The Laurier Liberals and the Theft of First Nations Reserve Land
"Canadians and politicians have a common responsibility: to learn from the mistakes inherited from a colonialist legacy; and to not repeat the wrongs, corruption, and injustices our people suffered in the hands of government officials, politicians, and their oppressive laws. Reading and learning from Cheated would be a good place to start reconciliation and reparation." -- Ovide Mercredi, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations
The story of how Laurier Liberals took hold of the Department of Indian Affairs in 1896 and transformed it into a machine for expropriating Indigenous land.
You won't find the Ocean Man and Pheasant Rump reserves on a map of southeastern Saskatchewan. In 1901, the two Nakoda bands reluctantly surrendered the 70 square miles granted to them under treaty. It's just one of more than two dozen surrenders aggressively pursued by the Laurier Liberal government over a fifteen-year period. One in five acres was taken from First Nations.
This confiscation was justified on the grounds that prairie bands had too much land and that it would be better used by white settlers. In reality, the surrendered land was largely scooped up by Liberal speculators -- including three senior civil servants and a Liberal cabinet minister --and flipped for a tidy profit. None were held to account.
Cheated is a gripping story of single-minded politicians, uncompromising Indian Affairs officials, grasping government appointees, and well-connected Liberal speculators, set against a backdrop of politics, power, patronage, and profit. The Laurier government's settlement of western Canada can never be looked at the same way again.
About this Author
Historian Bill Waiser is the author of more than a dozen books, including A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan before 1905, winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction. He is also the recipient of the Governor General's History Award for Popular Media (the Pierre Berton Award). Bill lives in Saskatoon, SK.
Historian Jennie Hansen has been involved in numerous projects that investigate how nature was understood, appropriated, and administered under British imperialism. She lives in Saskatoon, SK.
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