Self Government and Treaty

Self Government and Treaty

Prior to European contact (1830 and earlier), we had our own governance structures and laws.  In the name of building Canada, our governance structures were unilaterally dismissed and subsequently made illegal by the colonial and Canadian governments.  The Indian Act of 1876, which legislated Canada’s authority over us, removed any recognition of any independent authority we had over our people and territories.  The Minister of Indian Affairs and his agents exercised all authority over Cowichan peoples and actively eliminated our governance structures and cultural practices.  We went from a far-reaching traditional territory to designated limited land reserves.
By 1886, serious efforts were underway to dismantle Cowichan leadership.  A letter from Vowell to Lomas, 11 February 1886, states: 

“[Re: your letter] recommending the extension of the Indian Advancement Act of 1884 to Cowichan, I make herewith copies of an Order in Council of the 30th [illegible], declaring that the Cowichan Band of Indians are [illegible] to have that Act applied to them, and that it shall so apply from the day at which the election of Councillors shall have been confirmed by you who [illegible] subsequently report the result of the election to this Department.  After election of Councillors, they will elect one of their number to act as Chief Councillor." 
Department of Indian Affairs, RG 10, Volume 1332, pp. 146-146A. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa


5742 Allenby Road
or Mail to:
5760 Allenby Road
Duncan, BC   V9L 5J1

Ph:  250.748.3855
Fx:  250.748.3892
Cowichan Tribes operates independently, i.e., is not part of a Tribal Council.  For the purposes of Treaty negotiations however, Cowichan Tribes is part of the Hul’qumi’num' Treaty Group.
In 1939 the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Development (DIAND) made a unilateral decision that the Hereditary Chiefs would no longer govern Cowichan affairs.  The responsibility was taken over by an Indian Agent, on behalf of DIAND.  An elected Chief and Council replaced the Hereditary Chiefs, but the Indian Agent set the agenda and controlled all of the finances, effectively maintaining control of all of Cowichan's affairs.
However, since the arrival of the first settlers, we have always asserted our inherent jurisdiction and responsibility for the governance and institutions of our people, and like all First Nations, we continue to fight to regain complete control over our domestic affairs.  International agencies and the courts support this assertion.