While it is true that some Natives had
become addicted to alcohol it must be noted that there were conditions that
led to their addiction. Since the earliest times of contact the relationship
between the Natives and the whites had been one which was based on exchange.
Both groups had something to gain out of the partnership.
However, the gold rush and settlement era that was ushered in through
the late 1850's and early 60's changed the face of the relationship on the
western coast. Gold was extracted from the land: not from the Indians. The
Natives were no longer seen as the necessary element that they once were.
As Robin Fisher says, "Rather than economic co-operation there was now economic
rivalry between the races." (23)
The Natives land was that which was needed and not the Indians themselves.
Once the white population began to take control of Native lands they removed
the most essential means of their survival.
From the beginning of the miners push into the land
Natives resented there presence and consequent clashes ensued between the
A large proportion of the mining population were transients,
men who had cut lose from the ties and restraints of established societies.
As a consequence of the unstable conditions that they lived under, many
had become habituated to violence. (24)
The gold rush forced many Natives into a becoming
more reliant on the white colonists. Their resources had were diminished
in large part because of the mining disturbances.
Many moved closer to Victoria to get closer to the commercial heart
of the Island. It has been argued that it was that point, when the natives
moved out of their traditional villages and congregated around mining towns,
that many of their problems with liquor started.
As the Native population increased in the white sector
of the colony many believed that all acts of debauchery were due to their
presence. In fact, much of what went on was caused by the whites themselves.
By disrupting the Native way of life, forcing them off their land and away
from their resources, led to a situation of dependence. Alcohol became a
symbol of the problem--- not the problem itself. Not all Natives drank and
many were not involved in prostitution. Many simply tried to fit into a
community structure that already existed. There was an increasing population
of Natives at the time that made annual expeditions to Victoria and surrounding
areas to join the labor force. (26)
The mixing of cultures around commercial hubs such as Victoria led
to the formation of an interesting community. One in which corrousing ran
rampant and living conditions where not all that spectacular.