Lake Babine Nation’s historic harvest of sockeye is estimated to be upwards of 750,000 annually, which made them “salmon People”, independent and prospering from the food and trade associated with Lake Babine’s abundant sockeye fishery. However, conflict with downstream commercial fishing interests in the early 1900s changed that.
According to Lake Babine First Nation: “Lake Babine People were very independent since the fish weirs were still in use. Then, the Department of Fisheries and the Commercial fisheries of BC closed the fish weirs. Two Hereditary Chiefs, Gwist’a’ (Big George) & De Wis Sum Ts’ik (Jack Williams) traveled to Ottawa and successfully negotiated the Babine Barricade Treaty, which has never been fulfilled by the Government of Canada to this day. Lake Babine History – Lake Babine Nation.
After nearly starving the winter before due to the rotten nets that the fisheries officers had supplied, the Babine people rebuilt the weir in the summer of 1906. Late in August fisheries guardians came up the river to try and destroy the barricade. When they tried to take the barricade apart the Babine women defended it. They knocked two fisheries officers over in the river and sat on them. The report said that the women hit two of the officers with clubs to protect the barricade.
In response to this resistance, the fisheries officers sent back a report that claimed the Babine were in an uprising and requested that the militia be sent to put them down. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate missionary, Father Coccola talked to the Babine, and at his urging nine Babine men surrendered and were jailed in September. Meanwhile, Father Coccola was talking to the federal government to get them to negotiate with the Babine over the barricade dispute. The government agreed and two chiefs, Chief Tszak Williams and Chief Big George, with the help of Father Coccola, negotiated the Barricade Treaty. The treaty had the Babine remove the weirs, but the government had to supply nets, farm equipment, a school, and several other services in exchange for the Babine taking down the weirs.” The Barricades are Protected and the Treaty is Made, 1906 – Timeline – History & Culture – Lake Babine Nation Treaty Office (lbntreaty.com)