Unauthorized Lumber Harvesting on Little Red River Reserve (Lac La Ronge and Montreal Lake Bands)


An excerpt from Merle Massie’s, Forest Prairie Edge, which explains in great detail the effects of logging North of Prince Albert and unauthorized harvesting committed by logging companies on the Little Red River Reserve, between 1904-1910. A Specific Claims Commission case between LLRIB and Montreal Lake v. The Crown is ongoing for the Crown's failure to uphold it's fiduciary obligation. The court found a failure to uphold fiduciary obligation and compensation settlements are underway:

Impact of Logging Industry on Local First Nations

“Both Sturgeon Lake Reserve (known at the time as William Twatt’s band) and Little Red River Reserve (sometimes referred to as New Reserve or Billy Bear’s Reserve) were embedded in the major wood “basket” of the north Prince Albert region and straddled both the Sturgeon River and the Little Red River systems.[50] Extensive commercial lumbering in the region led to both opportunity and loss. First Nations men worked in the lumber camps, freighted supplies, cut and traded hay and oats, provided fresh meat, and worked on the river drives in spring.[51] Women found a ready market for moccasins and mittens, jackets and belts. Members living on these two reserves derived considerable income from the lumber camps, either through direct wage labour or in a supply capacity. Little Red River members in particular were closely tied to the lumber camps. The Indian Department noted in 1901 that residents of Little Red “derive their income from grain, potatoes, the sales of lumber, hay, freighting, and day labour (lumbering).”[52] Reports from the Indian Department until the end of the First World War reiterated these occupations, along with continued fishing and hunting.

The extensive lumber industry, however, had a negative ripple effect in the region. Trapping and fishing activities along the rivers were severely disrupted by the large log drives. Hundreds of men, strange sounds, and extensive environmental disturbance virtually eliminated local hunting opportunities, and hunters were forced to go farther and farther away from the reserves to find meat. Finally, the two reserves contained excellent saw timber. In particular, the Sturgeon Lake Lumber Company and the Prince Albert Lumber Company desired those trees, and documents show that both companies culled valuable timber from Sturgeon Lake Reserve land without compensation or authority. In 2001, the Sturgeon Lake band succeeded in settling a major claim with the federal government for the loss of this wood revenue.

The Little Red River band (as of 2013) is in the process of prosecuting a similar claim, but the economic and environmental impacts of lumbering on their reserve were more complicated. It was set aside as a farming reserve for the Montreal Lake and Lac La Ronge bands by 1897, but permanent farming was slow to take hold. In 1903, A.J. Bell, manager of the nearby Sturgeon Lake Lumber Company, requested disposal of the standing and fallen timber on the reserve.[54] The Indian agent went to Montreal Lake to consult with the chief and council there and came away with a signed deed of surrender, which initiated a series of problems. The Montreal Lake band expressed uncertainty over whether or not they should sell the timber and left it up to the Indian agent to make the final decision on their behalf. In effect, the band signed a carte blanche: ‘We have decided to leave the question of the sale of the standing and fallen timber in [the agent’s] hands, if after he goes through the timber, he considers it best to leave it at present, we agree to that; if on the other hand he thinks it should be sold then we agree to that.’[55]

The agent decided that the timber should be sold for several reasons: it was at its maturity and thus at its economic height for merchantable timber; nearby timber limits were currently being logged, particularly the Shannon and Sanderson timber berths; the slash from those nearby limits heightened the fire potential of the area, and if a forest fire swept through before the timber could be logged it would be virtually worthless; the merchantable timber within the reserve was estimated at most to be 2.5 to 3 million board feet, considered a small cut. It would be better, the agent thought, to sell the timber when loggers were nearby and it was practical to cut it. A second surrender, this time from members of the band living on the reserve, was also taken.[56]

The fact that Little Red River Reserve was so far away from its two parent re-serves created an administrative dilemma. It was difficult to decide whom to ask for a surrender, who had authority, and who had the right to make decisions. The timber was advertised and sold by tender in the summer of 1904 to I.G. Turpiff of Canada Territories Corporation Limited.[57] Almost immediately, a letter arrived from Reverend James Hines of Prince Albert at the Indian Commissioner’s Office in Winnipeg. The letter indicated that the men living on the reserve in question, the New Reserve, “strongly object to all their timber being sold from them.”    Those who signed the timber surrender, the letter noted, “are living 60 miles north and have plenty of timber there.” Those on the reserve did not object to selling some of the timber for cash, recognizing its proximity to the timber limits being worked all around the reserve, but they wanted to make sure that some of the bluffs were kept for their own use.[58]

