Skip to Main Content
A Fatherly Eye

A Fatherly Eye: Indian Agents, Government Power, and Aboriginal Resistance in Ontario, 1918-1939

Robin Jarvis Brownlie
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 232
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A Fatherly Eye
    Book Description:

    InA Fatherly Eye, historian Robin Brownlie examines how paternalism and assimilation during the interwar period were made manifest in the 'field', far from the bureaucrats in Ottawa, but never free of their oppressive supervision.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5982-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxiii)

    In the spring of 1933, Indian agent John Daly summoned to his Parry Sound office the chief and both councillors of the nearby Parry Island band (now Wasauksing First Nation).¹ These men—Chief John Manitowaba, his son Stanley Manitowaba, and Francis Pegahmagabow—were three of the most prominent challengers to his authority the Indian agent faced. His purpose in assembling the men was to read them a letter from the Department of Indian Affairs (dia), ordering them not to write to the department any more. All contact with Indian Affairs was to pass through the agent, and he alone would...

  5. 1 Homeland: The Area and the People
    (pp. 1-28)

    This study focuses on the experiences of some of the First Nations people who moved onto small reserves around Georgian Bay after signing treaties with Canada in the mid-nineteenth century. In particular, it examines their experiences with the federal government. The Georgian Bay area is probably best known for its unforgettable natural beauty, immortalized in some of Canada’s most famous paintings. Popular as a summer playground for urban Ontarians, the region otherwise attracts relatively little attention, particularly from academic historians. But in many ways the story of the First Nations here can be seen as a microcosm of Aboriginal-government relations...

  6. 2 ‘A Particularly Authoritarian Organization’: The Administrative Context
    (pp. 29-55)

    Aboriginal people who lived on reserves in the interwar period inhabited a physical and administrative world defined by the Indian department. Their lives and plans were controlled by dia officials in ways most Canadians would have found intolerable. Harold Cardinal has expressed the situation in stark language: ‘If you are a treaty Indian, you’ve never made a move without these guys, these bureaucrats … saying yes or no.’³ The reserve itself was an invention of colonialism, the Indian department decided who was entitled to live there, and the elective band council system had been imposed by the Indian Act to...

  7. 3 ‘It Did Not Matter Who Was Chief’: Band Councils
    (pp. 56-79)

    Conflict between Indian agents and First Nations people was an inevitable outcome of the federal government’s unilateral assumption of authority, to which the people had never consented. Lacking even the basic political right of the franchise,⁴ First Nations people had access to only one body capable of representing their interests: the band council. Yet the band council, an entity invented by the dia, was not intended to represent their interests. On the contrary, it was intended to displace traditional Aboriginal leadership, which had often opposed government policies, and to act as the executive that carried out the Indian administration’s will....

  8. 4 ‘Easy to Trick People by Putting Words on Paper’: Treaties and Aboriginal Rights
    (pp. 80-98)

    In 1926, Joseph Traunch of Collins Inlet wrote a letter to the Department of Indian Affairs.⁴ It was the sort of Aboriginal protest letter that department officials found easy to ignore. Traunch’s command of the English language was poor, and he had no authority to speak on behalf of anyone but himself. Moreover, instead of raising complaints about specific instances, he assailed the system in general: the department’s perceived indifference to Aboriginal welfare, its failure to uphold treaty rights, and the game conservation regime that imposed licences on the Anishinabek. In spite of his difficulties with the English language, Traunch’s...

  9. 5 ‘Economy Must Be Observed’: Assistance and Mediation
    (pp. 99-123)

    As the previous chapter has indicated, Aboriginal people had to rely on Indian Affairs officials in their attempts to maintain some access to the resources of their ancestral territories. This was only one of a great variety of areas in which they hoped for backup from these officials, especially from their local agent. Many factors compelled Aboriginal people to call on their Indian agent for help, particularly their poverty, social subordination, cultural and linguistic difference, low levels of education, and legal disabilities under the Indian Act. First Nations people were also positioned within Canadian society as ‘wards of the state’,...

  10. 6 ‘Always and Only an Indian’: Assimilation in Practice
    (pp. 124-149)

    In 1918, an educated young Aboriginal man named Clifford Tobias was recommended to the Department of Indian Affairs as a promising individual who might make a good teacher in an Indian school in Ontario.³ A dia employee in Chatham, Ontario, responded to this suggestion in a highly revealing letter. He acknowledged that the young man’s academic standing might be sufficient for the job, but was adamant that only white teachers should be hired to teach Aboriginal children. Not only would an ‘Indian’ be unable to impart knowledge of agriculture and horticulture, but he would be incapable of performing the most...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 150-157)

    This study has examined the experiences of First Nations people with the Indian agent system during the 1920s and 1930s. Such an inquiry offers insight into the sense of grievance expressed by so many Aboriginal people today, a sense of grievance aimed particularly at the federal government. In administering the lives of First Nations people, the government was often high-handed and controlling. It paid inadequate attention to the protection of treaty rights and was excessively concerned with maintaining control over the people. The paternalistic approach taken by the Indian agents meant that they offered some limited assistance to their clients...

  12. Appendix: Treaties
    (pp. 158-167)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 168-198)
  14. Index
    (pp. 199-204)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-206)