The Indian Commissioners: Agents of the State and Indian Policy in Canada's Prairie West,
1873 - 1932
The Indian Commissioners: Agents of the State and Indian Policy in Canada’s Prairie West, 1873-1932. Edmonton: The University of Alberta Press, 2009.
Between 1873 and 1932, Indian policy on the prairies was the responsibility of federal government appointees known as Indian Commissioners. Charged with incorporating Native society into the apparatus of the emergent state, these officials directed a complex configuration of measures that included treaties, the Indian Act, schools, agriculture, and to some degree, missionary activity. In this study, Brian Titley constructs critical biographical portraits of the six Indian Commissioners, examining their successes and failures in confronting the challenges of a remarkable period in Canada’s history.
“The Indian Commissioners: Agents of the State and Indian Policy in Canada’s Prairie West, 1873-1932, is a beautifully-written, balanced portrayal of six government-appointed men who held the position of Indian commissioner in Canada’s prairies. Reinterpreting and building on some of his earlier publications, Brian Titley weaves a multi-dimensional tapestry blending personalities with policy, political circumstance and Native resistance.” Helen Raptis, Historical Studies in Education/Revue d’histoire de l’éducation, 23, 2, Autumn 2-11: 148-150.
“Brian Titley’s The Indian Commissioners makes a fine contribution to Great Plains history, and in Canadian studies, the shaping of western Indian policy. The case of Canada’s Indian commissioners, appointed from 1873 to 1909 and again between 1920 and 1932, is worthy of a single study. Titley’s thesis is solidly argued: though responsible for putting into practice Ottawa’s policies, the six Indian commissioners in the history of the service retained some latitude in carrying them out. Beneficiaries of party patronage, and often enjoying the confidence of either the prime minister or various ministers of the interior, they had backing enough to put their own stamp on policies of special concern to them. These included the treaty processes they oversaw and in some ways shaped, Native residential and industrial schooling, assimilation efforts, and changing reserve land policies. . . The Indian Commissioners will help students of Great Plains history better understand the personalities and political contexts shaping some of the most significant directions in native policy in the Canadian West.” George Colpitts, Great Plains Quarterly, 31,1, Winter 2011: 70, 71.
“This book will confirm the worst fears of non-Aboriginal Canadians and verify what Aboriginal Canadians always knew – the Indian commissioners were, for the most part, a sorry lot and should be held accountable for the even sorrier state of Aboriginal peoples in Western Canada today. . . Each of the chapters has its own tale to tell, but the stories all connect and illustrate the critical role of the Indian commissioners in pacifying Aboriginal peoples to allow for the economical control of land. Canadian imperialism was always done on the cheap. . . The book is a must-have companion for those interested in nineteenth and early twentieth century Western Canada.” Frits Pannekoek, Canadian Book Review Annual Online, 2009.