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?


Carry The Kettle Land Surrender, 1905

There may have been more to James Hassan’s placement as the farm instructor on the Assiniboine/Carry the Kettle reserve than I originally read in the Indian Affairs report.

In 1988 an inquiry was brought to the Department of Indian Affairs, regarding a section of IR 76 (Indian Reserve 76) that was sold by the Carry the Kettle people to the Crown in 1905. The claim was rejected in 1994, and then the Indian Claims commission agreed to open a new inquiry, which was held up until 2004 at the request of the band until another inquiry was completed. Finally, Indian Claims Commission, Carry the Kettle First Nation Inquiry: 1905 Surrender Inquiry (Ottawa, December 2008) was released.

In a nutshell, in December 1904 the band approached Agent Thomas Aspdin (who had also stood in as a farming instructor) about surrendering about 5760 acres of land to the Crown. The conditions of the surrender included that the proceeds be used first to pay the debts owing to the department. The rest was to be used to buy lumber to build a shed to house their wheat thresher, replace the engine of the wheat thresher, and to compensate the band members who had invested their labour in the land.

The reason for the inquiry was that the band believed that the Agency had acted against the Indian Act of 1886 by accepting and carrying out the conditions of the surrender even though they were not expressly provided for in the sections of the Act outlining the Governor in Council’s power and authority. In addition they believed that the land had been sold without giving proper notice for the meeting or having quorum of male band members over 21 at the meeting. (At the time, a majority would have been around 20 men.) Canada cites other inquiries and examples where things that were not expressly mentioned in the Act were granted (Section 70 mentions the allowance for purchase of cattle by the Governor in Council, but other bands used funds for other farm animals and implements). Essentially, Canada says that the band’s conditions were satisfactorily met and since the band didn’t cede decision making power to the Crown, that there was no outstanding lawful obligation to the Carry the Kettle. The full inquiry report can be read in pdf form from the University of Saskatchewan Indigenous Studies Portal.

The part I found interesting about the farming instructor position is this:

The First Nation argues that Indian Agent Aspdin exerted pressure and undue influence on the Band to agree to the surrender. They assert that Aspdin was either inexperienced or negligent in his duties, as both Indian Agent and Farming Instructor, and points to records which, it argues, illustrate Aspdin’s incompetence. In particular, the First Nation refers to a 1904 letter from Graham in which he allegedly reproached Aspdin for poor crops and suggested that a “practical farming instructor” be brought in to manage the Band’s farming endeavours. This plan, the First Nation asserts, was frustrated by Aspdin’s inability to purchase a suitable thresher. Aspdin, it is argued, was concerned for his own well-being and exerted pressure on the Band to agree to surrender conditions which favoured both the Crown and himself.

– Indian Claims Commission, Carry the Kettle First Nation Inquiry: 1905
Surrender Inquiry
(Ottawa, December 2008), page 44

Thomas Aspdin is listed in the report as having been the Indian Agent for the Assiniboine Reserve from 1901-1905. Did he get transferred to another reserve because of unrest after the sale? Did Inspector Graham recommend that since there was a new farmer, they should get a new agent, too? No, the answer is simpler than that. According to the Indian Affairs report for that year, he took ill in December of 1905 and died in February 1906.

Mystery Monday: The Man Who Took The Coat

The Man Who Took The Coat - 1906 Census

I came across The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat in the 1906 Prairie Census when I was looking for the Hassans, and I had to know the story behind his name. Did he take a coat as part of a deal? Steal a coat? Bring a coat to someone?

When white men came to the Prairies and parcelled off the land and displaced the people already there, they moved the people of The Man Who Took The Coat and a chief called Long Lodge to an area outside Sintaluta, Saskatchewan and the Assiniboine Reserve was created under Treaty 4. Originally they had wanted the Crown to grant them land near Cypress Hills, which held great spiritual importance because of a terrible massacre that had claimed many of their people.

After a chief signed the treaty, Indian Affairs would give him $25, a silver medal, and a coat. However, they were calling him this before the treaty was signed. Could it be because he intended to sign and take the coat, or for another reason lost to time?

After The Man Who Took The Coat died, his brother, Carry-the-Kettle became Chief of the people who lived on that part of the Assiniboine Reserve, and became known as the Carry The Kettle Nation.

Here is what Deanna Ryder and Doug O’Watch of Carry The Kettle First Nation say about the origins of Carry-the-Kettle’s name:

After the death of Chief Long Lodge in 1884, the two Assiniboine bands were joined and leadership of both bands was assumed by The Man Who Took The Coat until his death in 1906. At this time Carry The Kettle succeeded his brother as Chief.

Doug O’Watch tells us how the Chief recieved his name:
“The indians were camped along a deep coulee. All at once a big enemy of Blackfeet or Bolld came to raid. ‘Come on, ladies, take the belongings to the coulee, stay, we’ll gaurd.’ The men built barricades of wood and stone. The boys played behind the barricade. A little boy goes back to his teepee. His mom took all. She left a kettle. He took it. He tied it around his neck. He played behind the barricade all during the battle that way with the kettle on his back. When the battle was over the men were retelling what had happened. ‘What about that little boy?’ After that he was known as Carry The Kettle.”

There are conflicting dates about The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat and Carry-The-Kettle. Indian Agency reports from 1877 state that The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat would have been a young chief, around 22 years old, which matches the age of The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat in the 1906 census (the same man appears in the 1911 census with his wife). However, the Indian Affairs Annual Report for 1891 says that Chief Jack (The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat) died that year, and Carry-The-Kettle became chief. Chief Jack’s widow is listed as having returns on crops.

1. The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat died in 1891, and a different person with the same name appears on later censuses.

2. The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat declared that “Chief Jack” was dead, Carry-the-Kettle headed the people, and The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat lived until at least 1911.

Which is the truth?

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)