AbstractIn the 1940s the federal government undertook schemes to relocate Native people in the Maritimes from smaller reserves to centralized settlements. Beginning in 1945 New Brunswick’s Maliseet were targeted with centralization, as Ottawa planned to relocate the people of the St. Mary’s, Woodstock, and Oromocto reserves to Kingsclear, northwest of Fredericton. New Brunswick centralization, however, failed in large part due to the actions of the Maliseet. By denouncing centralization publicly, by petitioning federal officials, and by reconstituting a Saint John River Valley Maliseet political collective, the Maliseet successfully stymied Ottawa’s New Brunswick centralization plan.
RésuméAu cours des années 1940, le gouvernement fédéral entreprit des projets visant à déménager dans des établissements centralisés les membres des Premières nations des Maritimes qui vivaient dans de petites réserves. À compter de 1945, les Malécites du Nouveau-Brunswick furent ciblés par la centralisation, alors qu’Ottawa planifiait de relocaliser les habitants des réserves de St. Mary’s, de Woodstock et d’Oromocto à Kingsclear, au nord-ouest de Fredericton. Toutefois, la centralisation au Nouveau-Brunswick échoua en raison, dans une large mesure, des actions menées par les Malécites. En dénonçant publiquement la centralisation, en remettant des pétitions aux représentants du gouvernement fédéral et en formant un nouveau collectif politique des Malécites de la vallée du fleuve Saint-Jean, les Malécites firent échec au plan de centralisation d’Ottawa au Nouveau-Brunswick.
1 DURING THE 1940s CANADA’S FEDERAL GOVERNMENT undertook schemes to "centralize" Native people in each of the three Maritime provinces. Grounded in Ottawa’s quest for economical Indian Affairs administration as well as public pressure, Maritime centralization plans also emerged from a mid-20th-century impulse to raise the standards of living in impoverished communities to levels deemed appropriate to a "modern" Canada. The Maliseet of New Brunswick’s Saint John River Valley were one target of these centralization initiatives. Beginning in 1945, federal officials advocated that people in three Maliseet communities in the lower Saint John River Valley be relocated to an existing reserve at Kingsclear, ten kilometres northwest of Fredericton. A study of Ottawa’s New Brunswick centralization plan demonstrates the extent to which the federal government believed itself to be both entitled to and justified in dictating what happened in terms of the lives of these Maliseet and the land on which they lived. Strong Maliseet opposition to the scheme, however, demonstrates the limits of state power as, in the face of federal machinations, the Maliseet, with some assistance from non-Native supporters, mobilized against centralization. That centralization did not happen in New Brunswick was the result of this opposition.
2 An analysis of Maliseet opposition to centralization between 1945, when the plan was first proposed, and 1949, when talk of the plan waned, offers an important addition to what is a sparse (but growing) historiography concerning 20th-century Maliseet-state relations.1 It also serves as a corrective to a prevailing misunderstanding about eastern Canadian Native political activity during this same era. In Canadian scholarship, there has been a tendency to ignore 20th-century Native political action as it existed at the community level and to herald pan-Indian movements in the 1930s and 1940s, such as the North American Indian Brotherhood (NAIB), as the "birth" of Native political action.2 Despite the existence of numerous studies highlighting the myriad ways in which Native people at the local level resisted the imposition of federal policy (which often had important political results), this focus on pan-Indian political organizations as the measure of Native political activism has reinforced the notion that Native people were, in their day-to-day lives, politically inactive.3 Scholars’ treatment of this so-called "birth"of Native politics has not only obscured the continuity in Native politics generally, but it has particularly failed the history of eastern Canadian Native people by errantly casting these 20th-century political organizations as solely western Canadian movements.4 Written out of these emergent groups, the political activism and successes of eastern Native people, including the Maliseet, have been ignored. As this article illustrates, the Maliseet were politically active in the 1940s and their actions were far from ineffective and inconsequential; they directly influenced the federal government’s decision to suspend its New Brunswick centralization plan.
