Peter O'Reilly Mapping Project

Secondary Source Reading List:

Brealey, Kenneth. “Travels from Point Ellice: Peter O’Reilly and the Indian Reserve System in British Columbia.” BC Studies 115-6 (1997): 181-236.

Kenneth Brealy’s article offers an exceptional amount of information regarding the creation and running of the Indian Reserve Commission, as well as O’Reilly’s position within it. Brealey uses Simon Ryan’s thesis about the “cartographic eye/I” to explore issues on: the space of empire and colonization, physical and conceptual boundaries, all while arguing O’Reilly’s legacy is more territorial than architectural, legal, or cultural. A survey of the work of the Indian Reserve Commission is included beginning with Gilbert Sproat, and then moving to Peter O’Reilly. When writing of O’Reilly’s travels, Brealey calls attention to the challenges he faced, his work ethic, and how his hastiness caused him to not properly listen to the wants/needs/concerns of Indigenous peoples, leaving many unhappy.

Cail, R. E. Land, Man and the Law: The Disposal of Crown Lands in British Columbia, 1871-1913. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1974.

Man and the Law focuses on the roles and actions of prominent political figures in reserve creation. Situations, such as when the province refused to supply land for reserves, are explored, as are situations when there was no land available due to preemptions.

Fisher, Robin. Contact and Conflict: Indian-European Relations in British Columbia, 1774-1890. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1992.

Contact and Conflict offers excellent historical context in the development of the Indian Reserve Commission. In particular, the development and evolution of the relations of power between the provincial government, federal government, settlers, and Indigenous peoples are explored from the time British Columbia joins confederation until the 1890s. Key political figures are examined such as Gilbert Sproat, Joseph Trutch, Israel Wood Powell, and Peter O’Reilly, among others, along with their motivations behind the decisions they make in relation to reserve creation. Positions of dominance were created and maintained through intergovernmental negotiation, policy, and on an individual basis.

Harris, Cole. Making Native Space: Colonialism, Resistance, and Reserves in British Columbia. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2002.

Making Native Spaces presents the many differing historical narratives during O’Reilly’s tenure as Indian Reserve Commissioner. This book highlights conflicts of power between the dominion and provincial governments in reserve creation, and how, due to the power to veto proposed reserves, the provincial government held significantly more influence. Peter O’Reilly’ upbringing is introduced as is his prior connections to the provincial establishments before being appointed Indian Reserve Commissioner providing context to his work ethic and how he would allocate land and settle disputes. The degree to which Indigenous peoples were able to influence the determination of reserve creation over the decades and how that changed in relation to shifting demographics is also addressed.

Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “Federal and Provincial Collections of Minutes of Decision, Correspondence, and Sketches: Materials produced by the Joint Indian Reserve Commission and Indian Reserve Commission, 1876-1910.” Last modified November 1, 2005.

The B.C. Provincial Collection, and Federal Collection offers a wealth of primary sources in the creation of reserves. These collections include minutes of decision, correspondence, memoranda, reports, and maps of the Joint Indian Reserve Commission from both Sproat and O’Reilly’s tenures. Differences in how the information found in these binders was relayed is revealing. While there are many duplicates of information sent to both, O’Reilly would often modify how he would write depending on where importance his given audience placed importance. For example, because the provincial government was most interested in opening up land for white settlement, O’Reilly would put an emphasis on information such as abandonment of a preemption.

Furthermore, when comparing O’Reilly and Sproat’s writing it becomes evident that O’Reilly did not share the same level of concern for the Indigenous peoples as Sproat, instead working more quickly to allott reserves to open land up for settlers. The deteriorating relationship between the federal and provincial governments becomes more apparent if the binders are read chronologically. What was most important for usage in in our project, however, was O’Reilly’s letters describing interactions between himself and Indigenous peoples, his personal opinions on reserves he created such as what he thought was fair or areas he was concerned with, as well as descriptions of the land quality. There were also letters written by Indigenous groups included in the binders. In which, information was found on when they were dissatisfied with the reserves created which alludes to O’Reilly’s lack of care and the fact that they were not content to idly accept unfair allotments. That in mind, though, letters written by Indigenous peoples found in these binders are significantly more rare, especially when only focussing on five locations. This in turn often forced us to read between the lines in O'Reilly's communications to find a counternarrative.

The Index’s found on the homepage of the website provides a guide on where to find information on specific Bands. To reference the pages we found our information on use the guide below. (Note: Provincial binder pages are organized by PDF page numbers, not page numbers found in the Index. This is due to the binder not being organized in a sequential manner.)

  • Port Simpson:
    • Federal Binder 7, pages 45-45a, 106-110, 114a-j.
    • Federal Binder 8, pages 167-8, 177.
    • Federal Binder 9, pages 18-34, 42-49.
  • Pemberton:
    • Provincial Binder 6, pages 194-198.
    • Federal Binder 7, pages 76, 119.
    • Federal Binder 9, page 182-197.
  • Yale:
    • Provincial Binder 6, page 28-35.
    • Federal Binder 8, pages 253-269.
  • William's Lake:
    • Provincial Binder 6, page 64-85.
    • Federal Binder 8, page 217-23, 227-251.
  • Alexandria:
    • Provincial Binder 6, page 86-95.
    • Federal Binder 7, page 49.
    • Federal Binder 8, pages, 133-9, 173-5, 213-7.

Adams, John. “Point Ellice House, Victoria, B.C.” Material Culture Review 12 (1981): 88-97.

Adam’s provides succinct timeline of care for Point Ellice House from the time Peter O’Reilly purchased it in 1867 to the time when the article was written in 1981. Adam’s speaks to the history of the house that may be seen when visiting, such as how the original house was modified and added onto as O’Reilly’s wealth grew due to his changing station in society. Attention is called to the difficulties in operating a heritage house museum when approaching issues of restoration, authenticity, time constraints of curators, and the physical ability to accomodate large groups of people.

Sulz, David. “Kuthlath IR#3 as a Natural, Historic, Settlement, and Spiritual Site.” Ethnohistory Field School, University of Victoria. June 28, 2002.

Sulz provides information on the creation of Yale reserve #3, Kuthlath, and its many different sites of importance: natural, historic, settlement, and spiritual. Sulz provides information on land quality as well as identifies the importance of fisheries to the diverse Indigenous groups in the area. For purposes of our project we focussed specifically on the information in the historical section about how, in its creation, Sproat did not include an area with good firewood in the reserve, and the long process O’Reilly went through to eventually have it added.

Williams, David Ricardo. “O’Reilly, Peter.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto, 2003.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography offers a look into Peter O’Reilly’s life from the time he was born in Ireland, to his retirement in Victoria and is a reminder of the ‘human’ behind the name and titles of the jobs O’Reilly performed. O’Reilly had an honourable career as a lieutenant in the Irish Revenue Police before immigrating to BC. Once in BC he occupied positions such a stipendiary magistrate, high sheriff, chief court official, and assistant gold commissioner before his eighteen years as Indian Reserve Commissioner. The conditions in his work were rarely easy, having to contend with harsh winters, wild mountains and rough waters. Aside from his work life, this article calls attention to O’Reilly as a loving father, husband, and a well liked socialite.

B.C. Legislative Assembly. Metlakatlah Inquiry, 1884: Report of the Commissioners, Together with the Evidence. Victoria: Government Printer, 1885.

While this source refers to events that took place after the time period focussed on in our website, it does afford a look into the discontent felt by the Metlakatlah following O’Reilly’s reserve allotments and a situation like it may be handled.