9. The File Hills Farm Colony Legacy
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303 9 The File Hills Farm Colony Legacy FirstNationspeopleinCanadahaveexperiencedandcontinuetoexperienceamultitudeofhardshipsatthehandofthegovernmentthrough various colonial and assimilation policies. The aim of this chapter is to provide a unique perspective about a little-known facet of Canadian history,theFileHillsFarmColony,andtoengageinanaccurateethnographicrepresentationofcontemporaryindigenouspeoplesthatavoids the hazards of stereotyping, idealizing, and freezing in time and space. A social experiment grounded in British colonial expansionist ideology , the File Hills Farm Colony was created by the Canadian government in southern Saskatchewan in 1897. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, graduates from Indian residential and industrial schools were chosen to transfer to the Peepeekisis Cree Nation reserve. Land was set aside by the federal government for use in a project proposed by the Indian agent, William Morris Graham, with the intent to create an agrarian, utopian community of First Nations participants. It was hoped that the implementation of the colony would create a selfsufficientpopulationandactasasolutiontothe “Indianproblem”(Bednasek 2009a:88) in Canada. This chapter examines the contemporary issues that have arisen as a result of the colony’s existence. NorthAmericanscholarlypublicationsonindigenouscultureshave often focused on the historical events and tragedies experienced by aboriginal peoples. The first section of this chapter presents this type of information on the File Hills community. Utilizing archival documents and previously published information, I reconstruct a brief history of the File Hills Farm Colony from the time of the 1874 signing of Treaty 4 in Saskatchewan, to the creation of the Peepeekisis band, and finally to the implementation and disintegration of the File Hills Farm Colony on the Peepeekisis reserve. Based on this historical overview of the colony, I address the probCheyanne Desnomie 304 Cheyanne Desnomie lemsthathaveoftensurroundedthestudyofindigenoustopicsandthe useofindigenousknowledgesinacademicwriting.1Iattempttorectify thesepastissuesinindigenousscholarlywritingbyadoptingamethodologythatinvolvestheuseoforatoryandtheacknowledgmentofsocial memoryasavalidmethodofpassingonknowledge.Indoingso,theuse of vernacular, or “everyday,” language to express information is maintained throughout the chapter. I also explore previous representations ofindigenouspeoplesinanthropologicalstudythroughadiscussionof thehistoricaluseofsalvageanthropologyandtheethnographicpresent. Inordertoproduceanappropriaterepresentationofthecurrentsituation that the Peepeekisis community now finds itself in, I intend this chapter to be viewed as an autoethnography. Not only have I engaged in personal communication with Peepeekisis members and visits to the reserve, but the topic I address here is directly related to my own status as a First Nations woman and registered member of Peepeekisis CreeNation.Previousresearchconductedbyotherscholarsonthecolony has often been primarily focused on the transfers of ex-residential and industrial school graduates to Peepeekisis. With few exceptions, very little information has been presented about the current situation that the descendants of the “original” band members of the Peepeekisis community have experienced. It is my desire not only to share the collective history of my band but also to provide a voice for those who may not have previously had the opportunity to tell their stories. Peepeekisis and the File Hills Farm Colony: A Historical Perspective There is no denying that the relationship between the aboriginal population of Canada and the country’s governing body is a historically complicated one. Evidence of this can be seen every day in the media and in news reports about various First Nation communities. For PeepeekisisCreeNation ,areservelocatedintheTreaty4territoryofsouthern Saskatchewan, it is no different. Unlike other reserves in Canada, Peepeekisis served as the location of a radical experiment in aboriginal assimilation and colonial policies. This scheme would be known as the File Hills Farm Colony.2 An attempt at creating an agrarian First Nation utopia by the Canadian government, this social experiment The File Hills Farm Colony Legacy 305 is little known to the Canadian general public. However, at the time of its implementation and operation, the colony was heralded both in Canada and internationally as an innovative success in the management of Indigenous peoples. Despite this level of recognition, it becomes apparent under a close examination that the project was rife with eugenic implications, land displacement, and a general disregard for the original members of the Peepeekisis band. AlthoughthereserveisnamedafterhissonPeepeekisis,itwasChief Canahachapew(ReadyBow)whowaspresentatthesigningofTreaty 4. Described as a “much needed step” toward “bringing the Indians of the Fertile Belt into closer relations with the Government of Canada” (Morris 1991 [1880]:77), Treaty 4 was signed on September 15, 1874, after several days of negotiations. Arthur J. Ray, Jim Miller, and Frank J. Tough explain that the language of each of the numbered treaties indicates the objectives of the treaty-making process, objectives that included the “opening [of] areas for settlement in exchange for the Crown’sbountyandbenevolence,therebyensuringpeaceandgoodwill” (2000:59). Earlier Treaties 1 and 2 discussed the locations of reserve lands in regard to specific bands and chiefs; however, subsequent treaties did not specify which lands were to be set aside for reserve use. Instead, reserves were to be located “where it shall be...


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