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.”
According to many DIA publications, Indigenous women were believed to be at fault for the conditions and poor health on reserves. This led the agents to believe that Indigenous women needed to be 'domesticated' in ways that served the colonial government and motives. Girls were not taught any skills that would be of value to them outside of the home. Schools focused on teaching Indigenous girls how to be successful housewives. They were not allowed to be trained as nurses, teachers or clerks, all of which were needed on reserves Please see related entry titled "History of Racist and Gendered Perceptions of Indigenous Women."
Carter, Sarah. "First Nations women of prairie Canada in the early reserve years, the 1870s to the 1920s: A preliminary inquiry." Women of the First Nations: Power, Wisdom and Strength (1996): 51-75
Cultural Dislocation - Loss of Metis Languages and Culture through Education System and other Forms of Assimilation
Cultural dislocation began during the Treaty and Residential School eras. Metis children attended residential schools, day schools and mainstream schools. Although the churches participating in residential/day schools wanted Metis children to attend, these children didn't qualify as "Indian", occasionally resulting in their rejection and subsequent attendance of classes in mainstream schools. However, mainstream or "white" schools also often rejected Metis children, leaving them in jurisdictional limbo and without an education (as an aside, a number of Metis children were in regions where the government refused to construct schools, later preventing the ability to find gainful employment - please see related entries on Metis education). For those who attended school, one of its results was the alienation of Metis children from their language and culture. Primary source interviews indicate that the public education system at the time privileged the language of the dominant culture - English - and children were instructed to speak this language only.
This privileging derived from usage of the education system as a tool to assimilate Indigenous children into mainstream western culture. In particular, Metis languages (Michif, Cree, French) were perceived as inferior to English. Although Metis history is central to the formation of the prairie geographical landscape, it was not considered “important” or legitimate Canadian history, and thus was rarely mentioned. When it was acknowledged, Indigenous people were portrayed as savages and Metis political actors, such as Louis Riel, were perceived as socially deviant and psychologically unstable criminals. Metis children were also shamed and harassed for their ethnic heritage at school.
A gradual loss of Metis-spoken languages, including French, Cree and Michif is indicated through the process of intergenerational transmission of language. For example, a number of Metis individuals interviewed had parents who spoke English in addition to their Indigenous languages of French, Cree and Michif. These parents less often taught their children Cree and Michif because of cultural pressures to assimilate and due to internalized ethnic inferiority. The individuals interviewed also noted that they often had grandparents who did not speak English, but instead spoke either French, Cree, Michif or a combination of two or three of these languages. While the creation of a language barrier can prevent transmission of cultural values from parents to children, it is particularly harmful as it relates to the roles of Old People and Elders - individuals who often only speak an Indigenous language and are typically designated as transmitters of a vast reservoir of nation-specific knowledge and wisdom. Thus, the loss of language not only resulted in the loss of an ability to communicate in Metis-spoken languages, it also resulted in an inability to transmit philosophies inherent to Metis culture.
