Cut-off Lands in British Columbia: The McKenna McBride Royal Commission

Lesson Plan


The purpose of this lesson is to introduce students to the McKenna McBride Royal Commission and its role in the reduction of existing reserves in BC. Students will gain an understanding of reserve creation and “cut-offs,” and the impact these cut-offs had on Indigenous communities’ livelihood. Students will explore the legal responsibilities both the Provincial and Federal Governments had to Indigenous communities and how these legal responsibilities were neither acknowledged nor respected. Students will draw moral and legal conclusions on the impact the McKenna McBride Royal Commission had on Indigenous communities.

Introductory activity

Read the following aloud and open to large group for discussion and critique.

The city/municipality has come to your house and told you that they will be widening the street to develop a bicycle lane. The purpose of building a bicycle lane is to encourage the community to ride to work and/or school so that they reduce emissions and protect the environment from further global warming. The city/municipality has told you that construction will start immediately without your permission or consent, and you will no longer have access to your yard or patio. Only the physical house you live in will remain your property.

What is your initial response to this? Is this fair? How will the city’s decision impact your family? Your community?

Web-based research activity

Help students to navigate the narratives in the UBCIC digital collection Our Homes Are Bleeding. Students should also read the McKenna McBride Agreement.

Encourage students to consider with their peers why the cut-offs were of significance to the Dominion and provincial governments as well as to Indigenous communities. Ask students to explore why the McKenna McBride Royal Commission was developed, and why the actions of the Commission were in breach of the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

Project: Media Report

Students will develop a media report (newspaper, television, or radio) from one of the fifteen communities represented by the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) on the McKenna McBride Royal Commission. The media report can be presented orally, whereby a media spokesperson is “on location” in the community and reporting out to the rest of the class.

Students are asked to explore the issues surrounding the McKenna McBride Royal Commission specific to their community of choice. Students are asked to consider the Commission's purpose, the roles of each Commission member, and the responsibilities the Commission has to the provincial and federal governments, as well as the local Indigenous community. Students should consider the impact the land cut-offs has for the Indigenous community and their livelihood, as well as the infringement of their their rights as stemming from the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Students may draw information from the Final Report of the McKenna McBride Commission.

Students may select a community from the list of Department of Indian Afffairs (DIA) agencies of the time, available in the "Testimonies" section of the Our Homes Are Bleeding digital collection.

Students are encouraged to insert media clips, images, maps, and testimonies selected from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs’ website into their reports.