Sarah Pike, LL.M. Student

Sarah Pike

Sarah Pike, who joined the LL.M. program in 2016, has embarked on a study of the work and influence of one of the first B.C. Indian Reserve Commissioners, Gilbert Malcolm Sproat (1834-1913). Her work is supported by the Law Society of British Columbia Scholarship for Graduate Legal Studies (2016) and by the Allard School of Law History Project LLM Scholarship (2016).

British Columbia is unusual among Canadian provinces for the virtual absence of treaties between Indigenous peoples and the Crown. Instead of negotiating treaties, successive governments allotted Indian reserves in order to recognize Indigenous interests in land. In 1876, the Provincial and Federal governments established the Joint Indian Reserve Commission in British Columbia to attempt to fulfill constitutional obligations and to address what was then called the “B.C. Indian Land Question” by continuing the reserve-allotment process.

The two governments appointed Sproat in 1876 as their joint appointee to the three-person Commission; he continued as the sole Commissioner in 1878 when the Commission was reduced to limit its cost. Pike’s preliminary work suggests both that Sproat was integral to the first iterations of the Commission and that (compared to the settler society and its governments) he was uncharacteristically concerned about the interests and needs of Indigenous people. Pike’s LL.M. thesis will analyze the extensive archival record to investigate this theme, and to situate Sproat and his work in the broader context in which he lived and worked.

There is no biography or sustained analysis of Sproat’s work and ideas. Pike anticipates that a thorough study of this Crown representative in his legal, political and cultural context will enable a better understanding of his decisions and of the manner in which British Columbia’s Indian reserve geography appeared as an integral part of the legal landscape.

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