A Narrow Vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada


Duncan Campbell Scott is best known as a literary figure. He is frequently mentioned in the company of Wilfred Campbell, Bliss Carman, Archibald Lampman, and Charles G.D. Roberts—a group of poets and essayists who were distinctly Canadian in their choice of subject matter, if not in style. Scott the civil servant is comparatively unknown. That he was head of the federal Indian Department for almost two decades is occasionally alluded to in passing. His role in that capacity, however, has escaped the attention of serious scholarship. ------------------- A biographer undertaking this neglected task might pose a number of intriguing and legitimate questions. How did a celebrated poet function in the highest echelons of the civil service? How did he reconcile the demands of his artistic spirit with the mundane routine of the office? Could he serve his muse and Caesar with equanimity? ---------------- The study that I have chosen to engage in, however, is not a biography. I do not attempt here to perform the biographer's delicate balancing act between psychology and literature or to fathom the inner soul of D.C. Scott. Someone well versed in Canadian literature will undoubtedly sooner or later shoulder that burden, and I hope the material explored here will prove useful. ----------------- I have chosen to examine Scott the civil servant, an approach which requires little justification. Scott would have been a significant historical figure had he never penned a stanza of poetry. This book is essentially a study of the personnel and policies of the Department of Indian Affairs in a particularly turbulent and eventful era. As the leading official of the department and the principal arbiter of policy during that time, Scott provides a convenient focus. ------------------- The administration of Indian Affairs was (and still remains) a complex and many-faceted enterprise. A multitude of responsibilities ranging from the management of schools to the disposal of timber from reserve lands came under its auspices. Therefore, any analysis of the department's activities must be selective. My criteria have been significance and interest—criteria which are admittedly susceptible to the whims of subjectivity. Conscious of my own predilections, I have attempted to select issues which reflected the peculiarities of Indian administration in a number of regions of Canada, as well as those which were of overall national importance. In all of the topics examined, Scott played a pivotal role in seeking resolutions satisfactory to the department and within prevailing policy guidelines." Pg vii-viii.

Publication Information

Titley, E. Brian. A Narrow Vision Duncan Campbell Scott and the Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada. Canadian Electronic Library. Books Collection. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1986.

Titley, Brian
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