The letter from Reverend Hines indicated the difficulty under which all parties were operating. By this point, there were two surrenders taken for this wood, one from Montreal Lake and one from men located on the New Reserve. Clearly, though, there were divisions within the New Reserve as well as between the two northern settlements and the one southern settlement. The Indian Department, however, was operating on the legal strength of the two surrenders, and the timber was sold. The sale led to the second major problem: the New Reserve was co-owned by both the Montreal Lake and the Lac La Ronge bands. In January 1905, a letter arrived from the Lac La Ronge band expressing their concern over how the wood surrender had been handled, since they were also owners of the New Reserve.[59] Although the response was that, indeed, the Lac La Ronge band was entirely correct in this assertion, ‘it was not deemed necessary to confer with them on the question of surrender of timber as they reside at a great distance from the Reserve…, although they are entitled to their equitable share of the proceeds of the timber and will receive it at the proper time.’[60]

The proceeds of the down payment on the timber berth were split between the two bands. The company that won the contract, however, was slow to hand over the capital. When it finally did, the sum was placed in trust solely for use of the Montreal Lake band. The trust amounted to over $5,000, and the interest was expended in purchasing supplies for the Montreal Lake band beyond those agreed to by treaty.[61] It was only in 1910, after a lengthy investigation into the surrender and sale of the timber and the disposal of funds, that the trust was redistributed to the credit of the Lac La Ronge band.[62]

The timber on Little Red River Reserve, because of its proximity to transportation, mills, and a market, was correspondingly much more valuable than any similar stands of timber found on the Montreal Lake home reserve or at La Ronge. Correspondence indicated, however, that only a portion of Little Red contained merchantable white spruce saw timber. The rest of the reserve, chosen for its agricultural capability, had open hay lands and stands of brush and aspen—it had been logged, in fact, long before it became a reserve.[63] The controversial timber limit on the New Reserve was neither large nor lucrative, at least according to official documents. The original bidder neglected to pay the rest of the tender price and never logged the timber. The Sturgeon Lake Lumber Company took over the contract. It tried unsuccessfully to renegotiate the original tender, arguing that it was unfair to pay ground rent on the whole reserve—56.8 square miles—when there was merchantable timber on only a small portion of that area, about three square miles. The company by this time was under considerable scrutiny from the Indian Department regarding its logging on Sturgeon Lake Reserve No. 101, for which it had not paid its dues or cut payments. The Indian Department was reluctant to renew the timber berth contract for Little Red when the company was obviously tardy in paying dues, rent, ground fees, and payment on the cut from Sturgeon Lake. The company protested, saying that it still had about a million board feet of timber to log out at Little Red. The company paid the remaining dues but only after many threatening letters from the Forestry Department. It soon rescinded the logging request. By 1909, the Sturgeon Lake Lumber Company had logged only a portion of the available timber. Of the original estimated 2.5 million board feet, it cut 1.5 million. Its timber licence was not renewed.”[i]

Differing accounts from the members of Little Red River IR and the Department of Indian Affairs suggest that unauthorized harvesting continued even after permits were not renewed. The Indian Agent, Silas Milligan, on Little Red River IR claimed that no unauthorized harvesting commenced in correspondence with the Forestry Department.[ii]  The opinion of DIA, “contradicts the oral memory of Little Red residents, who record extensive non–First Nations timber cutting that was never paid.”[iii]

“The timber dispute, and the subsequent fight over the trust funds, set the stage for division. Little Red River Reserve was informally split. The Lac La Ronge band was accorded a much larger share of the reserve since they had not yet chosen all their treaty land entitlement in and around La Ronge; moreover, at the time of the treaty in 1889, they were a much larger band and had a larger treaty land entitlement. The Montreal Lake band was accorded nine out of the roughly fifty-six square miles, the Lac La Ronge band the remaining forty-seven.[67] Confusion over who owned what proportion of the timber (until the land was informally split), investigation of how much timber was actually logged and paid for when and by whom, and the debate over which band (Montreal Lake or Lac La Ronge) owned which parts of the reserve will complicate the current court case…Landscape and tree cover, regional logging prior to creating the reserve, ownership, payment, and actual logging are subject to conflicting interpretations.”[iv]

In the case of Lac La Ronge Band and Montreal Lake Cree Nation v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, the Hon. W.L. Whalen ruled that the Crown had breached its fiduciary obligation to the LLRIB and Montreal Lake Bands, citing numerous failures to prevent unauthorized harvesting.[v] In finding that the Crown had breached its fiduciary obligation to the LLRIB and Montreal Lake Band, hearings to determine compensation are still ongoing almost 8 years later.

