The administration of federal Indian aid in the North-West Territories, 1879-1885
Dyck, Noel Evan
In 1879 the buffalo disappeared from the Canadian North-West, leaving the Plains Indians in an extreme state of destitution. In accordance with its treaty commitments to the Indians, the federal government undertook the responsibility of feeding the Indians of Treaties Four, Six and Seven. The government, in addition, introduced the reserve agricultural program, which it was hoped would transform the Indians into a self-supporting agrarian people. While the initial costs of rationing the Indians and assisting them in farming operations were high, it was hoped that within a few years the government would be largely relieved of such expenditures.In spite of the promising early returns made on reserves in the early 1880's the agricultural program did not succeed quickly enough to suit the government. One of the major reasons for the delay of the program was in fact the government's preoccupation with maintaining economy in Indian administration at all costs. When the government undertook a general reduction of expenditures on Indian administration in the North-West in 1833, any possibility of the reserve agricultural program succeeding was ended.The actions of various Indian bands and leaders in the North-West during these years were characterized by a desire to achieve suitable terms which would permit their people to make the transition to the farming way of life. The general cutbacks in spending introduced in 1883, however, sparked the formation of an Indian political movement seeking improved conditions. This movement grew rapidly, and likely would have unified Indians from all sections of the North-West in insisting upon the renegotiation of the treaties during the summer of 1885, had the Metis not rebelled. Although Indian participation in the North-West Uprising of 1885 was limited, it prompted the adoption of a policy of repression by the government in dealing with the Indians. The plan of assisting the Indians in becoming self-sufficient farmers was forgotten, and they became the charges of the Department of Indian Affairs.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeRegehr, Theodore D. (Ted)
Copyright DateSeptember 1970
Reserve Agricultural Program
Canada - Northwest Territories