White Farmers in Caughnawaga (1880) | Surnames: Beauvais, Delisle, DeLorimier, Jocks, Murray, Williams
Interview with Chief Jocks and others – the question of white labour – the case fairly and fully stated
Yesterday we had an opportunity of meeting three of the prominent Indians from Caughnawaga, namely, Chief Jocks and Messrs. DeLorimier and Francois Delisle from whom we learned something of the difficulties which are prevailing in Caughnawaga, to which frequent references has been made in the newspapers. The following interview with the Chef will give our readers, perhaps, a better understanding of the whole question than they could get in any other way.
Rep.– I understand that the difficulties in connection with white residents n the reservation of Caughnawaga have not been settled?
Chief– They have not.
Rep.- What has given rise to this difficulty?
Chief– The complaint on the part of some Indians of the residence of white settlers on the Indian reservation, and the apparent disposition on the part of the Government to object to such residence.
Rep.– What is the system of tenure in the reservation? Can Indians acquire land by purchase?
Chief– Yes, they may acquire land by purchase from other Indians, but the transference must be among the Indians themselves. An Indian cannot sell to a white person.
Rep.– Under this system have any Indians acquired much land?
Chief– In some cases, yes, a good deal. I myself own three farms, of 75, 50 and 40 acres, respectively, with a house and outbuildings on each farm, all of which are being worked now in my interest.
Rep.– Do you employ white persons to do the work?
Chief– What is your arrangement, in general terms, with the white farmers?
Chief– I lease them the farms and receive from them a regular rental.
Rep.– Has any difficulty occurred between your lessees and the Indians of the reservation?
Chief– There as been no personal difficulty whatever.
Rep.– Is there any objection on the part of the people to your so leasing to the farmers?
Chief– There is objection on the part of some Indans who seem to be jealous of my own progress, but there is no ground for such objection, seeing that the men do not interfere with them in any way, and they are in no way injured by the fact of my succeeding with the cultivation of my land.
Rep.– Who are the people who are making objections?
Chief– They are the improvident Indians, who as a rule, do not cultivate their own reservations, nor employ anybody else to do it for them.
Rep.– Is it the usual habit of Indians who have farms to lease them to white farmers?
Chief– For the last 25 or 30 years it has been the common practice with the more provident of the Indians, who are anxious to make as much as they can out of their land.
Rep.- Have got the correspondence which you had with the Government, and is it of a public character?
DeLorimier– I have it, and as it refers to the position of the Indians on the reservation generally, I consider it of a public character and have no objections to your publishing it.
Rep.- it would seem from this answer that there is really no difficulty in the way, in so far as the employment of labor is concerned?
Mr. DeLorimier– so it would appear from the letter, but as I am informed we are not to be permitted to allow the whites to live in separate houses upon the farms they cultivate. They must be laboring men living with our families, which could be in many cases, a matter of great inconvenience.
Rep.– So that according to this view, you cannot pay a man so much a year or so much a month and a house to live in?
Mr. DeLormier- that is what I understand and tat is one of the things that I think we have good reason to complain of.
Rep.– How many Indians are there on the reservation who employ white farmers either as lessees or as servants?
Mr. DeLorimier– Probably from ten to twelve, and there are from fifteen to eighteen whites thus employed either as lessees or as hired servants.
Rep.– Are the leases that you have given to these people annual leases?
Chief– They are made in such a way as to be revocable at the end of any year.
Rep.– What proportion of the Indians are urging the expulsion of these white residents?
Chief– They are probably the majority, and, as I have said, they are the poorer classes, and they are induced to take the course they are taking by promises made to them that when the whites are expelled the next agitation will be fore a re-distribution of the reserve.
Rep.– then, as understand it, there is somewhat of a communistic spirit among them?
Chief– Yes; it prevails very strongly with the class to which I have referred.
Rep.– It is the old story of those who do not possess property in league against those who do?
Chief– That is not quite correct. A great many of these people do own small parcels of land, but they do not work it, and, as a general thing, it is still uncultivated.
Rep.– What proportion of the seignory is cultivated?
Chief– Certainly not more than 15 per cent.
Rep.– It has been stated in the papers that a system of incendiarism has prevailed to some extent in the reservation. Is there anyting in this?
Chief– Unfortunately, yes. those opposed to the more progressive party in the reservation have resorted to means to prevent any open expression of opinion in favour of the existing system.