“There was an almost wanton disregard for the environmental impacts of the logging industry. Cutting trees and bringing them to market abused and reshaped the entire north Prince Albert landscape. The Spruce/Little Red River was small and could not reliably handle log volumes. To compensate, the Prince Albert Lumber Company cut all the trees along the riverbank and built a series of dams to control water flow. This intervention culminated in damming Beartrap Lake (now in Prince Albert National Park) and building a canal southward to move its water into the Spruce/Little Red River system to flow south to the mills at Prince Albert—an environmental intervention with major implications for the local landscape [flooding]…

White spruce is an old-growth tree that requires specific conditions to flourish. Unless a large area of fully mature white spruce was left unlogged, to offer a seed source for new growth, the species could not regenerate efficiently. The debris left from extensive logging, combined with the flammable nature of forest litter in aspen stands, led to forest fires within the area. Homesteaders placed increased pressure on the landscape. Escaped fires from brush clearing on the homesteads raged through the region. The combination of logging, agricultural settlement, and fire was nearly catastrophic: white spruce was virtually eliminated from the forest canopy.[72] Although the boreal forest is a fire-dependent regime and fire is a necessary part of the forest regeneration cycle, extensive forestry intensified the effects of fires. Logging virtually eliminated mature white spruce capable of producing cones, and the extensive tree litter prohibited cone regeneration. The impacts of fierce ground and canopy fires resulted in a local transition from primarily mixed-wood forest to a canopy dominated by aspen, burnt brush, and open meadows.”[vi]

The effects of deforestation were readily apparent by 1919 and years following, when forest fires swept through Northern Saskatchewan and Alberta. Bishop J.A. Newnham of Prince Albert wrote to the Daily Herald:

“‘On the way up the whole country seemed to have been burned over by the recent fires, and only blackened tree trunks, which had fallen or will fall within a year or so, remain in the once well-timbered area. The soil also has been deeply burned and even the muskeg had been on fire. The game suffered heavily, young birds and eggs being destroyed.’ The roads suffered as well, he added. ‘In general all bridges over the Little Red and Sturgeon rivers have been burned and a number of the Prince Albert Lumber Company’s dams. The forest rangers are now [making] temporary repairs to the bridges and clearing the trails of fallen trees.’[85][vii]

The devastation seemed complete. Scientists and historians have pinned these fires to increasing agricultural expansion into the forest edge, where homesteaders and settlers, eager to clear land for farming, employed extensive brush burning.”[viii]

Deforestation, in particular clear-cutting, has since increased over the last century; under the current Provincial Government (2022), plans to continue aggressive clear-cutting are being pushed as “environmentally friendly.”[ix] This incites great concern amongst First Nations and Métis residents in the North, as clear-cutting has expanded into remote regions beyond the Prairie Forest edge (Little Red River, Nisbet Forest), into areas like La Ronge, Montreal Lake, Meadow Lake, and even further.[x] Residents have witnessed dramatic changes to the wildlife and ecology of their homelands over the last 60 years, and comment on the alarming impacts to their traditional lifeways, economies, and food resources, as well as environmental destruction.[xi] The threats which clear-cutting poses had, and continues to have, damaging long-term socioeconomic impacts to Indigenous residents whose lands, and the protection of those lands, are innately connected to their lifeways.[xii]  




  1. [i] Massie, Merle. Forest Prairie Edge. 81-84.
  2. [ii] Massie, Forest Prairie Edge, 84.
  3. [iii] Massie, Forest Prairie Edge, 84.
  4. [iv] Massie, Forest Prairie Edge, 84.
  5. [v] Lac La Ronge Band and Montreal Lake Cree Nation v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2014 SCTC 8, [2014], 5002 SCT 11, at paras. 184-195.
  6. [vi] Massie, Forest Prairie Edge, 85,86.
  7. [vii] Prince Albert Daily Herald, 12 June 1919.
  8. [viii] Massie, Forest Prairie Edge, 90.
  9. [ix] Dayal, Pratyush. “Stumped.” CBC News Features. July 10, 2022.
  10. [x] Dayal, “Stumped,” 2022.
  11. [xi] Dayal, “Stumped,” 2022.
  12. [xii] Dayal, “Stumped,” 2022.





Blakeney Government Implements the Saskatchewan Formula


The Blakeney government implemented the Saskatchewan formula, which proposed that land entitlements would be based on First Nation band populations from December 31, 1976 rather than the time that treaties were signed. Action was delayed as Ottawa and Regina fought about the land and money required. A handful of Treaty Land Entitlement claims eventually went forward, including that of the Lucky Man band which received a reserve in the Battleford area 110 years after it had entered treaty (1879). (Waiser, Saskatchewan: A New History, 444).

There are three major types of claims in Saskatchewan: specific, surrender, and land entitlement. A specific claim arises when a First Nation alleges that the federal government has not lived up to its obligations under treaty or other agreement or legal responsibility (see Table FNLC-1). According to Canada’s land claim policy, a valid specific claim exists when a First Nation can demonstrate that Canada has an outstanding lawful obligation as follows: the non-fulfillment of a treaty or agreement; a breach of an Indian Act or other statutory obligation; the mishandling of Indian funds or assets; or an illegal sale or disposition of Indian land. Canada will also consider claims that go beyond what is considered to be a lawful obligation, usually including failure to compensate a band for reserve land taken or damaged under government authority; or fraud by federal employees in connection with the purchase or sale of Indian land.

