Lost Harvests: Prairie Indian Reserve Farmers and Government Policy


Excerpt from Preface, Page x:

"The standard explanation for the failure of agriculture on western Canadian reserves is that the Indians could not be convinced of the value or necessity of the enterprise. It was believed that the sustained labour required of them was alien to their culture and that the transformation of hunters into farmers was a process that historically took place over centuries. When I began to investigate the question of why agriculture failed to provide reserves residents a living, I thought I would add detail to this explanation but essentially retain it intact.

It was the Indians, not the government, that showed an early and sustained interest in establishing agriculture on the reserves. Although the government publicly proclaimed that its aim was to assist Indians to adopt agriculture, little was done to put this course into effect. In fact government policies acted to retard agriculture on the reserves. The Indians had to persuade government officials of the later assemblies, they sought assurance that a living by agriculture would be provided to them, and they used ever means at their disposal to persuade a reluctant government that they be allowed the means to farm. They proved anxious to farm and be independent of government assistance, despite discouraging results year after year. Not all Indians wished to farm but many did, and circumstances compelled some to consider this option at a time when there were few others. In the decade after 1885, government policies made it virtually impossible for reserve agriculture to succeed because the farmers were prevented from using the technology required for agricultural activity in the West. The promotion or reserve land surrender after the turn of the century further precluded the hope that agriculture could form the basis of a stable economy on reserves." (x). 

A digital edition of Lost Harvests is available through Open Library


Publication Information

Carter, Sarah. Lost Harvests: Prairie Indian Reserve Farmers and Government Policy. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990.

Carter, Sarah
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