The government created many policies and rules that made it almost impossible for First Nations people to be successful farmers.
In 1889, the Indian Commissioner in North Battleford named Hayter Reed introduced the Peasant Policy. First Nations people were supposed to farm like peasants. They had to keep their farms small, and only use very basic tools and equipment. They were not allowed any metal tools or mechanized equipment, like tractors.
The Peasant Policy did not allow First Nations people to use tractors.
The treaty negotiators said that farming instructors would show the First Nations people how to farm and be self-sufficient. The Peasant Policy broke this promise. The farming instructors who went to the reserves did not teach any modern methods.
PHOTO CREDIT: PROVINCIAL ARCHIVES OF SASKATCHEWAN
Farming instructors on reserve did not teach any modern farming methods.
First Nations people approached farming in the same way they hunted, fished, and trapped in the past. It was a collective approach, with the entire community working together to succeed.
The Hutterite communities farmed collectively and that was accepted, but it was not accepted for First Nations people to farm collectively.
The Canadian government did not want First Nations people to farm as a group. They wanted to force the First Nations people to farm individually because this was another way that they could destroy the First Nations culture. Reserve farmland was divided into 40-acre plots and no one farmer could own more than 160 acres.
Pass and Permit System
The Pass and Permit System was devastating for First Nations farmers. They could not leave the reserve to sell products when they wanted. They had to get a permit to sell their goods. The settlers were also fined if they bought any kind of produce from the First Nations farmers. The Indian Agents had all of the power. Sometimes they did not give permits, or they gave them too late, so the goods that Indigenous people hoped to sell had rotted.
Indian Agent granting and signing permission on the Pass or Permit Card.
Greater Production Campaign
During the First and Second World Wars, the Government of Canada promised that they would give each First Nations person land, farming equipment, and resources if they went to war. When the Indigenous soldiers came back from war, they were not given what they were promised. Often Indian agents would claim the equipment for themselves, and the First Nation veterans were simply not given the land they were promised.
The Greater Production Campaign allowed First Nations land to be leased to non-Indigenous settlers if it was not being cultivated. The government claimed that it was necessary to produce more food because of the war. After the war, most of this land was given to non-Indigenous Veterans.
Brave Indigenous soldiers came home to Canada only to continue to be treated very unfairly.
After the Second World War, many First Nations veterans would return home from fighting overseas for Canada to discover they were no longer called able to live on the reserve. There was a government act in place that specified that First Nations people that were absent from the reserve for four years were no longer considered First Nations.
Years later, a settlement agreement was reached to address the loss of land to Indigenous Veterans.