Rep.– Are not the Indians of Caughnawaga in a position to be enfranchised?
Chief – Yes, I think so. They very much desire it.
Rep.– Are there any presents given to the Indians of Caughnawaga?
Chief – only in the case of persons over sixty years of age, to whom are given blankets. This year some twenty or so pairs of blankers were given in this way by the Government.
Rep.– What is your opinion of this system of presents?
Chief– I think the Indians would be better off without them. They are apt to encourage improvident habits, and the one things which is mot to be desire among Indians should be cultivated, with a view to their early enfranchisement.
Rep.– Then, as I understand, as a chief among the Indians, you are very strongly in favour of the immediate enfranchisement of the tribe?
Chief– I am convinced that it would be greatly to the advantage of the Indians themselves.
Rep.– there has been some difficulty about the surveys of the seignory. Have you any suggestion to make on that point?
Chief – Yes, I think surveys within the seignory are absolutely necessary in order that each individual Indian should hold his property by “limits and bounds” so as to avoid trouble among ourselves in relation to our rgts of property.
Rep.-Have you made representations to the Government on this point?
Chief– Yes, and the Government as we understand, viewed it favorably and sent a recommendation to that effect to the Council of chiefs, but the same element to which I have referred as obstructing the progress of the seignory has been opposed to it and nothing has been done up to this time.
Rep.– What is the extent of your seignory altogether?
Chief– As I understand it s sx miles long b four miles wide.
Rep.– What is the Indian population within it?
Mr. Delormier– Between 1,500 and 1,600 souls.
Rep.– Reverting to this question of the white farmers, does not the law declare that white settlers shall not reside within the reservation?
Chief– Yes, it does, except by the consent of the Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs.
Rep.– So that if the Government received with favor the policy which you advocate, and which you say is tending of the improvement at least of a portion of the seignory, there is now no difficulty in the law about the necessary authority being given?
Chief- I think not, as I understand the law.
Rep.- Has any permission been given by the Superintendent-General in any case for a white settler to reside within the seignory?
Chief– Yes, in one case were an old Indian of over eighty years of age has been permitted to have a white farmer to work his land.
Rep.– As understand Mr. Chief, you are in business in the village of Caughnawaga?
Chief– I carry on a general store, and it would be impossible, therefore, to attend to my business, and the cultivation of my farms as well.
Rep.– then the carrying out rigidly of the rules to which you referred would be to leave your land uncultivated?
Chief– Yes undoubtedly, because I could better afford to leave it uncultivated than to lose time from my business to cultivate it myself.
Rep.– Can you not employ Indian farmers?
Chief– No, because those who are suitable for such employment are cultivating their own land.
Rep.– It is, therefore, as I understand it, simply a question of allowing your land to remain uncultivated unless you can continue as you have been doing?
Chief– Yes; that seems to be the position.
Rep.– There is one of your chiefs, as I understand, who is very strongly opposed to you in this matter?
Chief– Yes; Chief Louis Beauvais
Rep.– Does he cultivate any land, either by himself or by anybody employed by him?
Chief- Mp; he does not cultivate any land.
Rep.– How does he make a living?
Chief– He is organist of a church, for which he receives $50 a year, which s paid out of the Indian fund.
Rep.– Has he no other occupation?
Chief– None that anyone knows anything about.
Rep.- Has he any land himself?
Chief– He has land and sold it. To Mr. Delisle he sold four acres, for which he was paid $150.
Rep.– The, I understand that this chief, who is working so strongly against you, is a fair representative of the class of improvident Indians, of which you spoke a little while ago?
Chief– Yes; if all the Indians were like him the reservation would not be cultivated at all.
Rep.– What argument do they use to justify their opposition to your employing white labor?
Chief– They say that we have made profit enough out of our farms to repay us for what we paid for them, and therefore we ought to get no more.
Rep.– Then Chief Beauvais is really the leader of the opposition to you?
Chief– Yes; he frequently goes to Ottawa, and the impression among us is that he so misrepresents the case as to get the influence of the Government sometimes on his side.
Rep.– s there any other Chief who agrees with you in your opinion?
Chief- Yes; Chiefs Peter Murray and Joe Williams. The latter would have been with us this morning but that he had some business n the city which prevented his coming.
Source: The Montreal Gazette, Oct 28th, 1880
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