Rulers of the Reserves
This book is built upon a discussion of the lives and impact of five Indian Agents: Hayter Reed, William Morris Graham, John McIver, William Halliday, and Fred Hall. However, the practices and views of 39 other Indian Agents are interwoven throughout the text.
Although there was a readily detectable sameness in the way that Indian Agent power was imposed on Aboriginal communities based on the institutional racism of the Indian Agent System, one of the points to be made is that not all Indian Agents were the same. Some were more oppressive than others. Also frequently pointed out is the fact that Aboriginal peoples were not merely helpless victims to Indian Agent control, but resisted that control, sometimes successfully.
The book concludes with a chapter comparing the Indian Agent System in Canada, with similar systems in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Chapter One: Introduction
- Chapter Two: Hayter Reed: Iron Heart and Empty Stomachs
- Chapter Three: John W. McIver: The Conniver
- Chapter Four: William Morris Graham: The Colonizer
- Chapter Five: William May Halliday: Prosecutor of the Potlatch
- Chapter Six: Fred Hall: Walpole Island Throws the Indian Agent Out
- Chapter Seven: Comparisons and Conclusions
- Index of Indian Agents
- General Index
- Series index
What the People Say
Mohawk Frederick Ogilvie Loft (1861–1934), founder and first president of the League of Indians, we have the following statement, quoted in the Toronto Star Weekly, August 28, 1920:
If anything is responsible for the backwardness of the Indians today it is the domineering, dictating, vetoing method of the Indian Agent. (Loft 1920)1
Burton Jacobs (1911–2007), chief of the Walpole Island First Nation (Anishinaabe) when they became the first band to eliminate Indian Agents (see chapter six) wrote:
A story is told about an Indian agent who struck up a conversation with a stranger. The stranger asked the agent what sort of work he did, and the agent said: ‘I’m an Indian agent.’ The stranger replied: That’s interesting. What kind of products do you sell?’ The agent said: ‘I sell Indians.’ (Jacobs 2002: 141) ← 1 | 2 →
Terri Brown, former president of the Native Women’s Association, and current (2016) chief of the Tahltan First Nation:
Our history clearly depicts a time when the Indian Agent was all-powerful: The Indian Agent determined membership, allocation of resources and benefits, negotiation of land (actually there was no negotiation, it was blatant theft), and relocation (Brown 2002)
Distinguished scholar and recipient of the Order of Canada for her work researching and writing Aboriginal history, Métis Olive Dickason (1920–2011), wrote the following, referring to both Indian Agents and the farm instructors that worked for Indian Affairs in Western Canada:
Although there were exceptions, in general these men had little or no knowledge of Amerindians and little, if any, sympathy for them; they usually tried to enforce regulations by the book without consideration for particular situations. (Dickason 1992: 307)
Robert Sinclair, publishing in a 1911 edition of The Canadian Indian, an early journal sympathetic to Aboriginal people:
There is hardly any matter that an Indian can undertake that is not dependent for its outcome on the whim of some official who probably has the most casual knowledge or no knowledge whatever of the circumstances to be considered. (Sinclair 1911, as quoted in Brownlie 2003: 29)
Historian Robin Brownlie in her enlightening work on two Indian Agents in Ontario, John Daly, who was the Agent for the Anishinaabe people of Parry Island or Wasauksing from 1922 to 1939, and Robert Lewis, who served the Manitowaning Agency on Manitoulin Island (also Anishinaabe) from 1915 to 1939.
The Indian agent system had a deep psychological impact on Aboriginal people, one that appears to be almost entirely negative. That impact is most starkly revealed in present-day comments on Indian agents, which uniformly depict these officials as agents of oppression, neglect, and injustice. What has remained, then, is the memory of a government-sponsored tyranny that deprived Aboriginal people of virtually all of their autonomy. (Brownlie 2003: x)
At a 1939 conference entitled “The North American Indian Today”, organized by the University of Toronto and Yale University, D. J. Allan, the Superintendent of ← 2 | 3 → Lands and Trusts for the Indian Affairs Branch of the Department of Mines and Resources, stated the following. And he wasn’t trying to be sarcastic:
[A] good [Indian] Agent is their [i.e., Indian peoples] guide, philosopher and friend” (“Indian Land Problems in Canada, in The North American Indian Today, eds., C. T. Loran and T. F. McIlwraith, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1943, p187, as quoted in Satzewich and Mahood 1995:45)
Introduction to the Players
This is a general introductory book about Indian Agents in Canada. Most of the stories told relate to five specific Indian Agents: William Morris Graham, Fred Hall, William May Halliday, John W. McIver and Hayter Reed. They were Indian Agents whose time frame stretches from 1881 to 1965, and whose territory of authority included reserves in three provinces: Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia. Thirty-nine other Indian Agents are mentioned or discussed as well (see Index of Indian Agents).
Looking at the Annual Reports of the Department of Indian Affairs, you see that the Indian Agent network essentially began in 1873, with one Quebec Agency, and seven in Nova Scotia. By 1876, the system was extended west, with Manitoba and the Northwest Territories referring to the three Prairie Provinces. It can be said, then, that the system lasted for about 90 years.
Rulers of the Reserve
The sub-title of this book is “Rulers of the Reserve”. This relates to the tremendous power that Indian Agents wielded over the Aboriginal people living in reserves across the country. The following are some of those powers extended over varying periods of time. It should be pointed out that this is not intended to be by any means an exhaustive list, just an illustrative one.
Ten Things that Indian Agents Had the Power to Do at Various Times and at Various Places
1) Determine whether or not a status Indian could leave a reserve for any length of time (this applied primarily to the status Indians living in the Prairie Provinces)
2) Determine who belonged to the band (especially regarding children born out of wedlock) ← 3 | 4 →
3) Determine whether or not a status Indian could slaughter a pig or cow that he or she owned
4) Determine whether or not a status Indian could sell a pig or cow that he or she owned
5) Determine whether or not a status Indian could sell crops that he or she grew
6) Determine whether or not a status Indian could cut wood on band property on a reserve
7) Determine whether or not a proposal put forward by a band council (chief and councillors) could be put into effect (i.e., the power to veto band council proposals)
- VI, 196
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2016 (August)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. V, 195 pp.