Provincial Governance

Metis Economic Activity Post-Resistance / Post-1870 and Post-1885


A primary source interview with Pierre Vandale states that the government's actions of jailing Metis men following the Riel Resistance resulted in great economic hardship for their wives and families: "I remember hearing many of the Metis men were put into jail at this time therefore this made it very, very hard for the women who were left without their husbands. My father was six years old at the time of the Rebellion. But I remember my grandfather talking about it" (see "relevant resources" below). The work of historian Diane Payment has echoed similar sentiments, noting that several Metis men were killed, imprisoned, or forced to emigrate or go into exile after the Riel Resistance. The Metis women of Batoche had a difficult time obtaining compensation from the Rebellion Losses Commission. Some of these women who had children were able to continue managing the family farms, while others worked in domestic service positions as cooks and/or cleaners. Psychological stress caused by the aftermath of the Resistance would have compounded the difficulties posed by economic survival. Payment writes "Much emphasis is placed in official accounts on the fact that there was no rape and wanton killing of women and children during the war. But one Metis journal indicates that there was at least one victim; a young Metis-Dakota girl was killed in the crossfire and hastily buried by the soldiers. An investigation of parish burials between March and December 1885 reveals that, although twelve men died directly or indirectly from wounds suffered at the battle of Batoche, nine women died of causes related to or at least aggravated by the sufferings and deprivations of war. They died of consumption (tuberculosis), la grippe (influenza), and fausse-couche (miscarriage). Women accounted for the proportionately high death rate in 1886 as well” (pages 27-30). Alienated from land rights and subjected to a constantly shifting economic landscape, primary source research (interviews, excerpted below in "relevant resources") detail the ways in which Metis families and individuals attempted to adapt to the oppressive conditions of the settler state. Many Metis were forced to live on road allowances (see related database entries). They would engage in economic activities that included hunting, fishing and trapping where possible; raising livestock/ranching; farming; gardening; berry picking; canning meat, fruit and vegetables; drying/smoking meat; gathering, drying and selling seneca root; hide tanning; clothing and houseware production; net making; wood hauling; selling eggs, butter, cream and other animal byproducts; farm labour; railroad labour; bush cutting/highway labour; scouting for the NWMP and domestic services/care labour (laundry, cleaning, cooking, childcare). It should be noted that many Metis were constrained by a lack of financial and land resources, and thus engaged in many of the above forms of economic activities at once in order to maximize their chances of survival. A few Metis received their land scrip, while others were required to purchase or rent land (despite their Aboriginal land rights - thus the government treated them in like manner to newly arrived Euro-Canadian settlers). The transition from fur-trading and freighting to agriculture was difficult for many. Several primary source interviews echoed similar sentiments in terms of living in circumstances of poverty due to marginalization, but always having enough to eat. It should also be noted that many of the recollections included in primary source interviews were from the difficult economic era of the 1920s and 1930s. And, although economic hardship was widespread in the Prairies during this time, it was felt more acutely by Metis individuals who were widely discriminated against because of their ethnic identity in terms of hiring and pay disparities. The survival of Metis people demonstrates the remarkable ingenuity and strength of Metis families in light of difficult government-created circumstances.

Many Metis families integrated novel means of generating income alongside traditional Metis ways of living. Due to their social and political marginalization, making a living was often precarious. Sometimes, cultural dislocation resulted from the demands of a transient lifestyle, which inadvertently also removed Metis families from the social support network of their broader family relations. This had a damaging effect on the well-being of Metis individuals and the perpetuation of Metis culture.
Sub Event
Following the Red River (1870) and Riel Resistances (1885), an increased number of Metis individuals became alienated from their land and were forced to make a meagre living on road allowances or unoccupied settler land. This was in part the intent of the government as a form of retaliation for the efforts of the Metis in assertion of land rights and self-determination.

Government Retaliation for Criticism of Funding Cuts - Indian-Metis Service Organization


The provincial government (Department of Natural Resources) demanded that Malcom Norris resign as Executive Director of the Prince Albert Indian-Metis Service Council (Parent Organization for the Prince Albert Friendship Centre) after he criticized them for cutting funding to Indigenous programs.