3 In 1945 New Brunswick’s Mi’kmaq and Maliseet, like all Native people in Canada, were administered by the Indian Affairs Branch (IAB) of the federal Department of Mines and Resources.5 New Brunswick had three Indian agencies: the Northeastern agency based at Rexton, the Northern, centred at Perth, and the Southwestern, at Fredericton. Each was headed by a full-time Indian agent. Accountable to Ottawa and not the Native people they administered, Indian agents monitored and reported on virtually all facets of Native life. Agents’ reach into communities was extensive; they supervised schooling and band governance, coordinated health care services and economic initiatives, and acted as "moral watchdogs" by enforcing temperance.6 The Maliseet lived on six New Brunswick reserves in 1945.7 Because the IAB did not record the populations of individual reserves, and because not all Maliseet lived on reserves, it is impossible to determine with certainty the distribution of New Brunswick’s Maliseet. However, the most populous reserve was Tobique; its approximately 450 residents equaled the Maliseet population from the other five reserves combined.8 The ample and sparsely settled Kingsclear reserve was slated to become a centralized hub of Maliseet settlement. Located on the shores of the Saint John River, Kingsclear had long been a Maliseet camping and fishing place and had, since 1792, been designated as a reserve.
4 In relocating some Maliseet to this site, the centralization programme promised to halve the number of Maliseet reserves in the province. Of the six Maliseet reserves in New Brunswick, three – Oromocto, St. Mary’s (Devon), and Woodstock – were slated for relocation. All three were situated on the immediate outskirts of non-Native municipalities. The federal government first purchased 200 acres at Woodstock in 1851.9 At St. Mary’s a small grant of 2.5 acres was allotted in 1867 and an additional 328.5 acres were added in 1928. Oromocto became a federally recognized reserve of 125 acres in 1895.10 The history of these and other reserved lands suggests that interference in Maliseet land was not a new phenomenon in 1945 and that the Maliseet of New Brunswick were all-too-accustomed to the unjust expropriation of reserve land. Historian L.F.S. Upton has shown that before Confederation squatting was an endemic problem to which all three Maritime governments turned blind eyes despite Native people’s protests and petitions.11 Indeed, New Brunswick’s colonial government was known to facilitate the appropriation of Native land.12 The scope of expropriation in New Brunswick is conveyed in the numbers – in 1810, 110,000 acres of reserved land was designated in New Brunswick for Native people but, by 1927, the total acreage had shrunk to 37,000 acres. The experience of the residents of the Woodstock reserve underscores this legacy of shady land dealings. The 1851 purchase of the Woodstock reserve land was necessitated by illegal squatting on another nearby tract of reserved land. As was typical, the New Brunswick government chose in 1851 not to dislodge the illegal squatters but rather to purchase a smaller tract of land closer to the town of Woodstock. The sale agreement acknowledged this circumstance, explaining that the new Woodstock reserve was for "Public uses: that is to say, for the use of the Melicette Tribe of Indians at the Meductic . . . in Lieu of a Tract of land of which the said Indians have been wrongfully deprived as is alleged."13
5 Like the custom of usurping Native land, the pattern of settling Native people at limited, specially selected sites was longstanding. Although the practice of centralizing Native people was more common in western Canada, where Ottawa administered larger Native populations, the idea of centralizing Native people had for decades been part of New Brunswick’s Indian policy.14 In 1840, more than a century before the 1945 centralization plan was proposed, Moses Perley, the man charged with New Brunswick’s colonial Indian Affairs, proposed a "civilization" program that would have seen the colony’s Maliseet moved to Kingsclear where, under the tutelage of a superintendent, adults would be taught to farm and children encouraged to attend public schools. The scheme, he proposed, would be funded by the sale of vacated reserve land.15
6 Perley’s 1840 centralization plan did not materialize, but later schemes did. In 1897, the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) – the federal department then in charge of matters pertaining to Indians – considered relocating the Maliseet living at the Woodstock reserve. In September, DIA secretary J.D. McLean asked Fredericton Indian Agent James Farrell for information about the Woodstock reserve. Proposing that the people there be moved to the reserve further upriver at Tobique, McLean asked if it would be in the Maliseet’s "interest that the [Woodstock] Reserve should be disposed of" and, if so, "would they give surrender for that purpose?"16 Agent Farrell responded that the eight families (40 people) who called the Woodstock reserve home were poor but "quiet and harmless." He also predicted that they would be unwilling to surrender their land and move, noting that "when Indians live for an age in any locality they have their friends and acquaintances with whom they trade."17 Farrell’s response convinced McLean that, given the community’s small size and disinterest in leaving, it was "not considered advisable to interfere with these Indians or make any disposition of their Reserve."18 For the time being, the Woodstock Maliseet and their land were spared federal interference.
