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