In this case, the government reacted to bad publicity in a non-democratic manner by seeking to control and eliminate the source of criticism. As well, this has often involved inflicting harm on the Indigenous population - including both fiscal, psychological and physical harm (please see entry on Manitoba Act of 1870 and Reign of Terror). This phenomenon has been observed in government response to other Indigenous movements that have been critical of government action, including the Red River Resistance, the Riel Resistance, and several contemporary Indigenous activist movements including Oka, Ipperwash, Gustafsen Lake, Elsipogtog and Idle No More. To discredit and delegitimize the political and moral positions of participants, who are often advocating for fulfillment of treaty promises and the right to self-determination, Indigenous people are frequently vilified and/or criminalized. For example, stereotypes of Indigenous peoples as "savages" are often reiterated in the media and amongst the general public - as demonstrated by the interviewee, who, in discussing some of the rumours that were being circulated, states that individuals of a conservative ideological stance were concerned that "You...never can tell when he [Malcolm Norris] might be issuing guns to the natives, and that sort of thing." This event was significantly disruptive to the Indian-Metis Friendship Centre in Prince Albert, as indicated by the interviewee: "I wanted to have a pretty major discussion on it because, of course, this was a fairly momentous kind of thing for us to deal with, because we were caught in a real bind, you know. The Friendship Centre was clearly a pretty bloody important institution for Prince Albert."
Sub Event
The provincial government (Department of Natural Resources) demanded that Malcom Norris resign as Executive Director of the Prince Albert Indian-Metis Service Council (Parent Organization for the Prince Albert Friendship Centre) after he criticized them for cutting funding to Indigenous programs.

Manipulation of Provincial Elections in Northern Saskatchewan


The event concerns the first provincial elections that First Nations people could vote in, beginning in 1960. The interviews obtained focus on Northern Saskatchewan.

As per Gwen Beck:

“And there was a lot of, there was always quite a bit of liquor in those days, you know, involved in it.” To which the interviewer, Murray Dobbin asks the question “: So people would try and get votes by buying drinks?”

Gwen responds by saying that many people who went to the polls were intoxicated, but does not outright say that the parties in the election had bought votes with alcohol. She also explains that there were rumours of cash being exchanged for votes, but that this could not be proven.

Another source corroborates this event by saying that: “And there was no doubt about it that there was an awful lot of liquor that seemed to appear from nowhere just the night before. And the same thing in the other communities, that cases of doughnuts would go into communities and cases of doughnuts have never gone in before nor since. And voting would turn around as to what you'd expect.”

These words come from an interview with Glen Lindgren. The testimonial regarding doughnuts, can be seen as a form of bribery. This indicates a disparity between Northern and Southern Saskatchewan relating to economic development, food insecurity and access to goods. This disparity has been created by colonial practices, and in this context, was used to manipulate the democratic process.

La Ronge resident Verna Richards corroborates stories of political corruption in Northern Saskatchewan, specifically La Ronge. She reports that the Liberal party tried to gain votes through deception. After this became less effective, the Liberal party escalated to obtaining votes through coercion by threatening loss of jobs and plying residents with alcohol. The Liberal party also distributed wildly inaccurate rumours about the consequences of voting for the NDP, stating that the NDP would apprehend the children of residents and, being associated with socialism and therefore with atheistic communism, would burn down churches and even homes that contained religious iconography or paraphernalia. It should be noted that Indigenous people were in a position of vulnerability as they had only recently been given voting rights by the Canadian state - this resulted from a lack of information provided by Elections Canada or any other governing body relating to the employment of a private ballot within Canada's democratic system. Ms. Richards also notes characteristics of racism and sexism within political parties in the area, including both the Liberals and the CCF, describing the exclusion of one Indigenous woman who had engaged in extensive campaigning for the CCF. The exclusion of Indigenous women from politics results in the exclusion of their voices at the political table, as well as issues that affect women, such as domestic violence and sexual assault. She reports these events as happening around 1967.



