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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Excerpt from The Future of the Indians of Canada
 - John Chantler McDougall

McDougall Memorial United Church, Morley

His contact with the new life has, as doubtless was the case with that of all men, been fruitful of both blessing and bane. This strange new man, who came to him with the Bible in one hand and absolute domination and run and whiskey and many foul diseases in the other, has been, indeed, as a living paradox to the docile, passive Indian; and hundreds of thousands have fallen victims to war and pestilence, and run and vice. This civilization with its permanent home life and dwelling in houses and fixed habitations and its multiple insanitation, has been cruel and full of disease-breeding to the Indian peoples. While their former life gave pure air and the constant change of camp and scene, the steadily demanded need of a permanent residence on the reserve has thrust the Indian into crude cabins full of foul atmosphere and surcharged with the germs of terrible disease. Then the change of diet from meat and foul and fish to cereals and vegetables and salt and sugar and syrup, etc., has come so suddenly, especially with all our western Indians, that nature herself has been taken by surprise and is unable thus hurriedly to adapt herself to these sudden and radical changes.

Then on top of all this are his limitation. If he is a treaty Indian he cannot visit a friend on a neighbouring reserve without a permit. He cannot go to the nearest market town without a permit. In what was his own country, and on his own land, to which he was born out of the centuries, he cannot travel in peace without a permit. He cannot buy and sell without a permit. He may raise cattle, but he cannot sell them unless the Government official allows. He may cultivate the soil, but he is not the owner of his own produce. He cannot sell firewood or hay from the land that is his by divine and citizen right, and thus reap the result of his own industry, unless subject to the caprice or whim of one who often becomes his autocrat.

Said an Indian to me a few days since: “I raise cattle, but they are not mine; my own wood I cannot sell; my own hay I cannot do what I would with. I cannot even do as I like with the fish I may catch; how can I become a man?”

This was the cry of one who was bred in absolute liberty. Another said, “The farm instructor on this reserve owns more than half of every Indian who lives here. We are not men, we are slaves.” In this case paternalism has been carried to a criminal extreme. Independence and manhood have been most awfully discounted.

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