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Indigenous Peoples
 

The concern expressed by some Fathers of Confederation for minority rights did not extend to the rights of indigenous peoples. The intention was that aboriginals would be assimilated into the society created by immigrants of European descent. Attempts by natives in the west to protect their autonomy were resisted by government officials – as the Plains Cree chief PAYIPWAT discovered when he and the Assiniboin nation tried to establish their own territory near Fort Walsh in present-day Saskatchewan:

“Their efforts were frustrated by Indian commissioner Edgar Dewdney*. By 1881 he was aware that the huge concentration of Indians had made them an autonomous political entity which neither the police nor the government could control. He believed that he could use the starvation which the people were experiencing with the disappearance of the buffalo to force acceptance of the treaties as written and to prevent the creation of an Indian territory. He was helped, unwittingly, by the Young Dogs and other Cree. In 1881, when they went to the remaining buffalo ranges in Montana, they stole horses from the Crow there and allegedly killed cattle for food. The American army rounded up the Cree, confiscated their guns and wagons, and escorted them back to Canada. Once they were effectively disarmed, Dewdney seized the opportunity. He recommended the closing of Fort Walsh in 1882 and stopped issuing rations until the Cree and the Assiniboin gave up their requests for reserves in the hills and moved north.”


To read more about minority rights and aboriginal peoples, please consult the biographies listed below.

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