The implications provides commentary on the integrity of the democratic process. That is, the democratic process was corrupted by party officials who engaged in bribery, deception and coercion.  Political parties (particularly the provincial Liberal party) took advantage of the North's isolation from many goods and services, and their unfamiliarity with the concept of privacy of the ballot to their advantage.  It is also highly likely that the political messaging related to the NDP/CCF regarding the propensity of the party to destroy churches and homes was particularly damaging given the lack of housing/poor housing conditions on La Ronge reserve.  There may also have been a fear regarding the disappearance of social/community supports due to colonialism's propensity to cause community fragmentation - causing the loss of a community centre, such as a church, could feel particularly threatening.  It should also be noted that the imposition of colonial policy in Northern Saskatchewan also disadvantaged communities through regulation of hunting, fishing and trapping, resulting in severe disruptions to Indigenous lifeways and economies.  This could have made the promise of provisioned goods, should the party be elected, quite enticing due to the disadvantaged socioeconomic conditions members of Northern communities faced.  





Creation of Northern Hospitalization Scheme


In 1948, Northern Saskatchewan was integrated into the provincial hospital plan. Initially, inhabitants of Northern Saskatchewan were excluded from the provincial hospitalization plan - this was due to the lack of public medical facilities in the North and a lack of administrative structure through which hospitalization premiums could be collected. By 1950, the province had established a subsidized air ambulance service as well as constructed four outpost hospitals in strategically located centers.

The CCF reforms went a long way in reversing health disparities between Northern and Southern Saskatchewan. Overall, the greater accessibility of medical services contributed to a reduction in mortality rates for northern citizens.

"Hospitalization for the North". Saskatchewan Commonwealth. 10 December 1947.; Helen Buckley, "Trapping and Fishing in the Economy of Northern Saskatchewan," Report No.3, Economic and Social Survey of Northern Saskatchewan, Research Division, Centre for Community Studies, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, 1962, p.45;


Conflict between Kamsack Residents and Neighbouring Reserves


In 1962, a conflict emerged between residents of Kamsack and residents of the three neighbouring reserves. John Emms describes this as an issue of the town's residents reacting to what they perceived to be the social dysfunction and community breakdown on the reserve. For example, the reserves had not held band council meetings for several years, nor were there been any meetings between reserve and Kamsack town officials. John Emms was sent to mediate as a community development official, and the NDP government put in place a system in which bands could contract their social services to government agencies in order to receive the same access to services as the neighbouring non-native community.


Government Sponsored Meeting with First Nations and Métis Organizations


For the first time, the Saskatchewan government paid for a meeting of both registered and unregistered First Nations, and Métis political organizations. Not all members of the organizations involved agreed to the idea of registered, unregistered, and Métis groups meeting together - particularly older members of First Nations who feared for the loss of their treaty rights.

This event has been seen as the first example of the provincial government formally consulting with Indigenous peoples regarding Indigenous affairs. However, attempts to use a pan-Indigenous approach was divisive as it failed to address the unique needs and considerations of registered and unregistered First Nations, and Métis peoples.

CCF Social Programming and Erosion of Traditional Lifeways in Northern Saskatchewan


The establishment of a government presence in Northern Saskatchewan instigated an immense cultural shift, one that was initiated by the CCF who sought to expand operations beyond Prince Albert. The intention of the CCF was to create a ‘cultural majority’ in Saskatchewan, attempted through assimilation policies which undermined Indigenous lifeways and cultures in the North.

“The CCF took steps to see that the entire province would share northern resource revenue, yet, contradictorily, it refused to equally share provincial wealth with northerners. This occurred for several reasons. The CCF strongly feared that northern Aboriginals would take advantage of generous social programs and become lazy; in a sense then, the CCF limited benefits to northerners for their own good. Secondly, the CCF simply ignored northern needs, knowingly permitting the continuance of third world-like conditions in the northern half of the province. The CCF consequently applied a weaker non-economic socialism in the North than in the South, which received many more benefits from social and health programs.”[1]

The CCF government had no Northern representatives in caucus to advise on policy implementation; Joseph Lee Phelps, a farmer from Southern Saskatchewan, was tasked with designing ‘social’ programming in Northern Saskatchewan as the Minister of Natural Resources and Industrial Development.[2] Phelps had no lived experience or familiarity with Northern lifeways, and whose strong political convictions informed his trajectory in policy and practice.