A Treaty Land Entitlement claim occurs when a First Nation alleges that the Canadian government did not provide the reserve land promised under treaty. For some, this means that no reserve land was received; for others, that the correct amount was not received…

In September 1992, twenty-five First Nations, the province of Saskatchewan and the Canadian government signed the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement... Under the terms of the agreement, the First Nations with outstanding entitlements will receive approximately $539 million over twelve years to purchase just over two million acres of land. As of February 2004, 596,010 acres had attained reserve status. When the TLE process is completed, reserve land will account for just over 2% of the provincial land base. Presently about 1% of the land base is reserve land, but the status Indian population constitutes about 10% of the province’s population.”

Nestor, Rob. “Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan.” University of Regina. Accessed July 2020.





Trial of Pihtikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker)


Pihtikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker) was brought to Regina for the trial in July 1885. He declared himself innocent, claiming he had done everything to stop the violence. However, the court wrongfully sentenced him to three years in prison. He has since been exonerated by the Federal Government for the wrongful conviction, and has gone from being viewed in Canadian society as a "trouble-maker" in the North-West Resistance to the great leader and protector he was. 



Poundmaker served a year in prison at Stony Mountain Penitentiary in Manitoba. With poor health and broken spirit, he died shortly thereafter, on 4 July, 1886. It was because of this period of incarceration that Poundmaker's life ended so abruptly. 





North-West Resistance: Mistahimaskwa (Big Bear) Wrongfully Tried


Mistahimaskwa and fourteen of his companions were prosecuted in Regina for treason-felony. He did not participate in the conflict and tried to stop hostilities. However, according to the judge, Mistahimaskwa should have left his band at the beginning of the violence. The judge Hugh Richardson sentenced him to three years.



While incarcerated, Mistahimaskwa converted to Catholicism. After two years in the Stony Mountain Penitentiary, Mistahimaskwa was released (February, 1887), already ill. On January 17, 1888, he died on the Poundmaker Reserve. Since Mistahimaskwa never had a Reserve, his band became diasporic, dividing into other communities but continuing to maintain kinship ties.





Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Indigenous Women, Girls, 2-Spirit, and Transgender people


Indigenous survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking, community activists, and scholars document that coercion and deception are means of forcing Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit, and transgender people into survival sex work. In Saskatchewan, Saskatoon is considered a significant part of the transit corridor used within the Prairies to expedite trafficking of gender marginalized Indigenous peoples. Notably, sex trafficking of gender marginalized Indigenous people in Canada is so pervasive that it has not only received international news coverage (CNN - Canada's Stolen Daughters, attached Resources), the Canadian government has received international criticism from the U.S. government and United Nations, and national organizations, such as the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Canadian Women's Foundation.

Survivors of sex trafficking, community advocates and scholars have discussed factors which increase the vulnerability of Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit, and transgender people into trafficking. Experiences of abuse/violence; limited supervision; substance use/misuse; proximity to foster care; educational absence on information related to sexuality, contraception and pregnancy, models of healthy platonic and romantic relationships; overall lack of access to education; familial and communal residential/day school attendance, intergenerational trauma; housing insecurity and/or a lack of rental history; unemployment and job insecurity; a lack of culturally-appropriate support services (mental and spiritual health, medical, etc.); an absence of support networks (family/friends); having resided in a rural, northern or other isolated area where there may be a lack of infrastructure such as sewer, electrical or water services; lacking access to basic necessities for survival; and gang involvement. Many, if not all of these factors of vulnerability are linked to the settler colonial policies and beliefs which continue to oppress gender marginalized peoples.

In the aforementioned CNN Article "Canada's Stolen Daughters," Diane Redsky, who runs the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg (a Centre which engages in anti-trafficking advocacy work and runs a healing lodge) was interviewed. She commented:  "We're still in a society that targets Indigenous women and girls. In fact the national task force concluded that there's a market for Indigenous girls" (par. 28).

The psychological and physical impacts of sexual exploitation and trafficking are described in the literature review and analysis released by the Native Women's Association of Canada, titled, "Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls":

"What can be gathered from looking at the span of the above statistics, both the 2005 and 2011, is that there is a solid continuation of traumatic and damaging experiences that Aboriginal women and girls experience both prior to being trafficked and in the life of being trafficked for sexual acts. Unfortunately, experiences of violence, various forms of abuse, and trauma seem to be very consistent and prevalent within human trafficking. One of the defining characteristics of Farley et al’s research is the examination of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in prostituted and sexually trafficked women. PTSD consists of three types of symptoms: persistent, intrusive re-introducing of trauma; numbing of responsiveness and persistent avoidance of stimuli of trauma; and persistent autonomic heightened arousal. Those who participated in the study completed an evaluation of criteria for PTSD. In a 2005 paper examining prostituted and trafficked women, out of the one hundred participants, including both First Nations and non-First Nations, 72% qualified for PTSD, which is 'among the highest reported in populations where PTSD has been studied, including battered women, combat veterans, childhood trauma survivors, rape survivors, and torture survivors' (Farley, Lynne, & Cotton, 2005, p. 255) . Those who are prostituted and sexually trafficked often experience extreme and intentional violence, abuse and torture. It is no surprise that these women and girls fulfill the criteria for PTSD. Such evidence suggests the difficulty of trying to move on from sexual exploitation, trafficking, and prostitution. It is a deeply traumatic experience that impacts on one’s physical self, the mental, and the emotional" (pages 10-11).

