“I am an Indian and live on the Indian Reserve”: History, culture, politics, colonialism, and the (re)making of Chief Billie Hall
Exploring the experiences of one Aboriginal man, Chief William (Billie) Hall of the Tzeachten reserve (located within the City of Chilliwack, BC), as documented by him in his journals covering the period 1923-1933, this thesis argues that categories of class and gender, as well as Aboriginality, serve as windows providing insights into how Native individuals understood and experienced colonialism as they struggled to find a place for themselves in a rapidly changing world. This thesis examines gender and class differences within Stó:lô culture to interpret Hall’s experiences at a time during which the Stó:lô faced great change as a result of the imposition of new restrictions and boundaries placed upon Aboriginal people by the Canadian government and its Indian Act (1876) and the new economy developing in their territory. Beginning with an exploration of the historiography of Aboriginal men living their lives in a world rapidly being changed by colonial forces, the thesis continues with a detailed introduction to who Hall the man was at the time he began writing his diaries, placing his life history within a Stó:lô understanding of class and gender. The third chapter explores the effects of the Indian Act, which set out a definition of “Indian and imposed new forms of community governance, on not only Hall’s identity, but that of another man from his reserve, George Matheson. The fourth chapter examines Hall’s work as an “Indian boss” in the hop industry, an as yet unstudied role in which an Aboriginal man acted as steward for hundreds of temporary Aboriginal labourers and their families, and demonstrates interesting links between the wage labour economy and Aboriginal leadership. Ultimately, this thesis demonstrates that Hall, in his engagement with colonialism, was able to achieve an identity for himself that was grounded in a local Stó:lô understanding of who an elite male, a leader, was and needed to be. Furthermore, this thesis argues that voices like Hall’s, which may not fit neatly with a broader meta-narrative about colonialism in B.C., in which Aboriginals were made victims, are nonetheless important to understanding the Canadian colonial past.
Sto:lo, Journal-keeping, British Columbia, Indians
Master of Arts (M.A.)