Dawn Nita

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Victor Satzewich




The elective form of band governance that was imposed on Indian people was part of Canadian Indian policy. The purpose of this policy, from the development of the Indian Act in 1876 to the 1950s, was protection, civilization and assimilation. The government attempted to teach Indian people European values so that they would renounce their traditional ways and assimilate into the general Canadian population. One area in which European values were to be taught was politics. Indian people were introduced to the democratic form of electing chiefs and councilors. The limited amount of responsibility given to these elected officials was intended to give Indians limited control over their own affairs and to introduce them to the Euro-Canadian definition of the democratic process. Those government officials who were given the task as guardians of Indian people were also given the authority to relieve chiefs and councilors from their positions on four grounds. This study focuses on how the legislation regarding the deposition of chiefs and councilors was used; by whom, how frequently, and whether it was used as a weapon of social control. By examining the correspondence between government officials and their superiors at Indian Affairs headquarters in Ottawa, I found that not only were government officials using the legislation, but so too were Indian people. Although Indian people provided more recommendations for deposition, Indian agents had a higher rate of successful depositions. During the time frame studied, there were a low number of dep0sitions and government officials did not appear as though they were motivated by social and political differences. This study does demonstrate that Indian people had some control over their leadership in the form of band council, but it was still limited by the larger system of control imposed by Canadian government officials.

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