THE BEGINNING OF CANADA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH HIGH BAR FIRST NATION
In 1881 the Government of Canada continued its’ apartheid policy with regard to First Nations People with the establishment of High Bar Reserve. The High Bar First Nation Reserve ( #’s 1 - 1A - 2) totaled 1,546.3 hectares of poor quality land and is located in the Fraser Canyon Cariboo region. Only reserve #1 (about 500 hectares) is suitable for agricultural livelihood and then only in part. Lack of water and the fact that areas that were usable were taken over by white settlers (as noted in the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs For The Province of BC - meeting with High Bar Band or Tribe of Indians at Clinton on Wednesday, November 11th 1915 pages 115 - 120) accelerated the poverty of High Bar Band members.
Internment of First Nations people meant they were not allowed to leave the reserve without written permission from the Indian Agent. The same document outlawed traditional economic activities for First Nations (potlatch). This confinement deprived High Bar First Nation of their historical travel through the region hunting and gathering resources and meeting with other First Nations bands to trade and share those resources. This crippled First Nation’s ability to retain their culture, traditions and very survival. High Bar Reserve is noted in the 2012 Aboriginal Business and Community Directory as having seasonal access only. The land set aside for the High Bar Band was a considerable distance from the main community especially given the condition of roads and the capacity for travel until the introduction of automobiles and then the High Bar members ability to afford automobiles. In addition, the quality of the High Bar Reserve was poor.
At potlatch gatherings a family or hereditary leader hosted guests and provides a feast. The main purpose of the potlatch is the re-distribution and reciprocity of wealth. Typically the potlatch was practiced more in the winter seasons as historically the warmer months were for procuring wealth for the family, clan, or village, then coming home and sharing that with neighbors and friends.
Celebration of births, rites of passages, weddings, funerals, naming ceremony, and honoring of the deceased are some of the many forms the potlatch takes.
The potlatch, as an overarching term, is quite general. Thought of in today’s terms, a potlach would combine skills, trade, economic development, art and craftsmanship, social commitment, ritual and preservation of culture. To ban potlach broke every aspect of First Nation life. With confinement to reserves and the outlawing of potlatch, all was gone. Residential Schools were not the only methods to depleting the powers and leadership of status Indians. First Nations men who enlisted into service for Canada in the First and Second World Wars were required first to give up their status. As well, First Nations women who married white men lost not only their status but the status of their children as well. These were attempts to assimilate First Nations into something that might be called “mainstream culture.”
All was under the control of the Indian Agent. First Nations were assigned to reservations without consideration of family connections or their own desires. Family lines were established by the pen of the Indian Agent. If the agent noted one's information it existed in fact. If information was not recorded it did not exist; so much power in one pen. This has left High Bar members vulnerable to disputes over who is a “legitimate” High Bar Band member. Division of resources and advantage authorized by AANDC has sharpened those disputes. The message to First Nations from the Government of Canada is that they will make no accommodations that will or could be perceived as an apology for historical wrong doing. Very well. If Canada chooses to live in a modern world with this blight on the nations’ history it is the choice of government.