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"Better than a few squirrels" : the greater production campaign on the First Nations reserves of the Canadian prairies



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On March 19, 1918, the government of Canada announced a new, nationwide agricultural policy called the Greater Production Campaign. Established to increase food production across the country for the good of the war effort, a Greater Production Campaign was also implemented by the Department of Indian Affairs on the prairie reserves. Promoted as being of great benefit to the reserve residents, the Campaign featured three distinct operating components: a program to increase agricultural production by reserve residents; a government farm program; and leasing of reserve land to non-Aboriginal farmers and ranchers. In reality, the initiative provided few benefits to the First Nations people of the prairies. In implementing the Campaign, the department made several amendments to the Indian Act that provided extremely coercive powers to W.M. Graham, Commissioner for the department's Campaign operations. Graham utilized these powers to create a cumbersome and mismanaged agricultural empire, parts of which were still functional as late as 1932. In doing so, Graham was able to achieve personal renown and profits for the department operations at the expense of the reserve residents upon whose land these farms and grazing preserves were located. The few dollars of revenue received by the prairie reserves did not compensate for the impediment the Campaign operations caused to the reserve farming initiatives. In resistance, a number of reserves launched successful challenges to the department's Campaign. The six-year effort by the Blood people was particularly noteworthy for its complexity, consistency, its level of success, and ultimate impact on the policies of the Department of Indian Affairs. The Greater Production Campaign could have provided tremendous benefits to the reserve residents. But, like so many other government initiatives, the campaign proved more profitable to the department officials rather than to the individuals whose interests they were supposed to be looking out for.





Master of Arts (M.A.)






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