“Phelps and his cohorts hastily developed new policies and a structure largely separate from that in the South to introduce the CCF's plans for northerners. Douglas and cabinet generally supported Phelps' fur, fish, timber, and other northern initiatives. They also gave him a lot of free rein. Several reasons explain Phelps' unusual freedom to act in the North. Possibly most importantly, the CCF accepted the view that the northern society was not worth preserving. Wiping it out would leave a clean slate on which to build a better society. Additionally, many southern politicians knew or cared little about the North and let Phelps do as he pleased there as long as his actions did not create problems for them.”[3]

Social programming happened in two distinct streams, first was through the implementation of the Family Allowance. Gwen Beck, a long-time resident of La Ronge and interviewed by Murray Dobbin in 1976, had this to say:

Murray: “What kind of an effect did that have on the sort of nomadic lifestyle of native people? Did that contribute to changing that, where they'd take their whole families onto the trapline and then come back again?”

Gwen: “Well, that... I don't know whether it was right or it was wrong. You see when I was on the School Board I felt that education was very, very important and to meet the children. So I couldn't tell you whether it was correct or not, but Family Allowance came into being somewhere about then and, you know, they were supposed to educate the children.”

Murray: “That was the condition of the Family Allowance?”

Gwen: So this was the condition that I stipulated, that I felt. That anyone that took the family away [to the trapline] and did not educate them, they were not entitled to the Family Allowance. Now probably... now I'm not proud of that stand that I took -- I don't know whether I was right or wrong, but I was very strong on it when I was young.… I don't know exactly whether it was correct or not, but gradually the Family Allowance was the biggest drawing card for keeping families in [communities with a school]. But it did split up... the women had to stay behind or they had to find homes. We talked about building a hostel - which we never ever got to - to take the children so the children could stay. We went through all these phases but, you know, I think it finally ended up that more people stayed home and sent their children in school…Money-wise, money again was a big thing, the Family Allowance meant quite a lot to get, and most of them had good-sized families, you see. So it meant they stayed, and trapping became less and less, really. Even today they cannot support themselves by trapping, no matter how good a trapper they are, so you understand.”[4]

The Family Allowance alluded to was dependent upon children entering the school system. Long-time La Ronge resident, Robert Dalby, confirmed this:

Murray: Would you say that the disruption of the traditional way of life started in the early fifties?

Robert: Yeah, it started manifesting itself at that time and several reasons. It wasn't just economics. It was the growing population for one thing. It was beginning to grow because of health services and things. And I remember very distinctly the old business even with the treaty Indians, the treaty agent would threaten to cut off family allowance if the kids didn't go to school. So parents were compelled to stay in the settlements. At least the mother was compelled to stay in the settlement so that the kids went to school. And I know of several families, people I've known for twenty-five, twenty-eight years, who faced this situation. They could no longer go out to the trapline as a family group. The kids had to stay in school and these people around here, these bush people around here, have always respected the law. They haven't liked it necessarily, but they've respected it. And so if someone threatened to cut off the family allowance and threatened them with dire punishment, most of them went along with it and believed it, you know.”[5]

The second stream was the creation of Fur and Fish Marketing Services, as explained by Dalby:

Robert: “[T]he CCF pulled some awful boners as far as the north was concerned, you know [....] From lack of knowledge. One of the serious ones was the fur marketing service. And done with the best of intentions but when I arrived here, I had been with the game branch of Manitoba for a couple of years. I knew the situation there with registered traplines and so on. And it worked fairly well at that time there. And here I found that the trappers had to sell the beaver and muskrats (which is the principal crop) to the Fur Marketing Service in Regina. And they all resented it, without fail, you know, even though perhaps they got a better price. And I think the intent was to give them a better price but for some reason it just didn't work properly. There wasn't any education done certainly.”[6]

This is corroborated by Albert Broome, a former manager at numerous Government Trading stores in the North (La Ronge and Pinehouse, A.K.A. Snake Lake) who administered part of the Fur Marketing Service credit system:

Albert: “The credit trading policy is a dangerous one and we were always enforcing our collections at every stage of the game. There was very little welfare at the time. So you couldn’t rely on welfare. You had to judge each individual trapper by his merits. His fishing ability and his trapping ability.”

