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1899 and After

The Indian Agents of Fort Chipewyan: An Example of Treaty 8 Administration

Article Feature By Patrick Mackenzie

gerald card, indian agentThroughout most of western Canada Indian agents played an active role in the attempted assimilation of native people into the mainstream of Canadian society. With power over many aspects of the native people's lives, including travel privileges and food rations, most agents established themselves as "patrons" over their Status Indian "clients". They used this position to force their clients to adopt Christian, agrarian values and behaviours in exchange for such favours as patron might grant.

The Indian agents in the Treaty 8 community of Fort Chipewyan followed a very different pattern. First of all, the first few agents did not establish patron-client relationships with their "charges". The one who did try had mixed success at best. In addition, in the Treaty 8 region the government was less concerned with assimilating the native population than with helping them to remain financially independent. In the northern context this meant supporting the fur trade. The agents at Fort Chipewyan used their powers to interpret laws to fit the local situation and support the Cree and Chipewyan people. While they had some success on the local level, They could not protect the native hunters and trappers from the outside forces that threatened their way of life. 

For more information on Treaty 8 Revisited: Selected Papers on the 1999 Centennial Conference, visit the Lobstick website

Reprinted from with permission from Lobstick: An Interdisciplinary Journal. 

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