Provincial Conferences of Saskatchewan Indian Chiefs and Councillors at Fort Qu'Appelle

One hundred and three councillors and Chiefs attended a conference of Indigenous leaders in Fort Qu'Appelle on October 30, 1958, during which Premier T.C. Douglas presented proposals on liquor and voting rights. In an effort to implement an integrationist policy, Douglas sought to pass legislation extending provincial voting rights to First Nations, removing restrictions on the sale of liquor on reserves, and the transfer of responsibility from Indian Affairs to the provincial government. The issue of provincial franchise was controversial since the term resembled "enfranchisement", the term used in the Indian Act to describe a colonial process by which an someone lost their ‘Indian Status,’ gained the vote, and were forced to leave their reserve. Since enfranchisement meant the loss of material goods and a ‘legal identity,’ many First Nations peoples were hesitant to accept the vote. Others felt that allowing liquor on reserves was not in the best interest of their populations.

Following deliberations, those present advised Douglas to wait until further consultations with band members had completed so as to avoid conflict. This conference also saw the creation of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians (FSI), a unified organization for Indigenous peoples across the province. As the government's policies faced rejection Douglas’ government aimed to adopt a more consultative style, and created an Advisory Committee composed of one Indigenous member from each of the nine agencies in the province. The committee was set up to help plan the next conference and consult with members on reserves. A second conference took place at Fort Qu'Appelle on October 20 and 21, 1959. As with the first conference, no consensus was obtained regarding voting and liquor rights.


Barron, F.L., Walking in Indian Moccasins: the native policies of Tommy Douglas and the CCF, 80-82.


Pitsula, James. "The Saskatchewan CCF Government and Treaty Indians, 1944-1964." Canadian Historical Review 75, no. 1 (1994): 33-34.


Saskatchewan Archives Board, Douglas Papers, R-33.1 XLV 864d (49) 4/6 "Indians" Cabinet Memorandum, November 7, 1958.

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A motion was eventually passed that granted franchise to First Nations in the province, although it was passed without their consent and contrary to what Douglas had promised. Douglas gave three reasons for the action: voting would not jeopardize treaty rights, politicians were more apt to listen to Indigenous peoples if they were voters, and, according to Douglas, many young people said they wanted the vote. However, throughout Douglas’ premiership were frequent objections from Indigenous leaders, such as John Tootoosis and Andrew Paull), who expressed their anger and frustration with the CCF and “white men’s” interference on Indian affairs and policy. This was due to the fact that CCF officials frequently called meetings of the FSI, pressed the Federal government for policy change on behalf of the FSI, and pressured FSI leadership to adopt colonial policies and ‘lifestyles’ in place of Indigenous self-governance and control of resources.
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