Murray: “How did you judge when a person’s credit would be cut off?”

Albert: “Well, in some cases you had to use your own judgement with the store operation. In some cases you would get direction from head office when your accounts receivable were getting out of order. At the same time you were judging the trapper by his ability to produce and in some cases they would have some tough luck and accounts would soar a little. Or bad price structure. In some cases you are playing with the market in fish and fur and it reverts back to the economy of the particular settlement.” [7]

Pierre Carriere, a long-time resident of Cumberland House, stated that the Fish Marketing service:

 Pierre: "... was a compulsory program first. But that's where it hurts the government. See, they didn't have no transportation services. They didn't have proper management services. The fishermen were the ones to lose money. Not the government."[8]

Murray: “And the government started the program to help fishermen right?”

Pierre: "Yeah, supposed to help fishermen but they didn't have no management and they didn't have no transportation service and everything was against them and therefore, the poor fishermen was the one that was losing his shirt. So it was really, politically unrest then.[9]

He states that after the implementation of the fish and fur marketing programs, people lost faith in the provincial government.

"You can't trust people. Once you are losing your shirt, you can't trust the government. Doesn't matter what kind of government you have."[10]


  1. [1] Quiring, David. “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks: CCF Colonialism in Northern Saskatchewan." PhD Diss. University of Saskatchewan, 2002. 20.
  2. [2] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 25.
  3. [3] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 26.
  4. [4] Beck, Gwen. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. July 20, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 12.
  5. [5] Dalby, Robert. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. June 18, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 2.
  6. [6] Dalby, “Interview with Robert Dalby,” 5.
  7. [7] Broome, Albert. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. September 4, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 5.
  8. [8] Carriere, Pierre. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. August 18, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and  Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 4.
  9. [9] Carriere, “Interview with Pierre Carriere,” 6. 
  10. [10] Carriere, “Interview with Pierre Carriere,” 7. 



Government imposed economic sanctions had serious implications. First, the creation of the Fish and Fur Marketing Service brought the livelihoods of First Nations and Métis trappers and fishermen under the direct control of the provincial government. Whether this program was established with good intentions, the result was resentment amongst Northern residents who viewed CCF meddling asserting monopolistic control over their livelihoods and economies.

Dolores Poelzer found in her work with Métis women from La Ronge (1986) that provincial regulation became a barrier to hunting and trapping, which had the effect of increasing reliance on Church administered social welfare programs.[1] The Church required that women and their families maintain church membership to receive education, health, employment, and welfare services. They were also expected to meet the moral expectations of church leadership and were shamed for common-law relationships, even in cases of domestic violence and abuse.[2] Previously, women reported they enjoyed the freedom of common-law relationships because it allowed for personal independence and were able to leave abusive partnerships more easily.

“You don’t feel right when you stay with the man without marrying him. It is just that when you go to some places, somebody asks if he is your husband, and you have to lie most of the time. You say ‘yes’ and you are lying. So it hurts you that way...And when you get kids, somebody is going to tell [them] that ‘he is not your dad. That is not your mother’s husband.’ It is not very nice very much.”[3]

Following the 1960s, construction of hydroelectric dams and clear-cutting for various deforestation projects further eroded Northern environments, effected animal migrations, and at times changed floodways. Terry Newell a current resident of Whiteswan Lakes comments that “Clear-cutting close to the lakes causes eroding banks containing mercury in the soil to end up in the lake,” which can cause mercury poisoning in humans, and species who rely on lake habitats.[4]  Residential and Day Schools continued their operations during this period, in some cases for another 40 years.

