Sunday, June 11, 2017

PCWESA AGM and speaker Faye Morning Bull on the pass system

 Faye Morning Bull
Toni Lucas - Pincher Creek Women’s Emergency Shelter Association held their annual general meeting on Wednesday June 7 at the Ramada Inn. The During the AGM there were reports from President Elizabeth Dolman and Executive Director Julie Coleman. There were statements about administration, financials, and the work done won research and programming considerations. The highlight of the evening was a presentation from Faye Morning Bull on 'The Pass System'. "There is a little known part of Canadian history, the Pass System," explained Morning Bull,"Which was imposed by the federal government Department of Indian affairs on Indians. Restricting their ability to leave a reserve." The passes where given out by Indian Agents on the Reserves, and had to be obtained for any travel whether it was to visit family. friends, hunt, fish, or to sell products. "If they were found off the reserve without a pass, they could be, would be, put in jail."

"I learned it was an illegal system. I had always thought it was based on an amendment to the Indian Act, which it wasn't. It was never legal. It went against the treaty."

"Up until 1982, it was the federal government's opinion that any federal legislation superseded a treaty, or a treaty right." Morning Bull explained this changed with the Constitution Act in 1982.

"The Federal Government Department of Indian Affairs created and imposed the pass system. though it was originally created in the 1800s to deal with hostile Indians. During the Riel Rebellion in 1885, it became a system used for all Indians, living on all Indian reserves."

"Keep in mind in 1876 there was the battle of Little Bighorn... also know as Custer's Last Stand. So there was a real fear out there with settlers that there could be an Indian uprising. And if those Sioux ever joined up with the Blackfoot, well, everybody was done."

"The pass system restricted the movement of the Indians. They were required a pass from the Indian agent before they were able to travel off the reserve, for any reason. It was never part of the Indian Act. Therefore, it was never based on any law or legislation. It was against the conditions agreed to in the treaties. It was a policy utilized by the Department of Indian Affairs to control Indian people and their ability to visit relatives. That included their children in residential schools."

"This meant it stunted the Indians economy as they needed both a permit, under the Indian Act to sell their stock and crops, and a pass to have permission to leave the reserve. So the Indian Agent held a lot of authority and they really wielded that."

"The Pass system, along with the Indian Act subjected Indian people to oppressive measures." Rations were imposed and controlled by the Indian agent as well, and could be used as a controlling measure. "So, Indians were basically starved to gain their cooperation."

She explained that an amendment to the Indian act in 1927 restricted Indigenous people from hiring lawyers. "It remained on the books until 1951."

She showed a 50 minute documentary called 'The Pass System, which was made after five years of study into this part of Canadian history. For more on this documentary, click here.

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