THE ADVOCATE 779
VOL. 79 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2021
On various days in February and March 1922, court proceedings were
attempted or proceeded in Alert Bay, complicated by stormy weather and
counsel illness. The main roles for the defence were played by the firm of
Joseph Martin, K.C., who dispatched his colleague W. Murray to defend Dan
Cranmer (described by Halliday as the “principal offender”) and others, and
the firm of McTaggart & Ellis, with Ellis appearing when able. Halliday
observed that “during my experience in these potlatch cases the Indians
have had many lawyers to advise them and much of the opposition to the
enforcement of the potlatch law has been owing to the attitude of the
lawyers”, but Murray and Ellis were “fair and above board” and appeared
“anxious to do what was right and in the best interest of the Indians”.
Through February and into March, DeBeck and Martin also wrote Ottawa
respectively seeking an amendment to the law or at least a reasonable outcome
that did not involve imprisonment given the pending commencement
of the fishing season.
At some point in this period, an agreement was, Halliday reported,
“drawn out by the Indian Agent and assented to by the counsel for the
defense”, adopting a suggestion of Sergeant Angermann “that in order that
the Indians might show their good faith that they should voluntarily surrender
to the Indian Agent all … paraphernalia used solely for potlatch purposes”.
The agreement was as follows:
We the undersigned Indians of the Kwawkewlth Indian Agency do hereby
covenant and agree: -
Whereas section 149 of the Indian Act makes it an offence to carry out
our old custom of meeting together and giving away and taking part in
what is commonly known as the potlatch and we now realize and understand
that the Government of Canada intends to enforce the Act strictly
and that the act is not expected to be amended in this respect.
And whereas we the Indians in this agency are willing to do our share in
the observance of the law:
We therefor covenant and agree that as long as the section remains on the
Statutes of Canada we will obey the same and we will do all in our power
to see that all other Indians in our agency keep and obey this section of
the Indian Act, and that we will assist the authorities in every way to see
that this section of the Act is obeyed and kept inviolate.
And furthermore in token of our good faith in this our agreement we voluntarily
surrender to the Department of Indian Affairs through its representative
the Indian Agent all our potlatch paraphernalia to wit: -
coppers, dancing masks and costumes, head dresses and all other articles
used solely for potlatch purposes. All the above articles are to be disposed
of by the Department of Indian Affairs and all funds received therefor to
be returned to the original owners.
We further agree that all the above properties shall be surrendered to the
Indian Agent on or before the 25th day of March 1922.