CENTRALIZATION ROOTS: 1935
This quote from a literary piece by D.H. Reddall, about the near demise of the Wampanoag First Nation, also aptly describes the situation of the Mi'kmaq First Nation in the twentieth century:
"Today there are only a couple of thousand Wampanoags left in New England. No doubt they would agree with John Steinbeck: "The Indians survived our open intentions of wiping them out, and since the tide turned they have weathered our good intentions towards them, which can be much more deadly."
In late 1935 the Privy Council of Canada's government retained Dr. Thomas Robertson to undertake an in-depth study of the living conditions of the Indians in the Maritimes. The following is an extract from the report he submitted to the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs on June 9, 1936:
While there are a great many what we might call good houses among the Indians, while conditions vary in different districts, while better conditions exist among the Indians living on Reserves, more particularly those close to an Agent, yet in every district there are unsanitary houses, houses badly in need of repair and, in the great majority of districts, houses that are absolutely unfit for occupation.
There is a lot of T.B. and venereal diseases. While there has been considerable improvement in the health of the Indians of late, this condition cannot hope to be continued under the present undernourished conditions, bad housing and the close contact of children with parents and other members of the family who are suffering from tuberculosis.
From the foregoing it will be seen that conditions among the Indians are very bad and many of them are depending wholly upon what they receive from the Government for their support.
The opinion of the man on the street is that the Indian is lazy, useless and himself responsible for his present conditions. However, a study of the record of each individual shows that the great majority of the Indians are good workers and that his present condition is due to matters over which he has little or no control.
For evidence of this we have but to look at conditions as they exist today in the activities by which he formerly obtained his livelihood, i.e., fishing, hunting, trapping, labour, etc. Hunting and trapping is a thing of the past. Very few are engaged in fishing, principally because today fishing is a deep water proposition and the Maritime Indian is not a deep water man. [This incorrect assessment must have been hauled out of the blue.]
No one will employ an Indian today, he is a "ward" of the Government.
While this is not one of the methods by which he formerly obtained his living, it is one on which the Government has expended considerable money in breaking land and supplying him with fertilizer and seed. Before condemning the Indian for not increasing his farming operations, let us look at conditions under which he was asked to do so.
He knew nothing about farming, he needed instruction. He is a good worker only under supervision. He was given neither instruction nor supervision. His land was broken, he was given fertilizer and seed and then left to his own devices. If he ate the seed potatoes and sold the fertilizer, as many of them did, he received his full relief allowance, but if he produced a crop his allowance was reduced. He was penalized for producing and bonused for non-production.
With the exception of a little labour in the potato fields of Maine, some pulp wood in parts of New Brunswick and Cape Breton and some guiding in Nova Scotia, the only source of revenue the Indian has today is from handles and baskets. Due to factory competition reducing the price, the Indian finds that after paying the costs of marketing his goods there is very little left for himself.
While the fact that the Indian population is increasing demands that he be made self-supporting, and a study of the record of the Indian as a worker shows that this can be done, many years have elapsed under the Government of both political Parties but no plan has been evolved whereby he may be placed in the position where he could be made self-supporting.
The situation today is that the Indian is deteriorating and looking more and more to the Government for his support. That unless some plan is formulated whereby he may be placed in the position where he will be self-supporting, expenditures for the assistance of the Indian will have to be greatly increased.
A search for means of increasing the Indian's earnings proves there is nothing to be gained from hunting, fishing or trapping, nor is there much to be hoped for in the realm of labour, but it does show that his revenue from handles, baskets and craft wood could be greatly increased.
With Indian goods superior as they are to the factory product, there can be no doubt a proper organization could secure contracts from consumers of these goods, such as governments, railways, parks, potato companies, etc., and also find new markets among tourists, merchants, etc., in this way saving of time and money now spent by the Indian peddling his goods, as well as increasing his sales.
While increased earnings from handle and craft work would be of great assistance, any plan in which there can be any hope for success in the placing of the Indian in a position where he may be made self-supporting must make agriculture its back-bone with close and competent supervision its most vital essential."
Robertson outlined what he viewed to be the major problems facing First Nations in the Maritimes. However, he left out the one problem that is amply demonstrated in the words of his report-racism. Although he discusses it without calling it by name, and describes how it prevents the People from being self-sufficient, he offers no suggestions on how it might be effectively dealt with. Perhaps if he had interviewed my parents about it, he would have understood how terrible it was and made a few additional recommendations.
Click on the following URLs to read about how Centralization was begot, developed, and abandoned.
Centralization Plan Developed
Centralization Plan Implemented - 1942
Centralization Plan Abandoned - 1950
Centralization - Product of White Supremacist Bureaucrats
ChiefBen Christmas - Mi'kmaq Centralization opponent Hero
Department of Indian Affairs Ration Rates - 1940