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Historical Land Use Research in Northern and Central BC

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The archivists at Northern BC Archives & Special Collections can answer any questions you might have and can assist you with getting started on your research. We would love to hear from you!

Indigenous Land Use

The resources collected within this research guide do not adequately record or acknowledge traditional and ongoing Indigenous land rights or use in the Northern and Central regions of British Columbia. As most of these resources were created by and for settlers on stolen lands, Indigenous presence is/was often made invisible within records created to support a colonial system of governance and economy. Consider respectful inclusion of Indigenous land rights and use within your research by seeking to understand both the colonial context of records creation as well as land rights and traditional/ongoing land use as upheld by Indigenous governance structures and through Bah’lats since time immemorial. Northern BC Archives actively engages in reconciliation work and supports repatriation processes and reparative description work. Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers are encouraged to contact us at with concerns, requests, comments or questions about anything viewed on our website or online database.

Importance of Historical Records for Land Research

Historical records bring essential information to Indigenous or treaty land research, site analysis, site profile work, environmental assessments, and other types of land use research. The following types of historical records and information can be found in archives:

  • Photographs
  • Aerial photographs
  • Maps
  • Plans (including fire insurance plans)
  • City directories and telephone books
  • Historical newspapers
  • Title records and ownership information (including records about former owners)
  • Records about previous site (and adjacent site) structures and land uses (which may inform the possibility of land contamination as well as the archaeological, historical, and cultural significance of that land)
  • Flood records and records of other historical natural disasters
  • Weather records

Note that not all of these types of records exist at Northern BC Archives. Consider that for specific sites or land areas they may not exist at all if records were never made or if they were not kept. The historical record of land use is much richer in archives for developed areas, particularly urban areas that had a history of settler occupation.