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Across the Canadian Prairies
The Indians — Farming around Indian Head

The Indian Industrial School at Fort Qu’Appelle, which is under the able supervision of the Rev. J. Hugonnard, deserves more than passing mention. It is doing a noble work, and upon it and similar institutions largely depends the solution of the interesting Indian problem. Efforts are being made to lift the Indians out of the wretched position they have occupied for so long, to make them appreciate the advantages of a better mode of living, and the necessity of working for a livelihood. The institution is not entirely a Government one, but a certain payment is made for every child sent there. Under existing legislation the Government have power to take children from the tribes and place them in Industrial Schools, where they are kept until they arrive at years of discretion. So attached to the schools do they become, that they frequently return to them in after years, in case of ill-health or of temporary difficulties in procuring employment. Cases of running away are extremely rare. During the term in which they are kept at the schools the children are not allowed to return to the reserves from which they came, but they are often visited by their parents. It is not an unusual, and it certainly is a pathetic sight, to see an Indian cart and pony, with the inevitable “teepee” [tent] outside the gates of the institution, and a dusky couple who have come to gaze upon their boy or girl who has been taken in hand by the Government. As the Indians have nothing to gain by making these visits, and in some cases travel hundreds of miles for the purpose, it serves to show that they have the same feelings towards their offspring as their palefaced brethren. In addition to the industrial schools, several of which are found scattered over the North-West Territories, day and boarding schools have been organised on some of the reserves, but they are not spoken of very hopefully, either by the schoolmasters or by the Indian agents. The same influence and authority cannot be exerted over the children that is possible at the industrial schools, and the frequent opportunities they have of seeing their parents, and of returning to their old life and habits, tend to undo much of the good that might otherwise be expected from the working of such establishments. There are about 200 children at the Qu’Appello school, the number being about equally divided between the sexes. Thu head of the Institution, Father Hugonnard, has a staff of assistants, and the girls are looked after by a number of Sisters from some of the Conventual Institutions in Eastern Canada. The boys are taught various trades, and they seem to be very apt and very willing workers. Many of them are hired out, not only in the neighbourhood but in places some distance away, and the young mechanics are often in great demand. Naturally, they keep the buildings in proper repair, and work the farm. The girls are taught the different branches of domestic service, and also to cut out and make clothes, so that altogether the institution may be said to be self-supporting.

The process of improving the Indian is necessarily a slow one, but those who are interested in the work appear to be confident that the rising generation will prove to be a great advance upon the adults of the present day, and that they will abandon the mode of living to which their parents have been accustomed. It is interesting to know that a few cases of marriage have taken place among the elder boys and girls brought up in the institution. The young men soon to be doing well, other in farming or as mechanics in different parts of the territory.

The following are some extracts from the latest report of Father Hugonnard about the boys and girls entrusted to his care:—“The trade boys are becoming efficient at their different trades. Two carpenter boys worked part of last summer on the now Indian Department warehouse at Regina, and two also worked the whole winter on the building erected at the High River Industrial School. In both places the boys gave satisfaction, and proved by their efficiency, manners, and use of English, the progress they have made here. Repairs were done to the File Hills Agency buildings, to the boarding school on the Sioux reserve, and over twenty regulation desks were made for schools on the Sioux and Touchwood Hills reserve.

The blacksmith and apprentices did all our own work, and, as in the other trades, made various articles for the Chicago Exhibition. . . . The girls, under the able superintendence of the Reverend Sisters, kept improving in their studies, and in all kinds of house work. They sent a variety of work to the Chicago Exhibition. Eighteen girls are at present hired out, and many applications for servant girls have had but refused, owing to the repugnance of some parents and girls to service. Those hired out receive from $4 to $10 a month, and give as much satisfaction as white girls. Even in the houses of the highest class they are sought for as servants. One is at Government House, and another was there previously for over a year. During the past year the pupils have earned over $1,400.”

It is not all work and no play at the institution. Among other amusements, the children have an excellent gymnasium and a competent instructor, and some of the young people are very expert in their gymnastic exercises. They also play cricket and football, and during the last summer were able to defeat the team from the Fort, and also the team of the North-West Mounted Police. They also have a brass band, in which much interest is taken. No one who visits the institution can fail to be impressed with the value of the work that is being done, and with the brightness and intelligence displayed by many of the pupils. Both the Indian Department and those connected with the institution have cause to be gratified at the result of their efforts to improve the condition of the red man. Of course, it is only a beginning, but the progress already made is encouraging, and the future is full of hope. No doubt the present policy, satisfactory though it is, may have to be developed, but the Canadian Government is not likely to lag behind in endevouring to solve satisfactorily the difficult problem it has taken in hand. It is unfortunate that a proportion of the young people are not as strong, physically, as might be desired, many of thorn showing some hereditary taint in the way of disease. No doubt their condition may also be attributed to the way in which they are brought up.

After leaving the industrial school, we drove to Indian Head through a very well-settled district. Farm-houses could be seen everywhere, and the stacks of grain which were dotted over the landscape gave an indication of the extent of the crops of the year. Threshing machines were also familiar objects, and here and there could be seen flames arising from immense heaps of straw which wore being burnt as the only means of getting rid of them. The farmers, upon the whole, seemed to be very well satisfied with their progress, although they complain of the loss they had sustained by the drought which prevailed, and which lessoned the yield to a certain extent. After three or four hours’ drive, the immense elevators at Indian Head appeared on the horizon, and we wore soon under the hospitable roof of Major Bell, of the well-known Bell Farm. That gentleman had many thousands of acres under cultivation, and there are several large farms in the neighbourhood owned by Lord Brassey and others. There is also a Government Experimental Farm, under the supervision of Mr. McKay. The crops in this district were smaller than those in 1893, which were phenomenal, but the grain was of the best quality, and altogether the farmers appeared to be fairly satisfied with their year’s work.

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