Prosecution of Pass System Violations

In an attempt to stop people from using passes to attend ceremonies on other reserves, Deputy Superintendent Graham issued a directive to Indian Agents to prosecute individuals that participated in any activities other than those specified on the pass they were issued. Graham further noted the Royal North-West Mounted Police had greatly cooperated with the wishes of the Indian Agents, and had not questioned the legality of preventing First Nations from participating in dances and other ceremonies on neighbouring reserves. The dances were perceived as a threat because it continued the transmission of traditions and customs, which counteracted colonial methods to eliminate Indigenous cultures across Canada. 


Enforcement of the pass system was an effort by the federal government to control and surveil the activities of Indigenous people in Canada. It should be noted that the pass system was never codified in law. Despite this, the head of the Department of Indian Affairs encouraged government and police officials to deceive Indigenous people about its legality. This event demonstrates government attempts to further restrict the movement of Indigenous people. Prohibition of participation in ceremony disrupted community and kinship networks and means of social support, and spiritual expression. It also constituted a violation of freedom of religious/spiritual thought. Although Indigenous peoples were hindered by the Pass System, and there was significant disruption on the transmission of knowledge, particularly women's ceremonies, they continued to practice them in modified ways or in secret. For example, this directive did not prevent individuals from travelling to outside reserves to participate in communal gatherings.
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