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Who Were Indian Agents?

Once the First Nations people were placed onto reserves after the treaties were signed, Indian Agents were hired by the government to make sure the rules in the Indian Act were followed. The agents were meant to oversee everything that happened on reserve. The government assigned Indian Agents to each Band across Saskatchewan. Sometimes Indian Agents were responsible for several Bands that were grouped into districts.

A group of men stand together outside of a wooden building in Fort Pitt in 1884. 
Left to right: Thomas Trueman Quinn, Indian Agent; Inspector Francis Jeffries Dickens, NWMP, son of the novelist, in command of the Fort Pitt Detachment; James Keith Simpson, son of Sir George Simpson, the great Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company; Frederick Stanley Simpson, HBC clerk, Fort Pitt; Angus McKay, Post Manager, HBC, Fort Pitt.

A group of Indian Agents and Hudson’s Bay Company employees stand for a photo at Fort Pitt in 1884.

Not Allowed

In most things, the Indian Agents controlled the livelihood of the people on the reserves. The government wanted the First Nations people to abandon their traditions and culture and assimilate into European society. They told the First Nations people what they could or could not do.

The Canadian government banned traditional names, ceremonies, and cultural traditions. The Indian Agent would come with military or Mounties (North-West Mounted Police) to tear down any ceremonies that occurred.

First Nations boys in traditional dress at Pion-Era preparing to dance. Saskatoon, SK, 1958.

For many years, First Nations people were not allowed to have ceremonies.

An illustrated North-West Mounted Policeman wears a uniform and sits on a horse.

RCMP officers would force the ceremonies to stop.

When an original Chief of a First Nation tribe on a reserve had passed away, the Indian agent would decide who the next leader would be. This was not the First Nations’ traditional way of doing things.

Indian agents worked with the North-West Mounted Police and the church and were given complete power by the government to make decisions for First Nations people.

Poor Relationship

The relationship between the Indian Agents and the First Nations people was not good.

The Indian Agents had a lot of power over First Nations people.

Chief Paskwa of the First Nation band, ‘Pasqua’ of Treaty 4 Territory, wrote a pictograph letter stating what the relationship between his people and the government was. This letter was supposed to be sent to the ‘Great White Mother’, which means the Queen of England. The letter tells of the mistreatment by the government and authorities in the area after the treaties were agreed upon. It was written in symbols and pictures.

A hand-drawn pictograph made by Chief Paskwa is shown, where he explains what is being agreed to in Treaty 4.


A hand-drawn pictograph made by Chief Paskwa was made to explain how badly First Nations people were being treated after signing treaties.