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Stolen Land

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

At risk of stirring the pot a little, I want to address the issue of stolen land. When I discuss this topic with non-Indigenous people, many bring up subjects like government handouts. So, let's talk about how one is related to the other, and who is receiving what.

The thing is, the Federal Government mandated the starvation of Indigenous People in Canada to coerce them to sign the treaties. Some treaties even involved alcohol. Now think about legal contracts. If I were to buy a house, a car, try to get married, or even get a tattoo when I have had one too many that contract becomes null and void.

Signing a contract under duress such as starvation also renders a contract as null and void, yet John A. MacDonald mandated the starvation of Indigenous People in Canada to get them to agree to the treaties.

Once the treaties were signed and the land cleared, he subdivided the land into 160 acre parcels and made them available to every (white) individual, so man woman, and child through what is known as a Land Grant. To get the land, all you had to do was agree to make improvements.

You could clear it, sell the lumber; farm it, raise cattle, build a homestead ...whatever you want, so long as you make improvements. Then, when you are too old to work the land, you can pass it onto your children, and they farm it and pass it on to their children, and so on and so forth. Then one day when the kids no longer want to work the farm, they can subdivide it into 5 acre parcels and sell each parcel for upwards of $100,000. This grosses the settler somewhere around 3mill by today's prices. Whereas, Natives weren't even allowed to sell carrots (if they could grow anything on reserve land), without permission from the Indian Agent.

This is why we say the land is stolen. Now think about what happens if you find out you bought a stolen car. The car is taken by the police, and you never see your money again. Yet, that has never happened in regards to people who have purchased stolen land. This is just one of many injustices faced by FNMI people in Canada. The laws of this land are racist and discriminatory. In no way, are they in favour of Indigenous people, yet we are the ones accused of receiving government handouts.

Christians should be outraged about this, but many or not. Many say they feel guilty but refuse to do anything about it. Others ask, what should we do? The answer to this question is between each person and God. One of the ten commandments reads, "Thou shalt not steal." Perhaps there needs to be an eleventh commandment that reads "thou shalt not live of the avails of stolen land, culture and lives."

The idea is to continue to share the land, but actually share it. Canadian reserves are a form of segregation. Granted, they provide a place where First Nations can go to be free from racial harassment, but isn't the idea to get used to the Other? To intermingle and invite one another into our cultures to experience it firsthand? To learn to love the Other, to see one another through God's eyes? Until we can put authentic love for the Other into action nothing will be done, we will simply continue on in a culture of racism and discrimination.


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Allan Effa
Allan Effa
Jun 29, 2021

Thank you for writing this, Agnes. I am not sure if there was a formal policy of starvation put into place, or if starvation was the inevitable outcome of settlers' over-hunting and the near extinction of the bison. Either way, starvation was real and contributed to the loss of land, much like the Brits did to Irish farmers during the 19th century potato famine (in order to qualify for free food, land owners had to give up their right to their land). My grandfather was one of those settlers who cleared the land and settled in eastern Saskatchewan. He was seen as a pioneer, establishing a homestead in "empty land," probably with no appreciation for the fact that the…

Agnes Mastin
Agnes Mastin
Jun 30, 2021
Replying to

Hi Dr. Effa, thank you for your comment. You may find the following articles that point out that starvation was indeed mandated, and even studied. You may also want to read James Daschuk's Clearing the Plains that tells the story of clearing the Canadian Plains by mandating the starvation of Indian Peoples.

I also want to say that upon rounding up the people that were my ancestors and limiting their lifestyle to reserve land our reserve became known as Fort Misery because there was no food there except for bannock.

In Creator's love, Agnes.

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