The Gleaner
Arts & LifeSharing Our Stories

Sharing Our Stories, February 7, 2024

Story told by: Só:se Raientonnis
Edited by: Emma McLaughlin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Translated by: Sahawisó:ko’ Arquette

Little paper

The Indian agent in Canada was like a monarch. He was the justice of the peace, he could hold court, pass judgment and so on. Everything had to go through him.

Any kind of resolution the band council passed in Kahnawà:ke used to have to go to the Indian Agent’s office for approval. If he approved it, he would sign it and send it to Ottawa. If he disapproved it, it didn’t pass. They had a lot of say in the reserve.

 

Front side of the Reserve Pass assigned by Indian agent Francois Brisebois in 1936 to Sóses mother Louise Lazare that allows her to leave Kahnawake PHOTO Courtesy of Sóse Raientonnis

 

I think there were three agents altogether. The first Indian agent was in 1821, then he was replaced by some man named LeTourneau. After LeTourneau left, Brisebois came in in 1935.
The US also had something similar to this – the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They also had Indian agents over there.

 

Back side of the Reserve Pass assigned to Sóses mother Louise Lazare PHOTO Courtesy of Sóse Raientonnis

 

My mother and my father got divorced in 1936. In order to leave Kahnawà:ke, my mother had to get permission from the Indian agent. Without his written permission, she had to stay here.
My mother’s name wasn’t even used on the little paper that allowed her to leave. The name that they gave her on there was Mrs. Angus Canadian. At least they could have used her real name, Louise, eh?

 

Invoice issued by Indian agent Francois Brisebois to the Department of Mines and Resources on December 17th 1948 for the tuition fees of Sóse Raientonnis whose English name is Joseph Canadian as seen on the document PHOTO Courtesy of Library and Archives CanadaDepartment of Indian Affairs and Northern Development fonds

 

If my mother had just left the reserve without notifying the Indian agent, if she didn’t have that little paper the agent gave her, she could have been arrested and brought back here.
The Indian agency was also still active here when the Seaway went through.

 

Signing of contract for the St Lawrence Seaway on November 30 1954 between H G Murphy C W West Charles Gavsie Louis Lapointe Adrien Miron Mr Chevrier and Gerard Miron PHOTO Courtesy of Library and Archives CanadaThe St Lawrence Seaway Authority fonds

 

The people in Kahnawà:ke wanted to resist the Seaway but the agency made it clear that it would have to go through. There was nothing we could do to stop it. Canada had signed a treaty with the United States to build this canal. So half of it is owned by the US and Canada owns the other half.

 

Section of the 1912 Annual Report for the Dominion of Canada from Indian agent Lorenzo Letourneau in order to inform the government of the status of the Indigenous population of Kahnawake PHOTO Courtesy of Library and Archives CanadaDepartment of Indian Affairs and Northern Development fonds

 

There was nothing really that the people could have done but if the Indian Agent was really for us, he could have made a complaint about the fact that nobody got one cent out of it, except the ones whose properties were taken. It’s terrible, the way it was.

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