Thomas Aspdin, Mary Black Moon, and Indian Status

In 1876, after the defeat of General Custer, a group of Lakota led by Chief Black Moon settled near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The chief’s daughter, Mary Black Moon, met an officer of the North West Mounted Police and married him. That officer was Thomas Aspdin, who would later be the Indian Agent for the Assiniboine reserve. Under the Indian Act, when Mary married a white man, she lost her Indian Status and could not live on the reserve and claim annuities under a treaty. In other words, she was legally “white.” The 1901 Canada census was the first to ask respondents about their “racial or tribal origin.”

Here are the Aspdins in the 1901 census:

The Aspdins - 1901 Census

Mary is listed as female, Red (colour indicating race), she’s the wife of the house, married, born the fifteenth of January 1861, 40 years old at the time of census, born in the US, arrived in Canada in 1877, naturalized as a citizen that year, and here is the weird part: her racial or tribal origin is listed as Scotch. It isn’t an accidental “dittoing” on the part of the enumerator, because Thomas is written down as being English.

It looks like it is time for me to go get some books on the Indian Act and what surrender of status meant for women. Since Mary Aspdin wasn’t considered an Indian under the Indian Act, did Thomas make up a white affiliation for her when the census was taken or was this commonplace among First Nations women married to white men?


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