Native Canada, ca 1820 (Volume I, Plate 69; Concise Plate 4)
CONRAD E. HEIDENREICH Department of Geography, York University
ROBERT GALOIS Department of Geography, University of British Columbia
We gratefully acknowledge permission to consult the HBC Archives, PAM, as well as the help of the archivists, especially Shirlee A. Smith; and also the staff in Special Collections, the Library, UBC.
Much of the HBC census material is complete for men, women, and children. In cases where only men were counted, a total population was extrapolated using population ratios derived from nearby groups living in a similar environment with a similar economy. Where later censuses had to be used for Native groups who were affected by epidemic diseases after 1821 (eg, Tlingit), the population totals were adjusted upward by one-third. Data for some of the Plains groups (eg, Blackfoot, Assiniboine) were originally given in numbers of tents. These were converted to population numbers on the basis of eight people per tent, as suggested by contemporary observers. It is impossible to determine how accurate the early censuses and estimates were.
Early 19th-century populations in the Cordillera are particularly difficult to establish. There were 11 HBC censuses of various areas, some overlapping, none surviving in original form. The copies that do survive, made in 1878 by one of H.H. Bancroft's researchers, usually do not indicate the date of the enumeration. Given these limitations it is no easy matter to resolve the contradictions arising between different, overlapping estimates. For example, there are five separate censuses of some or all of the Southern Kwakiutl but only one includes a date (summer 1838), and none indicates who was responsible for the compilation. Wilson Duff used this material and his own large knowledge of Native British Columbia to prepare the population map in The Indian History of British Columbia. We have been over the same ground, correcting some mistakes on Duff's map while following its general patterns. A comprehensive analysis of these censuses and other estimates of early-contact Native populations in the northern Cordillera remains to be done.