Crooked Lake Agency at the Turn of the 19th Century


This entry concerns the history of the Crooked Lake Agency from 1880s to 1913. This history is told from the viewpoint of the colonial authorities who controlled the Agency. Furthermore, this entry concerns four bands that were located on Crooked Lake at this time. These bands are as follows: Ochapowace (#71), Kake-wista-haw (#72), O'Soup or Cowessess (#73) and Sakimay (#74). The general observations made by Dr. D.G. Mandelbaum noted that “In general the Indians under this agency seem ultra-conservative living part of the year in tipis and maintaining their own religion and customs.” What is described as “progressive” can be summed up as enrollment in government established schools on the reserve, the tending to livestock such as horses, and farming. Mandelbaum also notes that traditional dances were decreasing, and that “... in 1906, the agent reports that no Indian dances were held during the year for the first time. However, such statements must be taken with some reserve.” This particular comment was in reference to the Ochapowace band. Concerning the other three bands at Crooked Lake he notes that a member of the Kake-wista-haw band was punished for holding a give-away dance in 1898. This happened just before the turn of the century in 1898. He maintains that the O'Soup or Cowessess band were far more “progressive” stating that the band had a “… fair number of horses and most of their children in school.” He further states that the Chief of this band was considered a “reactionary” and a “a hindrance to progress.”

The implications of this event are tied to the topic of cultural genocide and assimilationist policies. As can be seen by the observations made by Dr. Mandelbaum, the objective of the Indian agents on this reserve, as with other reserves, was to assimilate Indigenous people into a mainstream English speaking, Euro-Canadian culture. The process of doing so involved the suppression of customs and traditions, to replace them with ones practiced by colonial authorities. A second factor in the assimilation process is the usage of schooling to assimilate people into this culture. Fundamentally, the schools that the Federal Government set up on Reserves, as well as the rest of the residential school system, provided an environment for cultural instruction, at the expense of the languages, beliefs, traditions, and ideas of the culture that its pupils had already received from their parents, or other family members. In short, this helped disrupt the process of cultural transmission, with disastrous results.