7 Subsequent proposals for Maliseet relocation were, however, put to Ottawa. In 1910 Father F.C. Ryan, a priest serving the Maliseet at Tobique, recommended to the DIA that the Maliseet of the province be centralized at the Tobique reserve. He argued that "to my mind justice can only be done the Indians in gathering them together at least the different bands of the one tribe on a good Reservation. The Gov[ernmen]t will then be better able to concentrate all their energy to one instead of different Reservations." Father Ryan continued:The Millicette Tribe is scattered all over the Western part of the Prov[ince] of NB and parts of the state of Maine. Now if the Gov[ernment] could bring St Mary’s, Oromocto, Edmundston, Tobique and other bands of the same Tribe together on one Reservation, and erect a large convent school (since all the Indians here are Catholics), a work house, [i]ntroduce manual training, erect a jail, provide them with a magistrate, post office police force etc. [then] . . . the Gov[ernment] will be working on a sure basis for the advancement of the Indians.19Interestingly, however, Ryan’s 1910 centralization plan was dismissed by federal officials as being an action "more drastic than the Government would be inclined to entertain" and one that would "involve restriction of the liberty of the Indians to a degree that has not yet formed any part of the Policy of the Government."20
8 By 1929, however, the time was apparently right for such a "restriction of liberty." During that year, the DIA decided to relocate the Maliseet community of St. Mary’s from the shores of the St. John River in Fredericton to an inland site near North Devon, on the outskirts of the provincial capital. The relocation of the so-called "St. Mary’s Indians" was a decades-long process. It was initiated in the early 1900s at the behest of non-Native Frederictonians who opposed the presence of the Maliseet "parading the streets of Fredericton" and who also favoured acquiring for the city the riverside "recreational" land that the Native people occupied.21 In 1918 the mayor of Fredericton, R.B. Hanson, advocated the relocation of St. Mary’s, explaining that "the Reserve is in the heart of the town and is an impediment to the progress of the Town. It is not a desirable location for an Indian Reserve, as it is not sufficiently removed from certain evil interests surrounding it. In addition to that, the Reserve is more or less untidy and uncleanly, and is in fact an eye sore."22 For its part, the DIA justified the removal by arguing that the crowded conditions, "poor sanitation," and ill-health of the Maliseet community could only be rectified through relocation.23 By this time, the DIA had legislative support in the form of a 1911 Indian Act amendment that enabled municipalities to expropriate reserve land for public purposes.24 For a time, the Kingsclear reserve was part of the St. Mary’s relocation plan. In 1918 DIA Deputy Superintendent General Duncan Campbell Scott advised Fredericton Indian Agent B.J. Griffiths to ascertain the feasibility of moving the St. Mary’s Maliseet to Kingsclear.25 This plan was scuttled in the face of opposition from people at the St. Mary’s reserve. At a meeting held in the community in February of 1919, residents "emphatically refused to consider going to Kingsclear under any circumstances" and argued their case on several grounds – grounds that would be restated in 1945. The residents contended that they and the Maliseet living at Kingsclear were not on good terms and that discord would result from their relocation.26 They also argued that Kingsclear’s isolation from non-Native settlements would make it difficult for men to find employment and noted that the softwood stands of Kingsclear would provide an inadequate source of fuel.27 Later that month, 32 people from St. Mary’s petitioned Ottawa, repeating their refusal to relocate while adding to their earlier reasons for opposition to relocation their belief that coerced relocation was illegal and constituted a breech of their treaty rights.28 Despite such opposition, St. Mary’s was, nevertheless, removed a decade later to land outside Devon town limits. This move had no more support among the Maliseet than had the earlier proposals; residents were upset as much by the location of their new settlement as they were at having to leave their old one. In a petition to the DIA, the St. Mary’s community insisted that another new reserve be created, this time "on the bank of the St. John River" where they would have access to the fish and the transportation system the river provided.29 Undoubtedly, the much-opposed St. Mary’s relocation was fresh in the minds of the Maliseet when the federal government showed renewed interest in relocation in the post-war period.
