear type, coupled with an increasingly mechanized and diversified processing sector and the beginnings of a domestic market for bc canned salmon. Geographical expansion of the processing sector ended with the 1928 season, and a pattern of slow contraction and centralization of fish plants followed. Only the immense, guaranteed international markets generated by the food crisis of Second World War temporarily halted the process.

    In 1922, the Department of Fisheries finally abolished restrictions on entry for the salmon fishery. Open access was deliberately granted to white and Indian industrial fishers...

  10. 6 Cast Adrift, 1946–1968
    (pp. 122-147)

    After the Second World War, North American attitudes towards resource development changed profoundly. Economic theorists argued for concentration on net economic yield, as opposed to net biological yield. As a result, Canada sought to change the old so-called common property approach to fisheries policy.

    Changes in technology in the 1950s and 1960s went largely unchecked by government regulations. Technological innovations increased the range, mobility, efficiency, and composition of the fishing fleet. They accelerated the centralization and closure of plants. And they altered the very nature of fish-processing. After the war, female employment in fish plants dropped to about half its...

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. 7 Rights Reconsidered: From the Davis Plan to Sparrow, 1969–1993
    (pp. 148-179)

    The idea of the Salmon Vessel License Control Plan, or Davis Plan, announced in the fall of 1968, was to keep the Pacific Coast salmon fishery profitable for full-time, mobile fishers and large-scale, centrally located processors operating year-round. It incorporated Sol Sinclairʹs proposal of restricting entry to the salmon fishery through rigid licensing regulations, phasing out vessels, and promoting centralization and concentration of processing facilities. Implementation took place in phases and required many modifications, changes, and financial aid and special deals to overcome its obvious basic failures. The administrative tinkering seems only to have made things worse. Economic benefits to...

  13. 8 Vanishing Alternatives: Halibut and Herring
    (pp. 180-205)

    In the aboriginal fisheries, halibut and herring were next in importance to salmon but were strictly tidewater fisheries. A major industrial halibut fishery started up in the inshore banks of the Pacific northwest in the 1880s, shortly after salmon-canning began. Historically, white fishers have controlled longlining for halibut and the markets have always been North American ones. The fishery left in its wake a succession of depleted halibut grounds. Yet until 1924 the halibut fishery was virtually unregulated. The early industrial fishery relied heavily on Indian assistance, but as that fishery became more profitable and increasingly capital-intensive, Indian halibut fishers...

  14. 9 Conclusion: Indians versus Conservation?
    (pp. 206-220)

    At one time, bc salmon-cannery camps depended completely on Indian families for their labour and general skills in fishing, fish-processing, boat-building, and net-making and for their local knowledge of navigation, fishing grounds, and fish. These families developed special arrangements and relationships with cannery operators, governed less by market incentives than by personal relations, bonds of mutual obligation, government policy, and the law. As the industry spread and mechanized in the twentieth century, changes in labour supply, in markets for fish, in technology, and in government regulations rendered Indians less central to fishing and, eventually, to fish-processing. These developments also affected...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 221-254)
    (pp. 255-280)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 281-304)
    (pp. 305-306)