The treaties confirmed the rights the First Nations people had to travel freely and hunt where they wanted. The Canadian government broke this promise when they supported the Pass System. The Pass System meant First Nations people could only leave the reserve if the Indian Agent gave them permission.
The Indian Agents decided who could hunt and gather, how many days a person could leave for, and what they were allowed to do when they left. If a First Nations person wanted to leave the reserve to sell grain, hunt, fish, travel to town, or visit their children in a school, they had to get written permission on a card from the Indian Agent.
Reserves were like jails for First Nations people.
The Pass System prevented people from participating in cultural and spiritual activities because they were often not allowed to travel to them. Family members could not travel between reserves to visit each other.
CREDIT: Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan
Here’s an example of a reserve pass that First Nations people would need to go anywhere off of the reserve.
The Pass System also segregated First Nations people. It kept the First Nations people and the European settlers separate. Settlers and First Nations people were not allowed to get to know each other. When you don’t know someone, it is more difficult to understand them. Settlers had the freedom and opportunity to succeed that First Nations people did not.
European Settlers could travel anywhere they wanted to, while First Nations people could not.
To this day, the Pass System is not recognized by the Government of Canada. Although it was not a law in the Indian Act, the Ministry of Indian Affairs supported the Pass System and it was very real. There is evidence that suggests the Pass System was enforced until the early 1950s.
Think about this…Your grandparents were likely born when the Pass System was still in place.
Look how little freedom First Nations people had when a pass was required for them to leave the reserve.