9 Despite these relocation antecedents, the 1940s, more than any other decade, can be considered the era of relocation for Maritime Native people. The plan to create a centralized reserve at Kingsclear was just one of three planned relocation schemes for the Maritime provinces, all of which ultimately failed. Prior to the Kingsclear relocation plan, an Order in Council of 2 April 1942 authorized Ottawa to relocate Mi’kmaq living on Prince Edward Island to a single provincial reserve at Lennox Island and to move Nova Scotian Mi’kmaq to one of two sites: Shubenacadie on the mainland and Eskasoni on Cape Breton Island.30 The federal rationale in all three Maritime relocation plans was similar. The Indian Aaffairs Branch asserted that centralized communities would be more efficient and would facilitate greater Native self-sufficiency. Cost was also a major consideration. While economy had always been a hallmark of Canada’s Indian administration, increased wartime expenses strengthened Ottawa’s desire to reduce IAB costs. Branch officials believed that there was clearly room for fiscal improvement in the Maritimes, where the per capita spending on Indian Affairs eclipsed the national average. In 1939, following what amounted to two full decades of recession in the Maritimes, the annual cost of administering Indian Affairs stood at $34.51 per capita in Nova Scotia, $37.26 on Prince Edward Island, and $35.46 in New Brunswick, compared to a national per capita average of $8.70.31 The fact that Native populations were on the rise – in New Brunswick the Native population had grown by 18 per cent between 1935 and 1945 – added to the desire of Indian Affairs officials to cut per capita costs.32 Less openly enunciated by federal officials, but clearly a factor in these wartime centralization plans, were the petitions of non-Native Maritimers who wanted Native people removed from the vicinities of their towns. In Nova Scotia, for example, this impetus was palpable, and both Lisa Patterson and Mi’kmaw historian Daniel Paul assert that non-Native insistence fueled IAB centralization plans.33
10 Maritime centralization plans, however, were borne of more that just a longstanding IAB commitment to cost-cutting or a nod to public pressure. By the mid-1940s, in the wake of the Great Depression and the Second World War, Canadian governments at all levels faced immense pressure to increase Canadians’ standards of living, particularly for those groups who were perceived to have been previously neglected by state-funded "modernization." Such communities, lacking employment opportunities and what had come to be considered basic amenities such as electricity, sewerage, and other municipal services, were earmarked for state intervention. The relocation of whole communities became a favoured means of "modernizing" them. Native communities were among these, but they were not the only ones. The year 1945, for example, also marked the first stirring of interest in relocating the neglected African-Canadian community at Africville, which was along Halifax’s Bedford Basin.34 Similarly, Toronto’s Regent Park public housing initiative was also born in the mid-1940s.35 In the case of the attempted centralizations of the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet, these "benevolent" aims of relocation meshed nicely with both the parsimony that had always been part of Indian policy and the longstanding practice of ousting Maritime Native people from their land.