See: Attached Resources (Interview Transcipts)
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, tuberculosis was sweeping across the Canadian Prairies, resulting in many deaths. Periodic but severe famines were also documented in several communities. During this period of time, theories of social Darwinism and racial evolution informed the perspective of many health professionals and policy makers in Ottawa, impacting how they treated Indigenous people who had contracted tuberculosis. In the 1930s, sanatorium directors and government medical personnel warned of the threat of "Indian tuberculosis" spreading to white communities. Indigenous people were characterized as being negligent towards their own health. In Saskatchewan, as in other prairie provinces, provincial sanatoria and community hospitals often refused to take Indigenous patients. For example, the Fort Qu'Appelle Sanatorium reserved its more than 300 beds for white patients, although at a time the administration opened up 40 beds for Indigenous people in order to repay debts to the Federal government. Further north in Prince Albert, the sanatorium provided a few beds for Indigenous people who were deemed deserving of care by the Indian Agents or local physicians. In this case, it was social rather than medical criteria that determined which Indigenous people would be admitted to the sanatorium: young residential school students who came from families demonstrating progress and assimilation. This led to the development of segregated health care, and the construction of "Indian hospitals" such as the Fort Qu'Appelle Indian Hospital in 1936. At the time, Dr. Ferguson, director of the Fort Qu'Appelle Sanatorium, began conducting an experimental trial of the controversial BCG vaccine on Indigenous children (see BCG Lubeck disaster). His trial was funded by Indian Affairs and the National Research Council. Ferguson had began his investigation into TB in 1927 at the nearby File Hills school. Surrounded by poverty-ridden Treaty 4 reserves, Ferguson had a readily available source of subjects to test the vaccine. Ferguson's twelve-year study was an apparent success. However, his research revealed that 77 of the 609 children in the study, more than 12%, died before their first birthday, but only four of these were tuberculosis deaths. The rest of the child deaths were caused by other diseases such as pneumonia and gastroenteritis. The most likely cause of these diseases was poverty, an issue not addressed by the BCG vaccine, nor by the provincial and federal governments. Finally, historical research has demonstrated that residential schools played a significant role in the spread of tuberculosis, as sanitation was poor, ventilation in most schools was substandard, and infected children were not properly quarantined, often sleeping in the same rooms as the other children, increasing the risk of cross-infection. According to the final report of the TRC, tuberculosis accounted for just under 50% of counted deaths in residential schools. In addition to the residential school system, several government policies contributed to undermining the health conditions of Indigenous people. For example, in periods of starvation, rations were withheld from bands in an effort to force them to abandon their lands. Aid that was promised by the government when making the treaties was slow to come, if it came at all. Restrictions on Indigenous farmers made it difficult for them to sell their produce of borrow money to invest in farming technology. Reserve housing was also poor and crowded, sanitation was inadequate and access to clean water was limited. Under these conditions, TB flourished on reserves and within Indigenous communities.
In regard to Métis children, churches were eager to admit them to their boarding schools as it aligned with their goal to convert Indigenous children. However, the federal government policy on provision of schooling to Métis children was conflicted. It viewed the Métis as members of the ‘dangerous classes,’ Residential Schooling was implemented to ‘correct.’ However, from a jurisdictional perspective, the federal government believed that the responsibility for educating and assimilating Métis people lay within provincial and territorial jurisdiction. There was a concern that if the federal government began providing funding for the education of some of the children for whom the provinces and territories were responsible, it would find itself having to take responsibility for the rest.
Because provincial governments and school boards were often unwilling to build schools in Métis communities or to allow Métis students to attend public schools, Métis parents who wished to have their children educated often had no choice but to send them to residential schools. Falling between federal and provincial jurisdictional conflicts, Métis children who attended Residential Schools often "slipped through the cracks". That is, their attendance was undocumented, one reason being because the boarding schools they attended were not recognized as official residential schools.
Métis children attended most of the residential schools from Saskatchewan that are named or discussed in the final TRC report. Métis children suffered in the same ways as other First Nations children did, undergoing experiences such as: high death rates, restricted diets and starvation, crowded and unsanitary housing, harsh discipline, heavy workloads, neglect and abuse (psychological, spiritual, physical and sexual). Many Métis children remember feeling rejected and discriminated against as they were too "white" for the Residential Schools, and too "Indian" for the provincial public schools. Many former students describe the trauma of being separated from their families.
For an example of Métis experience at residential schools, please consult the interview excerpt contained below under "sources", in which Helen Sinclair describes the cutting of her hair, subjection of students to the unhospitalized tonsil removal, conducted without the consent of their parents.
In 2006, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was settled between the Federal government, First Nations and Inuit representatives, and churches. Owing to the fact that Métis attendance in Residential sSchools was poorly documented, combined with the lack of recognition of several Métis boarding schools as "official" Residential Schools, many Métis people were excluded from the compensation and settlement process. Métis individuals and communities lobbied and continued to lobby for the addition of schools to the official lists and records as a means of acknowledging their experience as well as their eligibility for compensation.
Métis experiences in Residential Schools shows that the impact of Residential Schools extends beyond the formal Residential School program that Indian Affairs operated. The history of these provincial schools and the experiences of Métis students in unofficial schools are not as widely documented due to the nature of unofficial schooling.
