The Proclamation of 1763, which required that Native lands be surrendered to the Crown alone and not to private individuals, did not apply to British territories in the western half of North America. Nonetheless, by 1850, the rising population of settlers on Vancouver Island convinced James Douglas, Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Victoria, that a negotiated surrender of lands would prevent tensions from arising between the settlers and Native peoples there. Douglas signed a series of 14 treaties, first as chief factor and later as governor of the colony of Vancouver Island. Between 1850 and 1854, he completed negotiations for surrender of the lands of the Salish bands in the present-day Saanich, Victoria, Metchosin, Sooke, and Nanaimo areas and the Kwawkelth bands in the present-day Port Hardy area in return for payments of blankets and other trade goods. Although the reserves set aside were small, since these bands were largely dependent on the sea for their livelihood, Douglas was clearly concerned about the rights of the Natives to choose their own reserves sites. He also allowed Natives to purchase Crown lands as settlers. Douglas's attitudes stand in marked contrast to those of the British government, which gave first priority to the rights of White settlers and refused to fund Douglas's efforts at negotiations. The differing interpretations of Douglas and the government regarding Native land titles and rights have been scrutinized and debated by historians as possible evidence of early official recognition of Aboriginal rights.

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