11 By late 1945, as the Nova Scotian and Prince Edward Island centralization plans were underway, the IAB was calling for a similar centralization plan for New Brunswick. That December, Agency Inspector, Maritimes and Quebec, R.A. Hoey had advocated the centralization of the lower Saint John River Valley Maliseet to the Kingsclear reserve. Earlier that autumn, after touring New Brunswick’s Maliseet reserves, Hoey had advanced this plan in an official report. At that time, Kingsclear was home to 11 families and had a population of 60 people.36 Hoey lauded the centralization potential of the small community, which had been a federal reserve since Confederation.37 He wrote that he had found it "a real pleasure to inspect the clean, well-furnished homes on this reserve." The Kingsclear habitations, he noted, were "occupied by healthy, industrious, and happy people" who "live and behave just as well as any white people." Offering what he believed to be evidence of the necessity of relocation, he also described as deplorable the living conditions prevailing at Oromocto, Woodstock, and St. Mary’s in Devon. These reserves, he insisted, featured "many poorly furnished, neglected, untidy, Indian houses."38
12 Hoey felt that the Kingsclear site was not just the home of healthy, tidy, and happy people but that it had additional qualities to recommend it as a hub of centralization. The community had a Catholic church, river frontage, and was part of the province’s rural mail delivery service. Perhaps most importantly, the reserve, at that time occupying an area of 460 acres, had growth potential.39 C.C. Murray, an elderly farmer who owned an estimated 500 acres abutting the reserve, had expressed interest in selling his land to the IAB, which was pleased at the prospect of doubling the size of the Kingsclear reserve. Morris was also impressed with the type of land Murray was offering, as nearly 100 acres of it was cleared, fertile farm land. He reported that the acquisition of Murray’s farm "would provide sufficient agricultural land to grow vegetables for the needs of all the Indians as well as enabling them to augment their incomes by selling surplus garden products. Fruit trees and small fruits could be planted. There would be ample pasture for the grazing of goats and cattle to provide milk."40
13 The land’s agricultural potential was an attractive prospect to an IAB that had long been committed to transforming Native people into farmers, both as a means of encouraging them to assimilate to a Euro-Canadian way of life and as a way to foster economic self-sufficiency and reduce federal costs.41 The Murray property also had woodland, which promised to provide the Maliseet much-needed fuel and supplies for basket-making. Finally, the property was promising as a staging site for federal administrative offices. The farm had a series of barns and a house equipped with running water, indoor plumbing, electricity, and a telephone line – advantages not to be overlooked in New Brunswick during the 1940s. Hoey explained that the house could serve as both an office for agency administration and as living quarters for a resident agent and nurses.42 Meanwhile, the barns could act as a warehouse for storing items required by the agency. With these considerations in mind, Hoey declared: "It is my opinion that a centralization program for the Indians of the Saint John River Valley should be undertaken." He affirmed that there was "no doubt in [his] mind that if this project is approved it would give the Indians of this Agency an opportunity to improve their standard of living." Hoey confidently concluded his report on Kingsclear with the assertion "I do not feel that there would be much difficulty in obtaining the wholehearted co-operation of the Indians in support of a centralization project."43
14 Hoey could not have been more wrong. From the outset, Maliseet throughout the lower Saint John River Valley adamantly opposed the planned centralization scheme and they mobilized in the face of the threatened relocation to Kingsclear to make clear their opposition to the plan. Three chiefs in particular led the fight against centralization: Oromocto’s John S. Paul, Tobique’s William Saulis, and Woodstock’s Oliver Polchies. The Maliseet opposed centralization in three ways. First, using what can best be described as a public relations campaign, they denounced the plan and sought the support of non-Native New Brunswickers. Second, they conveyed their opposition directly to officials in Ottawa. Third, they launched an anti-centralization campaign within their own communities, reconstituting a Saint John River Valley collective that they called the Wulastook (or Wulustuk) Tribe.44 Using these tactics, the Maliseet ultimately succeeded in stymying Ottawa’s planned centralization.
