British Columbia

In British Columbia the administration of Native peoples has undergone tremendous change since the first offices of Indian Affairs were opened in 1872. The creation and abolition of superintendencies, followed by the establishment and subsequent amalgamation or abolition of a variety of agency offices, succeeded by the development of district offices which have themselves been closed, are evidence of the Department of Indian Affairs' on-going struggle to find the most effective means of organizing the many responsibilities it has to Native peoples in British Columbia. These changes in administrative structure, combined with band name changes, and the merger and disappearance of some bands over time, present a challenge to researchers interested in using records relating to Indian Affairs.

Within Record Group 10 (hereafter RG 10) at Library and Archives Canada, records of the Department of Indian Affairs maintain the Departmental order of documents and their associated file numbers. Files are organized according to administrative office rather than by band name because that is the system of classification maintained by the Department of Indian Affairs and its predecessor agencies. Researchers must therefore identify the agency or district office which had administrative responsibility for a particular band at a given time, in order to make effective use of the finding aids in RG 10.


1872: I.W. Powell appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs for British Columbia; office situated in Victoria

1873: A Board of Indian Commissioners established to adminster Indian matters in British Columbia, under direction of the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs

1875: By Order-in-Council of 15 December, British Columbia divided into the Victoria Superintendency under I.W. Powell (serving Vancouver Island and the North West Coast), and the Fraser Superintendency under James Lenihan (serving the Lower Mainland area)

1880: Two-Superintendency structure abolished

1881: Six Indian Agencies opened in the Province:

  • Cowichan Agency
  • Fraser River Agency
  • Kamloops Agency
  • Kwawkewlth Agency
  • Okanagan Agency
  • West Coast Agency

In 1880 I.W. Powell became the Indian Superintendent for British Columbia in Victoria and was, after 1881, sole Visiting Superintendent

1889: A.W. Vowell replaced I.W. Powell

1910: Indian Superintendent's office in Victoria closed and the position abolished, with Agents directed to conduct business through headquarters in Ottawa; British Columbia divided into three Inspectorates, each headed by an Inspector of Indian Agencies:

  • Northern Inspectorate, based in Vancouver
  • Southwestern Inspectorate, based in Victoria
  • Southeastern Inspectorate, based in Vernon

1917: Southwestern Inspectorate abolished and its Inspector, W.E. Ditchburn, appointed Chief Inspector for B.C.

1918: Northern Inspectorate abolished

1923: Position of Indian Commissioner for British Columbia established with W.E. Ditchburn appointed Commissioner

1932: Following death of W.E. Ditchburn, position of Indian Commissioner for British Columbia left vacant

1935: Position of Indian Commissioner for British Columbia abolished, only to be re-established in 1936

1948: Region of British Columbia created; Indian Affairs in the Province continued to be headed by the Indian Commissioner for British Columbia. Indian Agents re-named "Indian Superintendents" and the Inspector of Indian Agencies for the Southeastern Inspectorate reclassified Regional Supervisor of Indian Agencies 1966: B.C. Region amalgamated with the Yukon Region to create the B.C.-Yukon Region, with headquarters at Vancouver

1967: Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development began the process of amalgamating Indian Agencies in British Columbia to create larger Indian Districts

1970: B.C.-Yukon Region separated into the B.C. Region and the Yukon Region

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