A key aspect of the Treaty 4 discussions was Lieutenant-Governor Alexander Morris’ offer to teach Indigenous signatories “the cunning of the white man.” Two key aspects of this educational assistance was meant to be the provisioning of agricultural assistance and establishment of schools.
Agricultural assistance and schooling was to be implemented on a voluntary basis. Highlighted by Morris’ statement during the treaty negotiations: “when they [the treaty signatories] are ready for it she [the Queen] will send schoolmasters on every reserve and pay them.” However, through an Indian Act amendment these programs became mandatory. The Severalty Policy was put in place to discourage communal farming in order to assimilate Indigenous farmers into the European style of individual, nuclear family, run plots. The Peasant Farming Policy was also implemented that made it mandatory for Indigenous farmers to use subpar and out of date tools. Additionally, schools were to be controlled by Indigenous governments, instead the federal Residential School system was used to undermine Indigenous cultures, languages, and lifestyles. This change was contrary to the treaty negotiations and was meant to further Canada’s goal of assimilation.
Negotiating Schooling and Agricultural Assistance