15 The Maliseet fought centralization using an elaborate public relations campaign from which they garnered much support among non-Native New Brunswickers. The Maliseet cause was taken up by some prominent New Brunswickers, particularly Native-rights advocate Edwin Tappan Adney. By the 1940s Tappan Adney was a retiree living in Woodstock with his wife Minnie Bell Sharp.45 An amateur anthropologist of no mean ability, Tappan Adney was much interested in Maliseet culture and regularly visited local reserves, barraging the Maliseet with questions about their history and culture. Indeed, this was the topic of a series of letters exchanged between Tappan Adney and noted anthropologist Frank Speck. Tappan Adney was also keenly interested in the Maliseet’s treatment by the federal government and he supported Maliseet political aspirations, particularly their fight with Ottawa over centralization. Tappan Adney was, in his own words, "determined to fight the iniquitous attempt by the Indian Affairs under the . . . scheme of Centralization to tear the Indians of the three lower river reserves from their homes for resettlement at Kingsclear" using "a campaign of full and wide publicity."46 Tappan Adney conveyed his opposition to centralization in numerous passionate letters to editors as well as in regular correspondence with high-placed Indian Affairs Branch officials in Ottawa. Although he was at times immodest, styling himself a leader of the "Indians," Tappan Adney was also quick to point out that the Maliseet themselves were spearheading the anti-centralization campaign. When, for example, an Indian Affairs Branch official asked Tappan Adney to encourage the Maliseet to willingly relocate to Kingsclear, Tappan Adney replied: "I feel myself powerless to influence the Indians concerned in this matter."47 Members of the Maliseet communities, drawing on the basic literacy afforded them by their past attendance at federal Indian schools, also wrote letters to the editor of regional newspapers – some published as far afield as Prince Edward Island.48
16 While Tappan Adney was perhaps the most vocal champion of the Maliseet anti-centralization cause, the Maliseet also solicited support from other non-Natives, clearly targeting individuals with political influence and obtaining some success in this regard. One of these individuals was solicitor Herbert H. Gunter. In October 1946 Oromocto Chief John S. Paul visited Gunter, expressing his opposition to centralization and requesting that Gunter "take this matter up and see what could be done to ensure their remaining at their present location, and also what Government help they might expect." Paul’s choice of ally was a good one; Gunter had connections in high places. The day after Paul’s visit, Gunter wrote a letter outlining the chief’s concerns about centralization to his friend and law partner and federal Minister of Fisheries H.F. Bridges.49 Bridges, at the time the senior New Brunswicker in the cabinet of Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King, took an interest in the matter. He forwarded Paul’s concerns to J.A. Glen, the minister of the Department of Mines and Resources (the home department of the IAB) and requested information about the planned Kingsclear centralization.50
17 A second tactic employed by the Maliseet was to convey their concerns about the proposed centralization plan directly to the IAB. The plan to centralize the Maliseet of the lower Saint John River happened at a time of unprecedented (if imperfect) federal willingness to directly consider Native people’s concerns about themselves and their communities. Prior to the 1940s, Ottawa had been loathe to entertain direct correspondence from Native people, and federal officials commonly scolded Native people for circumventing their local agent by writing to the department. In the post-war era Ottawa relaxed this stricture as it reformed the Indian Act, and this change in policy was precipitated by a number of forces. By the mid-1940s the Indian Affairs Branch and its policies were facing public criticisms, which, though not themselves new, found added resonance in post-war Canada. Nazi atrocities in Europe awakened Canadians to the injustices suffered by Native people in their own backyard and perpetuated by the Indian Act. The 1948 passage of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights reaffirmed public resolve to reform the Indian Act, which was increasingly viewed as insular, out-dated, and heavy-handed.51 At the same time, there emerged in the corridors of Parliament a new will to reform government policy in keeping with new social science theory; this, too, encouraged a rethinking of Canadian Indian policy.52 In response to the dual forces of public criticism and a governmental will to change, in May 1946 Prime Minister Mackenzie King appointed a 26-member Special Joint Committee of the House of Commons and the Senate to reform Canadian Indian policy.53 For three years, the Special Joint Committee heard evidence from parties involved in Indian Affairs such as IAB officials, church leaders, and social scientists. The committee did its work in three venues – at Ottawa-based hearings held from 1946-48, through written submissions from Native people and other interested parties, and, most significantly for the Maliseet, via a traveling Royal Commission deployed to eastern Canada in the autumn of 1946.
