1885 Map showing Police Station in Bastion Square, UBC Specal collections G 3514-V5G475 1885 s2.  For a larger version, go to the Maps section. Songhees Reserve and Victoria Harbour, BCA: F-09568

By examining the experience of the Aboriginal peoples within colonial Victorian society, the larger context of nineteenth century racism and imperialism can be identified. The racial composition of Victoria was diverse in the Victorian era and racism and imperialism in the social structure of Victoria was a dominating force. During this period the existing sentiment to maintain a purely white majority was prominent.

The construction of racial identities and acknowledgement of difference in colonial British Columbia contributed to the creation of meticulously structured system of hierarchical categorizations that determined the social worth of different groups. A socially accepted creation or imagining of everything from ethnicity to culture, created categorizations based on race.

During the period of initial contact, the fur-trader relationship with the Aboriginals is believed to be based on a mutual understanding and a delicate balance of respect together with indignation. Following the fur-trade years, there appears to have been a shift in the perception (and the usefulness) of the natives to the European settlers. Increasingly, the local native population became more dependent on Europeans. This dependency can be attributed to the destruction of their traditional gathering economy in order to accommodate the emerging and aggressive European ideals.

The Indians were now to be treated as the children of the Europeans, and were to be both ‘re-designed’ and educated to reflect the British image. As the ‘children’ of the whites, the Aboriginals were subject to the rules and dictating nature of the European form of governance and law. They were discriminated against socially, economically, and politically, and were increasingly implicated in petty crimes. The criminal and disorderly activities of the Indians often included the thefts of livestock, and the subsequent police patrolling the Indian settlement took a considerable toll on the resources of the police force.

The disparity between legal implications of Indian actions, and their perception of European law, encouraged further separation of the two races. The creation of additional distinctions borne from gross misunderstandings between the two cultures further encouraged hostility. “The act of denigrating another, permits people to close ranks with each other; the identification of an external threat, whether real or imagined, restores fraternity.”




Songhees Reserve and Victoria Harbour, 1860s.

BCA Call Number: F-09568