This excerpt from the Globe and Mail contains the testimony of a sex trafficking survivor as to the long-lasting impacts of PTSD in terms of her ability to function:

"But even if there is no physical evidence, illness and violence are so pervasive that, eventually, “trafficking will produce a health consequence,” says Tara Wilkie of the Surrey Memorial forensic team. Patients are provided with support after leaving the hospital, but Ms. Wilkie says the after-effects of trafficking can leave someone with lifelong physical and mental-health issues. Bridget Perrier seems to be living proof of this. As she sits on the couch of her Toronto home, phone buzzing, two dogs scampering around, pictures of her children on the wall, her old life seems like the distant past. Yet, she says, a decade of sexual exploitation “damaged me to a point where ... I have panic attacks. I have PTSD. I can’t have a baby naturally because my cervix is just shot. I sleep with the lights on. I’m hypervigilant. And there are flashbacks. “Sometimes a smell will set me off, gagging.” Pine-Sol, used to disinfect the rooms, “triggers it.” As do “certain male colognes, certain deodorants.” Also damaged: her relationship with others. She says her clientele was so predominantly white that, even today 'I can’t be on an elevator with a Caucasian man'" (pars. 85-90).

Regarding solutions for recovery from post-traumatic symptoms, including PTSD, the Native Women's Association of Canada literature review and analysis notes:

"Many who are sexually exploited and trafficked come from backgrounds where formal education and job skill development have been compromised from traumatic childhoods and growing up in abuse. To help these women and youth escape the cycle of sexual exploitation, they need training in viable alternatives for income. It is not enough to protect women and girls from pimps and traffickers; the conditions of growing up in poverty and without a full education must also be addressed for lasting difference" (page 25).

Bluntly put, one participant phrased it aptly: ’People don’t heal overnight. It took seventeen years to get all the shit inside of you and it’s probably going to take twenty years to get it out of you’ (p. 36). Quick-healing regimens are unrealistic. Healing takes time, and sexual exploitation is a violent, oppressive, and damaging process. In a 2003 study on sexual exploitation with some 854 participants, their findings were that prostitution was multi- traumatic, with 68% meeting the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (Farley, et al., 2003, p. 34), which, also happens to match the same range of PTSD as combat veterans (Weathers, Litz, Herman, Huska, & Keane, 1993, as cited in Farley, et al., 2003, p. 37). If prostitution is categorized as choice and trafficked as forced, it may be that trafficked women are dealing with even more PTSD." (page 29).



Gender discrimination and sexualization of Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit, Transgender and Non-Binary people, is deeply embedded in the foundation of Canadian policy, society, and consciousness.  That is, stereotypical gendered narratives were constructed by colonizers that depicted Indigenous peoples as morally inferior and culturally uncivilized - including a predisposition to extreme sexuality (this was the underlying rationale for gender segregation in the Indian Residential School system). 

Settler Colonists viewed Indigenous 'sexuality' as a threat that needed to be subdued, and another area in which they could assert dominance and control over Indigenous agency. Early on in the period of Contact with Europeans, Indigenous women, much like the "virgin" soil of North America, were perceived as available for possession by white, European men. These tropes of availability, in combination with stereotypes which constructed Indigenous women as exotic and erotic, asserted that Indigenous women were incapable of consenting (always available to the Colonial sexual appetite) and therefore inherently inviolable.

In addition to social marginalization enforced through colonialism, narratives construct Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit, and Transgender people as sexually disposable which creates a significant degree of proximity to violence.  Aforementioned experiences of social marginalization include, but are not limited to: the mass apprehension of Indigenous children by child and family services, low-income caused by isolation from resources, cultural activities and lifeways, and economic discrimination, housing insecurity, employment insecurity, and limited access to education.  

Annette Sikka, in the conference paper "Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls in Canada," writes:

"..[T]he terms 'control' and 'exploitation' have been interpreted by the justice system in the context of trafficking offences also do not adequately reflect the types of coercion and exploitation that Aboriginal women or girls in street-based sex work face. It has been difficult to have the criminal justice system recognize non-physical forms of coercion in trafficking analyses because the criminal law focuses only on the immediate actions of individuals." (220).  

