White People on The Reserve

My fourth-great-grandparents, James Hassan and Margaret Chapman, were both of Irish descent. They had been farming near Guelph, Ontario for many years and had raised at least nine children there. So why was their son James living with his equally white wife and children on the Assiniboine Indian Reserve in Saskatchewan?

Chief Carry the Kettle, farm instructor Hassan, Agent W.S. Grant, Bob Grant, Band Councillor Ryder
(Photo from “Indian Head A History of Indian Head and District”, page 779)

In 1877, the Assiniboine Reserve had been created under Treaty 4, moving a Nakota group (who would later become the Carry-The-Kettle band) from western Saskatchewan to south-eastern Saskatchewan. Each reserve was overseen by an Agency, and the Agency employed white people to go about monitoring and “civilizing” the First Nations there. Part of this included teaching the Carry-the-Kettle people to farm. Before 1905, they had a white farm labourer to help them, but the Indian Agency decided to hire a farmer as a farming instructor. That person was James Hassan, and he was paid $480 yearly (and was making $720 by 1912) to encourage mixed farming practices and help the residents grow grain, oats, and carrots and raise livestock.

Other employees of the Agency during James’ time there included a schoolteacher named Gertrude Lawrence, and W.S. Grant, who was the Agent. Mr. Grant’s son Bob was his assistant, and later his daughter Lillian was a clerk.

James likely died around October 1914 as that is when he received his last pay and was replaced by the Agency, and Lucy is widowed by the 1916 census.

(Indian Affairs Annual Reports, 1864-1990 are available on the Library and Archives Canada website)