Prospecting School in Northern Saskatchewan and Prospectors' Assistance Plan


A prospecting school was created in Northern Saskatchewan communities including La Ronge, Beauval, Creighton, Stanley Mission, Cumberland House and Uranium City to provide increased (though not ideal) job opportunity and stability for participants, who later had a greater likelihood of working in the prospecting industry, such as for a mining company. Prospecting classes were also held in Saskatoon, Regina, Moose Jaw and Yorkton. Prior to the implementation of the school, the government had not been providing assistance to the community beyond distributing supplies such as canoes and prospecting equipment. Malcolm Norris was the driving force behind these prospecting classes and intended to provide a means for Metis and Indigenous peoples to obtain a livelihood. He saw it as a natural fit because Indigenous people had a tendency to be highly familiar with the territory. The Prospector's Assistance Plan, mentioned by Sheridan was introduced by the provincial government to accelerate natural resource/mining development in Saskatchewan. Although Sheridan indicates the Prospectors' Assistance Plan as beginning in 1949, the program was first introduced in the 1947-1948 fiscal year. It was not until 1949, however, that the program saw the first two pairs of Aboriginal people enter the prospecting field. Sheridan states that the Assistance Plan was an offshoot of the prospecting school. As such, this extension of programming which derived from the prospecting school can be taken as an indicator that the work of the prospecting school was considered desirable, valuable and successful. 



Interviewee Tony Wood (see attached PDF) notes that the school improved job opportunities and the potential for good wages, although available prospecting jobs were seasonal, not permanent.  As well, in "CCF Colonialism", Quiring notes that racist attitudes held by politicians, bureaucrats and mining companies prevented Metis and First Nations from entering mining positions, restricting them to seasonal prospecting jobs.  More specifically, individuals in power believed that the "pre-industrial" cultures of Indigenous peoples hindered their preparedness, skills and ability to engage in the requirements of mining work.  In his interview with Murray Dobbin, Sheridan notes that even the field of prospecting, prior to the creation of this school, was dominated by non-Indigenous people. Quiring states that by 1949, the Prospectors' Assistance Plan sent two pairs of Aboriginal people into the field of prospecting who were paid $100 per month and given supplies.  However, the livelihoods of Indigenous people suffered when Indian Affairs withdrew funding of the program in response to Norris' criticisms of the department's educational policies.  According to Quiring, the program was eventually transferred out of the Department of Natural Resources (Indian Affairs was under the jurisdiction of this department) and into Mineral Resources - allowing funding to be restored.