Actors within the legal system frequently lack a sufficient understanding of the ways in which gender-marginalized Indigenous peoples experience coercion and deception.  This serves to reinforce individualistic narratives which depict participation in the survival sex work as a matter of personal choice to participate in a "high-risk lifestyle." Yet it obscures elements of social and political marginalization which pressure gender-marginalized people into survival sex work. E.g., coercion or deception by others (the promise of money, protection, security, or substances).

This is not to say that sex workers or sex work is inherently violent or deviant, nor should sex workers be criminalized. Rather, that the social, gendered, sexual, and financial inequities established by Canadian settler colonialism have enabled traffickers to take advantage of the precarious social and economic situations many Indigenous women, girls, and other gender marginalized people find themselves in. Trafficking and exploitation is driven by the desire to fulfill settler sexual fantasies and maintain oppressive power structures.





Anti-Polygamy Laws Imposed by the Federal Government


With the emergence of settler society, many of the social norms of Indigenous groups became seen as morally corrupt, or deviant. The idea of polygamous marriages was foreign to European settlers, was a stark contrast to the Christian marital norms and common law monogamy. Government actors took it upon themselves to discourage the practice of polygamy and eventually entrenched it in law by 1890. It was important for settlers to reinforce the idea of traditional, European, monogamous marriage because they feared it was being disintegrated by the industrial revolution and was a marker for 'de-civilization.' The arrival of the Mormons in the late 1800s further escalated fears held by the state, triggering them to take action against the practice of polygamous marriages.



By passing an anti-polygamy law, it left many Indigenous women in vulnerable positions. It was determined by most ministers which wife was allowed to remain married to her husband. To ensure that the system was fair, they almost always chose the first wife to remain legally married to her Indigenous husband. This was problematic because often times the first wife was the oldest, and any children she may have had would also be older. This resulted in many young Indigenous women being left in dangerous situations because of their young ages and inability to care for their young children on their own. It also interfered with the traditional way of life in many Indigenous communities. Taking multiple wives was seen by the settler colonists as a form of abuse, but in some Indigenous communities it was done out of necessity and with the approval of the other wives. A household with multiple wives in the family meant that there were more people to help with the daily chores, care for children, direct labour, and offered a strong support system. It was  assumed by settler colonists that polygamous marriages was based on sexual desire and subjugated wives, when in fact the wives almost always consented prior to a new wife being married into the household. By newly isolation Indigenous women from these arrangements, many of them lost their shared families, support systems, and partners.


  • Beaman, Lori G. "Church, State and the Legal Interpretation of Polygamy in Canada." Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 8, no. 1 (2004): 20-38. 
  • Rutherdale, Myra, and Katie Pickles. Contact Zones: Aboriginal and Settler Women in Canada's Colonial past. 2005. 





Freezing Deaths: The Starlight Tours


In the 90s and early 2000s, the Saskatoon Police Service faced public and legal scrutiny for practicing what became colloquially known as the "Starlight Tours." In summary, a Starlight Tour happens when an Indigenous person, frequently Indigenous men, is picked up by the police at night and abandoned outside of the city limits in subzero termpatures. An egregious abuse of power, tours were carried out in winter, and the men were left to freeze. This practice came to public eye after one man, Darryl Night, survived an attempted tour and filed a complaint against the SPS officers.

It was only after Darryl Night came forward that the deaths of Neil Stonechild, Rodney Naistus, and Lawrence Wegner were deemed suspicious. Because of existing prejudice and racism within the police force, it was assumed that these men had 'gotten drunk' and wandered off into the night. When Darryl Night came forward with his complaint, it triggered a demand for an independent inquiry into the deaths of Stonechild, Naistus, and Wegner. The two officers implicated in the Darryl Night case were found guilty of unlawful confinement and were fired from the police force and sent to jail for a minimum sentence. The Wright Inquiry into the death of Neil Stonechild implicated the Saskatoon Police Service in the death of Stonechild. It found that their initial investigation was superficial and completely inadequate. Justice Wright also determined that Stonechild was in the care of the police the night of his murder and they were ultimately at fault for his death, though no officers have ever been formally charged. The inquiries into the deaths of Naistus and Wegner made no conclusive statements, but it is imperative to acknowledge they are victims of Starlight Tours as well. 



The freezing deaths of Indigenous men in Saskatoon exacerbated the already strained relationship between the Saskatoon Police Service and the Indigenous community. Many Indigenous people reported to the special investigator appointed by the FSIN that they were fearful of the police and did not feel comfortable reporting concerns out of fear that their claims would not be taken seriously. The inquiry revealed a distinct lack of trust in the police service, respondents fearing that more community members would one day too be victims of a Starlight Tour. Over-policing in city areas with a high representation of Indigenous residents contributes to this unequitable power imbalance, makes Indigenous residents feel like they are constantly under surveillance, and is a function of systemic racism that unjustly categorizes Indigenous people as 'trouble-makers.' Starlight Tours also reveal disturbing colonial ideology which places value on the lives of white settlers over the lives of Indigenous peoples, reflected by the failure to address the suspicious deaths and the initial explanation of accidental death by intoxication. Starlight Tours, and the dismissal of Naistus, Wegner, and Stonechild's deaths as a result of "intoxication" by public agencies demonstrates how systemic racism endangers the lives of Indigenous people. 