Alphonse Janvier, who spent five years at the Île-à-la-Crosse school, recalls the anger and hurt he felt upon arrival at the school, where he was put in a barber's chair and stripped of his long hair. Métis children were also stripped of their culture and prohibited from speaking their Metis languages such as Cree or Mitchif. Facing hunger, harsh discipline and widespread abuse, many children ran away from the schools. Cultural trauma following hundreds of years of colonization and oppression have left Métis and First Nations communities socially, economically and politically scarred.
Apology and compensation: In 2006, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was settled between the Federal government, First Nations and Inuit representatives, and churches. Owing to the fact that Métis attendance in residential schools was poorly documented, combined with the lack of recognition of several Métis boarding schools as "official" residential schools, many Métis people were excluded from the compensation and settlement process. Métis individuals and communities lobbied and continued to lobby for the addition of schools to the official lists and records as a means of acknowledging their experience as well as their eligibility for compensation.
- Capitaine, Brieg, and Vanthuyne, Karine, eds. Power through Testimony: Reframing Residential Schools in the Age of Reconciliation. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2017. 96.
"Power through Testimony" is a collection of essays from on their experiences within Residential Schools. The authors also reflect on the post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. They emphasize the limited involvement and collaboration of the government and churches with the TRC. Moreover, the work on the TRC is framed in its historical, political, and social limits. In fact, the TRC does not examine other types of institutions that were equally damaging facets of settler colonialism. For example, schools for settler children subsumed Metis children's education in many cases where Metis children reported discrimination from students and school staff. The research broadens the perspectives on the history of Residential schools, showing aspects that are often obscured when research is being done. See “Learning through Conversation: An Inquiry into Shame” by Janice Cindy Gaudet and Lawrence Martin/Wapisan, p. 95. for more.
- Satzewich, Vic and Wotherspoon, Terry. First Nations: Race, Class and Gender Relations. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1993. 112-146.
In the "Education and Job Training" chapter, Satzewich and Wotherspoon analyze the ways in which State policy has interrupted and changed Indigenous economies and redirected labour. Epistemological biases and the needs of Canadian capitalism shaped education and jobs, through coercive, punitive, and assimilating pedagogies. They address the paragraphs: human capital and struggles for educational control; the role of education in the colonization process; education and the process of state formation; segregation and the deterioration of Indigenous education; steps towards the integration of Indigenous peoples into the educational system; steps over the devolution of First Nations education; recent trends in post-secondary and vocational training.
- Helen Sinclair, interviewed by Margaret Jefferson, “Helen Sinclair interview on Metis experiences of being adopted, attending Muskowekwan (Muscowequan) boarding school in Lestock and economic activity” (transcript), Gabriel Dumont Institute Visual Museum Oral Histories Archive, August 13, 1982.
In this interview, Metis woman Helen Sinclair (who was adopted by a First Nations family and attended Muskowekwan/Muscowequan boarding school in Lestock) details her experiences at the boarding school, including the cutting of her hair and a medical procedure that was conducted without their or their parent's consent in non-sterile conditions. She reports that one child almost died after the procedure: --- Margaret: "Do you have pictures of the girls you went to school with when you were younger?" --- Helen: "No." --- Margaret: "No." --- Helen: "No, they never gave us any pictures. But they did take pictures. But the one that had them pictures of our school days she had them pictures but she passed away, I don't know who had them now. But you had long hair, we had braids. And then I was (inaudible) my hair when sometime that, you know, cut our hair very short." --- Margaret: "Who was going to cut it?" --- Helen: "Pardon." --- Margaret: "Where were you going to get it cut at? Who was going to cut your hair?" --- Helen: "Oh there was somebody there that done that." --- Margaret: "Oh. Just to get it trimmed you mean not to get it all cut off." --- Helen: "Short, short, yeah short all of them. They took all our braids, I had long long hair. And then in 1924 when I was at the school there was thirteen of us girls and three boys went through an operation they took our tonsils out, right in school we didn't go to no hospital." --- Margaret: "Right in school?" --- Helen: "Right in school, they gave us that ether to sniff and oh boy I woke up with a sore throat and blood. My two sisters too, the ones that passed away they had their tonsils out. There was a whole, there was a bunch of us girls, thirteen girls and three boys." --- Margaret: "Well, did they always take everyone's tonsils out, or..." --- Helen: "Well, these thirteen girls had their tonsils out there, one just about died she had to be looked after by a nurse from Edmonton." --- Margaret: "Well why did they take your tonsils out, were they bothering you?" --- Helen: "I don't know. The doctor came and examined all the girls and boys that had big tonsils and they took them all out. All these, I mean these thirteen girls and boys." --- Margaret: "And then you got..." --- Helen: "We didn't know." --- Margaret: "You were sick after that eh?" --- Helen: "Oh yes." --- Margaret: "Well didn't they have to have the parent's, your mom and dad's permission?" --- Helen: "No they didn't do anything I guess. I never knew where my parents were. We seldom seen our parents, very seldom. My mother used to be in Alberta and my father would be up north, he used to go all over. Never couldn't keep track of them. And the priest used to take us to the sports, old man sports they used to have good times over there in the olden days. Good sports and race horses, and oh everything like that, dances at night on the grounds. Go to old man's and Gordon Reserve, and Lestock, and Daystar's and Raymore, Symons, (?), all over it was. We were able to get there. The priest used to take us Old Man's mostly that's for every year we'd be going."
TRC_Métis Experiences in Residential Schools
In 1910, a local Indian Agent noted, "about one-half of the children sent to Duck Lake Boarding School, die before the age 18, or very shortly afterwards." The Indian Agent remarked, "[the students] are kept in a building whose every seam and crevice is, doubtless, burdened with Tuberculosis." In response to this outbreak of Tuberculosis, the One Arrow and Beardy bands requested their children be sent to day schools. The Department of Indian Affairs refused these requests and asked an Inspector to open an investigation into the matter. The Inspector recommended that incoming children should be be screened for health problems more thoroughly, that more windows be installed and walls replastered, that improvements be made to the basement, and that the water system be changed. The water system was changed, and in 1924 a new school was built.
Principal Hugonard Advocates for Better Construction, Heating and Ventilation at Lebret/Qu'Appelle Industrial School
In a letter to the department of Indian Affairs (17 Sept 1895), medical doctor M.M. Seymour, having examined the Qu’Appelle Industrial School, critiqued a number of aspects of its construction in light of the need to prevent the spread of tuberculosis. The complaints centered on insufficient dorm size, poor ventilation and poor heating and were described as follows:
“The boys dormitory is also about four times too small for the number of boys who sleep in it. The beds are packed in it as closely as they can be and from the ceilings only being about eight feet, and from the deficient ventilation the boys have consequently to breathe and rebreathe the same air many times during the night. The smell in this room half an hour after the boys have been in it is strong, and before morning it is simply awful. As overcrowding and breathing vitiated air are two of the best recognized causes predisposing to consumption there can be very little hopes of lessening the present very high death rate from this disease until the children are provided with such room as it will allow them to be in a healthy atmosphere during both the day and night….A great improvement could be made in the boys dormitory by doing away with the coal stoves now in use, and having it heated by hot air from a furnace, then by building a good larger dome, the amount of cubic breathing space in the room would be very largely increased besides allowing for such ventilation as would enable the air to be frequently changed. The putting in of a furnace and building the dome would not cost so very much and if it could be done this Fall, would be the means of saving a number of lives...The matter is all the more important when dealing with Indian children who do not bear confinement well being all more or less predisposed through hereditary taints to Tuberculosis.”
The acting Indian Commissioner replied (14 Nov 1895) by stating that it was inappropriate for the principal of the school to be forwarding such demands to the department:
“The present application appears to the Department somewhat extraordinary…The Department is perfectly clear as to the foregoing and has moreover a strong impression that apprehending the possibility of what has now occurred, the Principal was informed at the time by the Regina Office, that what was given was on the distinct understanding that no further demands of a kindred character should be subsequently made, and that if they should, no expectation need be entertained of their being granted...In view, however, of the strong terms in which the medical officer appears to feel justified in pressing for improved dormitory accommodation, the Department will not refuse to leave in the estimates for the proximate fiscal year, provision for the furnaces and dome...The Department does not feel the alarm such a statement might otherwise excite, because it is aware that some temporary arrangements can be devised for making some of the boys sleep elsewhere, which, even if not entirely convenient, will obviate the suggested danger to their lives and in this connection it would be glad to learn whether its suggestions for the ventilation of the dormitories have ever been carried out...In conclusion the Department observes that it is quite unable to reconcile the statements made about the insufficiency of existing accommodation with the application for a considerable increase in the number of pupils for next year.”