During the 1950s-1960s, the CCF developed several industries supported by government infrastructure through the DNR.

“DNR [Department of Natural Resources] officers, nurses, teachers, and other CCF employees formed a separate class within the small, primarily Aboriginal villages. Civil servants also became part of the white upper class in the larger communities. White government workers frequently considered themselves superior by virtue of their race. The mandate given them by the CCF to bring forced change to northern Aboriginals gave them additional prestige and authority.

Some Aboriginals established special relationships with DNR officers similar to the earlier ‘Patron-Client relationship’ with the HBC, and officials had a special clientele who supported their programs, as part of a system of reciprocal obligations. Yet many northerners felt ‘contempt and hostility’ to the CCF and its employees, largely because of conservation policies." Administrators also often did not relate well to Aboriginals, since they did not know the Aboriginal languages or grasp local ways.”[5]

There remained a scarcity of work opportunities in the North because employers were particularly hostile towards First Nations and Métis applicants and employees.[6] A continuous barrier was that DNR and local administration were reluctant or refused to train or hire First Nations and Métis residents, choosing instead to relocate civil servants from the South.[7] Positions that were available were frequently underpaid in comparison to civil servants. The wealth and employment disparity which developed during this period had lasting implications. Resources directed towards Northern education and infrastructure were not intended to service Indigenous community members, especially remote communities (like Grandmother’s Bay, Stanley Mission, Sucker River, and many others), demonstrating early service barriers and an unequitable dispersion of funds. This pattern of chronic underfunding has continued and contributes to the unique and systemic background factors which contribute to an over-representation in the justice system.

In Poelzer’s interviews with Métis women in La Ronge, one participant commented on the challenges that she and her community faced following the implementation of regulations:

“For instance, there are so many regulations changing about fishermen and their nets. One year, they buy one size of mesh for their fish nets; and then maybe a year or two after that the regulations change to a certain other size, such that they have to throw the first net away because it is not the right size anymore. There are all kinds of pressures...housing...parents might have problems with the kids at school...The pressure all stem from the society, from the rapid growth. Then drinking starts.”[8] 


  1. [1] Poelzer, Dolores T. and Irene A. Poelzer. In Our Own Words: Northern Saskatchewan Métis Women Speak Out. Saskatoon, SK: Lindenblatt & Hamonie, 1986. 27-36.
  2. [2] Poelzer, In Our Own Words,” 48-49.
  3. [3] Poelzer, In Our Own Words,” 49.
  4. [4] Dayal, Pratyush. “Stumped.” CBC News Features. July 10, 2022.
  5. [5] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 41.
  6. [6] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 40.
  7. [7] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 40.
  8. [8] Poelzer, In Our Own Words,84-86.





Headquarters of the Fisheries Divison moved from Regina to Prince Albert


Headquarters of the fisheries division was moved from Regina to Prince Albert.

During the 1940s, the provincial government became more interested in regulating fishing and trapping industries in Northern Saskatchewan, and put in place greater infrastructure in the northern part of the province to facilitate this control.

Northern Child Welfare Relocation Policy


Under the CCF provincial government, it became common practice to remove children from homes in northern communities, which were primarily Indigenous, and place them with southern non-Indigenous families. Non-Indigenous child placements in the southern part of the province were deemed necessary because of a relatively small number of foster homes in the north - a number which was unable to manage the capacity of child welfare activity. The Department of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation recognized the need for staff training and increased capacity for accommodations. The isolated location of many northern communities also caused administrative difficulties.

For children who were separated from their families and sent to southern, non-native communities, there was often a sense of cultural disconnect and an inability to function meaningfully in either southern non-Indigenous society or northern Indigenous society. However, not all children from within the child welfare system had bad experiences, and some report that they benefited from the aid they received while in foster care. It is important to emphasize that due to the relocation from home communities, Indigenous children were dislocated from their family, their support networks, and their cultures - all of which have had drastically negative effects on the health and psyche of Indigenous peoples, and their children. Please see other database entries on the effects of "60s scoop" policies and actions for further information.