Creation of Union of Saskatchewan Indians

The Union of Saskatchewan Indians was formed in 1946 as a provincial Aboriginal political organization. It was created with assistance by Saskatchewan Premier T.C Douglas. John Tootoosis was the first president of this group, which was the amalgamation of three previously existing groups: the Protective Association for Indians and their Treaties, the Saskatchewan Indian Association, and the Saskatchewan section of the North American Indian Brotherhood. Aboriginal members of the union had voting privileges, but persons of any race were eligible for non-voting honorary membership. The choice of John Tootoosis as president was hoped to bring together First Nations people from the north (treaty 6) and the south (treaty 4) into one united organization.----------Premier T. C. Douglas began to take a more direct role in Indigenous affairs after July 1945, when members of the Carry-the-Kettle Reserve (Dan Kennedy's reserve) conferred on him the honorary title of Chief Weagasha (Red Eagle). The work of T.C. Douglas and his legal advisor Morris Shumiatcher seems to have irritated some bureaucrats in the federal government, who viewed this active involvement with First Nations organizations as provincial meddling in an area of exclusively federal jurisdiction. It was also known that Douglas wished to have federal services to Indians transfered to provincial governments.

Other Note

Premier Douglas strongly believed Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan needed to be "integrated" into mainstream society. He believed that a unified voice for First Nations people in Saskatchewan would give greater weight to their demands when presented to officials in Ottawa. However, some scholars have named Douglas's 'integration' policies as blatant efforts at assimilation. In Lewis H. Thomas's book, The Making of a Socialist: The Recollections of T.C. Douglas, the Premier mentions his desire to transfer control of Indian Affairs from the federal to provincial jurisdiction. Douglas notes that Indigenous peoples have been segregated from urban Canadian communities, where the substandard living conditions were out of view of settlers. He is optimistic that over a longer period of time, "complete assimilation could ultimately happen." He speaks of social assimilation as being vital to the development of Indigenous people in Canada. It is evident through Douglas' writings that despite intentions, the rhetoric of white saviourism and assimilation was apparent in his Indigenous policies, relationships, and written/spoken goals.

Result
David Quiring suggests that, because of Douglas's involvement in the creation of the organization, it was strongly allied with the CCF. In some respects, the Union might have been undermined by activities of settlers who often assumed that they were better aware of the interests of Indigenous people than Indigenous people themselves. In the end, the CCF involvement in the creation of a unified provincial Indian organization presented both benefits and consequences. On the negative side, the enemies of the government sometimes became the enemies of the Union. The antipathy of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Saskatchewan Liberals, damaged the Union. Although Douglas claimed a desire for Indigenous people of Saskatchewan to unite, he also had a goal of what the future of Indigenous peoples in Canada should look like - integration with the mainstream population.
Rural or Urban
both
Start Date
1946-00-00
Community