Principal Hugonard responded (9 Dec 1895) by stating that according to department policy, it was, in fact, appropriate for him to make such demands:
“The boys dormitory will be relieved of the smallest boys as soon as it is practical to occupy the new building, but without an increase in the number of pupils we will have no funds to pay the two Sisters required for the hospital and small children, or to defray the cost of heating the building, etc. When I ask for or suggest improvements it is because in memorandum No 14422, of June 10th 1894, approved by the late Sir John A. Macdonald it is stated, that the Principal shall have at all times the privilege of tendering any suggestions that he may consider advisable in the interests of the institution while, from the tone of the Department's letter, one would think I am asking for my private benefit, which is not the case but as circumstances arise I deem it to be my duty to offer suggestions as to the best way of using them.”
In comparison to primary and secondary schooling for white children, the federal government held far lower standards for the quality of instruction and residential school buildings. In a House of Commons debate from 1906, Mr. Roche asked Minister of the Interior Frank Oliver, “Do the teachers in these Indian schools require to have the same qualifications as the teachers in the public schools of the province?”
Minister Oliver avoided a direct response to the question by stating “The desire of the department is to secure teachers who hold at least third-class certificates, but it is not always possible to get such teachers.”
Minister Oliver was referring to the British undergraduate ranking system, in which third class is the lowest classification of honours in the British system. If you did not have a third class degree, you would receive an “ordinary” degree in which you simply passed. In saying “it is not always possible to get such teachers,” Oliver was making reference to the fact that the government offered lower wages for teachers who instructed Indigenous children. In fact, it was often difficult for the government to obtain and maintain teachers of Indigenous children because of low wages. Government educational and employee standards for Indigenous children were practically non-existent compared to white children.
- N.A.C. RG 10 Vol. 3917, File 116575-5, MR C 10161, To Indian Commissioner from M.M. Seymour M.D., 17 September, 1895 .
- N.A.C. RG 10 Vol. 3917, File 116575-5, MR C 10161, To H. Reed from Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, 14 November, 1895.
The Qu'Appelle Industrial School was built in 1884 to fulfill one of the conditions of Treaty 4, which had been signed 10 years earlier. It was the first residential school in the west, and Father Joseph Hugonard was the first principal. This was likely because Lebret/Qu'Appelle was established as the main centre of Catholicism for the Metis and First Nations people in the region - Lebret/Qu'Appelle had been a Catholic mission since 1865. There were fifteen students in attendance the first year. The Grey Nuns of Montreal served as teachers at the school until 1975. In 1935, the Lebret Indian residential school was built to replace the industrial school. In the following years, several additions were made to the school including a large gym, classroom block sections and a secondary school section in 1951. This residential school was signed over to First Nations school board administration in October 1973, after which point in time it was called "White Calf Collegiate." This collegiate remained open until 1998.
According to a letter from the Superintendent General of the DIA to Martin Benson (4 Sept 1907), Principal Rev. Matheson was being asked to resign or be removed from Battleford Industrial school. Although the letter discloses that Principal Matheson was not managing the school’s finances according to the expectations of the DIA, it also mentions “he has been a failure in other directions, and if the school is to be filled up to its full complement on October 1, it seems to me that that would be the proper date to make the change of principals and that the Church should compensate Mr. Matheson for any inconvenience he is put to, owing to the short notice given.” The SIG also mentions “As the success of a school is almost entirely dependent on the executive ability of the Principal, I cannot see that the Church should have any hesitation in replacing a man that has failed in that direction. It is no reflection on the Principal, but it simply means that he has missed his calling, and the Church should be able to find a place for which he is better fitted.”