  • Razack, Sherene. ""It Happened More than Once": Freezings Death in Saskatchewan." Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 26, no. 1 (2014): 51-80. 
  • The Honourable Mr. Justice David H. Wright. Report of the Commission of Inquiry Into Matters Relating to the Death of Neil Stonechild. Government of Saskatchewan. October 2004. 



Indian Act


Bill C-3, also known as the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act, developed as a response to the McIvor v. Canada decision in British Columbia which found that some of the current registration provisions of the Indian Act were in violation of section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms based on gender. The purpose of Bill C-3 was to expand registration to the grandchildren of women who had lost their status as a result of marriage to a non-Indian. To be eligible for status under Bill C-3, three criteria need to be met: ------------------------- "1. The individual’s grandmother had lost status due to marriage to a non-Indian 2. The individual has a parent who is registered, or entitled to be registered as an Indian under section 6 (2) 3. The individual was born on or after September 4, 1951 Should all of these criteria be met, an individual would be eligible for status under this new bill. Bill C-3 aimed to correct the gender discrimination from the 1985 amendments, commonly known as Bill C-31."

Though the intent of Bill C-3 was to eliminate discrimination towards the grandchildren of women who had previously had their status revoked due to marriage to a non-Indian, it did not completely eradicate the gendered implications of the 1985 amendments. Bill C-3 continues to perpetuate the paternalistic nature of the Indian Act by limiting the scope of individuals who can qualify under the provisions outlined. If an individual was born prior to September 4, 1951, they are still denied status unless their lineage is traced through paternal lines. This type of blatant gender discrimination still exists within the Indian Act today and has yet to be corrected. Bill C-3 also created a new form of discrimination by requiring women to have non-status children in order to have their status upgraded from 6 (2) to 6 (1). Women who have status children, or no children at all are ineligible for the status change. This has created even further divisions within communities and creates a situation in which an already vulnerable population is being further marginalized by colonial adjudication.
Sub Event
Bill C-3: Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act

Creation of the North-West Mounted Police


The North-West Mounted Police was established in 1873 by the government of John A. MacDonald. The Cypress Hills massacre as well as the increasing number of conflicts on the U.S border due to alcohol smuggling are often cited as the main reasons the MacDonald government passed the bill creating the new military-style police force. However, most historians agree that the primary reason for establishing the force was to control First Nations and Métis populations, as the government sought to populate the West with settlers. Under the central authority of Ottawa, the NWMP marched West in 1874. The NWMP served as an arm of colonial control for politicians and lawmakers in Ottawa. For Indigenous communities in the Northwest, it represented an additional source of repression. The newly formed para-military style force was entrusted with wide-ranging powers and duties. Officers acted as Justices of the Peace, able to apprehend and sentence offenders, as well as impose Indian Act polices such as the Pass System. Since western courthouses did not exist at the time on the Prairies, NWMP barracks were often used for court proceedings and as temporary prisons. The NWMP assisted Indian Agents with the ration system, as well as enforcing laws obliging Indigenous students to attend residential schools. Government policies such as the Residential School system, the Sixties Scoop and gender discrimination in the Indian Act subjected Indigenous families to violence, cultural dislocation and land dispossession. The NWMP was successful in instituting a system of surveillance and curtailment, restricting Indigenous people to their reserves, regulating their land use and criminalizing livestock theft to benefit settler farmers and ranchers.


Current police-Indigenous relations are a product of the historical reality in which the NWMP and subsequent RCMP acted as an active arm of colonialism for the Canadian government. This historical context fuels a sense of mistrust, suspicion and resentment many Indigenous people feel towards law enforcement officers. In a 2017 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviews were conducted with Indigenous women in Saskatoon regarding their experiences with police officers. Women reported that they would not call the police to report a crime committed against them or crimes that they had witnessed involving an Indigenous woman out of fear that the police may harass them, engage in physical/sexual violence towards the suspect, or take them on a "starlight tour" (see database entry on Starlight Tours). HRW found evidence of a fractured relationship between police officers and Indigenous people in Saskatchewan. Human rights experts have also raised concerns over entrenched and institutionalized stereotyping of Indigenous women by police and RCMP officers. The HRW inquiry reports that: "The United Nations inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada reported that structural bias was reflected in the use of demeaning or derogatory language towards Aboriginal women and in stereotypical portrayals of Aboriginal women as prostitutes, transient or runaways and of having high-risk lifestyles". On a provincial scale, Indigenous people have reported being victims of racial profiling and targeting. Following the 1885 Resistance, the NWMP in conjunction with regular military forces, participated in quelling the resistance as well as apprehending and punishing the members of the Resistance (see database entry on the reign of terror). Other punitive measures carried out by the NWMP included withholding annuity payments, confiscation of horses and arms, and well as property destruction. As the impacts of the 1885 Resistance remain present to this day for many Métis and Indigenous people, so does the role played by the NWMP. The 1885 Resistance was accompanied by a shift in perception and attitude of colonial settlers towards Indigenous and Métis peoples. Although historians have uncovered several instances of NWMP officers acting with fairness and concern towards Indigenous and Métis people, however as Brown and Brown (1978) argue, that did not alter the nature of the force and its mandate. Owing to it's nature as a colonial police force, many Indigenous people never felt the force was there to protect them and their rights. In addition, Indigenous people recall instances of racial targeting and surveillance by police officers -  primary and secondary sources (listed below in "relevant resources") indicate that RCMP/municipal police discrimination and violence are re-occurring experiences of Indigenous people in Saskatchewan.  During the last decade, there have been several calls to action made by Indigenous organizations, governments, Nations, and communities, in response to the wide-spread mistreatment and neglect of Indigenous victims endemic within Canadian policing. The MMIWG Inquiry found that federal, provincial, and local police forces have far too often treated missing and murdered Indigenous victims with indifference and racial discrimination, thus impacting the investigations and outcomes of these cases. The issues within policing and correctional institutions cannot be explained as a "few bad apples" or agencies, these issues result from systemic racism, discrimination, and colonialism that plague the criminal justice system and have been built into its very framework. 

Sub Event
1874 March West and subsequent police and Indigenous relations.


File Description
Human Rights Watch report

Early Legal Recognition Of Metis Rights: The Sayer Trial:


In the edited collection of essays contained in "Contours of a People" (see "resources" below), historian Gerhard J. Ens writes a chapter in which he articulates the events of the Sayer trial:

"In 1846–47, A. K. Isbister and four other memorialists presented a petition to the secretary of state for the colonies from 'the Natives of Rupert’s Land,' who they described as “the Indians, and HalfBreeds residing in and near the Colony of Red River,” praying for relief from the strictures of the HBC monopoly and its tyrannical rule. The petitioners, who described themselves as “les humbles et loyaux sujets de sa Majesté Victoire,” objected to the harsh administration of the HBC that kept them in a state of dependency, inhibited trade, and ignored the claims of the Indians and Metis as the original owners of the soil.

As natives they wanted the right to trade freely, and as British subjects they wanted representative government and the right to import goods. If they were deprived of these rights, they warned, discontent and violence would follow. J. H. Pelly, responding for the HBC, noted that the fact that the Metis were born in the country entitled them to call themselves native, but it neither conveyed to them any privileges belonging or supposed to belong to the aboriginal inhabitants, nor did it divest them of the character of British subjects. As such, Metis (unlike Indians) were precluded by the HBC’s charter from trafficking in furs. From the HBC’s perspective, the petition and memorial to the colonial office had been inspired by the illegal traders of the Red River Colony who employed the Metis of the settlement, and who were trying to attack the monopoly of the HBC through the instrumentality of Metis rights. In responding to Pelly, Isbister acknowledged that there was a distinction between Metis and Indians, but that this distinction did not divest the Metis of their aboriginal rights.

After some investigation, Earl Grey ruled that the petition and memorial were without foundation and no further action would be taken on the matter. Emboldened by this ruling, the HBC continued to harass the Metis to prevent them from trading in furs. The company regularly searched for and seized furs from Metis, culminating in the 1849 trial of Pierre-Guillaume Sayer and two other Metis for contravening the HBC monopoly in trading furs from Indians and smuggling them to American merchants. It was only after this trial, which found the three guilty, that the HBC realized they had no way of enforcing the court decision given that hundreds of armed Metis had surrounded the courtroom and would accept no punishment for the three. It was only after that point that the company stopped their policy of seizing illegally traded furs and initiating legal actions against Metis traders in the Red River Settlement. Thus, by the 1850s the Metis in the Red River District had developed a view of themselves as holding both the rights of British subjects and aboriginal claims to the soil. They seldom if ever used the term 'Metis Nation' in this period to articulate their rights, but it was a position that might easily be construed as 'national.' This was not a position or a sentiment, however, that was present in 1816 when Cuthbert Grant and the Metis destroyed the Red River Settlement. This sense of nationalism was spurred by the events of 1815–16, but it only emerged in any conscious way in the thirty years afterward" (pp.112-113).


This event demonstrates the development of nation-consciousness and rights of economic self-determination amongst Metis people.  Some historians consider it a formative event in Metis ethnogenesis.  


Ens, Gerhard J., In Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History. Eds. St. Onge, Nicole, Macdougall, Brenda, and Podruchny, Carolyn. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012. 112-113.