18 The Special Joint Committee’s work, including its traveling Royal Commission, was soundly criticized by Native people and, later on, academics for failing to heed the Aboriginal input it solicited.54 The Maliseet were certainly well aware of flaws in the committee’s consultative agenda. For all intents and purposes, the Ottawa-based hearings were inaccessible to the Maliseet. Reacting to the fact that no Maliseet representatives were invited to formally appear before the committee’s hearings, Tappan Adney complained to the commission that "the Indians of the Maritimes have not been properly heard from."55 The Maliseet were also not asked to submit formal, written briefs to the committee; of the 134 official briefs written by Native groups and appended to Special Joint Committee minutes only three were from Maritime communities, and none of these were Maliseet.56 Outraged, Tappan Adney complained that the Maliseet had "not been given a fair hearing."57 Not invited to Ottawa and discouraged from submitting written briefs, the sole official mechanism by which the Maliseet could make their concerns known to the Special Joint Committee was through the Royal Commission that toured eastern Canada in late 1946.58
19 The Royal Commission was closely affiliated with the Special Joint Committee. All of the commissioners were committee members and the mandate of the commission was precisely that of the committee proper.59 Styled as a "fact finding" body for the Special Joint Committee, the Royal Commission held 18 days of hearings and heard from 170 witnesses across eastern Canada.60 The commission was, however, a far-from-perfect means of documenting Maliseet concerns about their communities and Indian administration in Canada. The fact that it traveled quickly and paused only briefly at specially selected stops offended the Maliseet.61 Indeed, when Chief William Saulis of the Tobique reserve addressed the commissioners on 1 November 1946, he reminded them that in order to give full hearing to the concerns of his community much more time should have been allotted for their visit. He explained "I have many witnesses to be heard. But as you do not have the time to hear them, you will have to believe me when I speak for them." In addition, the committee did not mitigate cultural barriers such as language. This also impeded full disclosure and annoyed the Maliseet. Chief Saulis voiced his displeasure at the fact-finding process, arguing that he would have been better able to present his case in his own language: "Gentlemen, we cannot write out what we have to say. I am speaking your language, not my own. I could say much better what I have to say in my own language."62 Tappan Adney recognized Maliseet dissatisfaction with the commission and informed committee member J.D. MacNichol that, given these flaws, the Maliseet had little confidence in the commission’s work.63
20 Although it was imperfect, the Royal Commission was nevertheless the only opportunity the Maliseet had to directly influence the Special Joint Committee’s work. Moreover, in light of the geographic distance that existed between the Maliseet in the Saint John River Valley and Ottawa, the Royal Commission was significant in that it gave the Maliseet a voice before important federal officials. The Maliseet recognized in the Royal Commission an unprecedented opportunity to raise their most pressing concerns, in person, to a federal body that just might listen; when it visited the Maliseet reserves on 30 October and 1 November, 1946, they seized the opportunity to air their grievances.64 None were more important than federal plans to centralize them at Kingsclear.
21 The third way in which the Maliseet opposed centralization was through an anti-centralization campaign organized within their communities using a reconstituted political alliance they called the Wulastukw Tribe. Beginning in the early winter of 1947, the Maliseet undertook to revive a dormant political structure – a union of the "St. John River Tribe of Indians." According to Tappan Adney, the Maliseet had decided upon a "reconstitution of the old Walastukw or St. John River Tribe of Indians consisting of a central council of representatives from the Chiefs of present reserves until special representatives are chosen by the reservations who will elect a chief or chairman . . . to deal with tribal affairs internally."65
22 The timing of the emergence of this political organization is significant. It followed shortly after the 1944 inauguration of the North American Indian Brotherhood (NAIB), a national organization headed by British Columbian Andrew Paull.66 Although the NAIB has long been characterized as a western movement, Maritime Native people were involved shortly after its founding. In August 1945, 200 Mi’kmaq from across the Maritimes met at Big Cove, New Brunswick, "to organize Indian leaders to amalgamate with the North American Indian Brotherhood." The Big Cove gathering endorsed the NAIB’s 21-point programme as well as working to "cover and remedy the ill treatment administered to Indians by government Agents especially in the Maritimes" and establishing the framework for a Maritime branch of the NAIB, which became the United General Indian Council of Nova Scotia (UGICNS) with Ben Christmas of Eskasoni as its first president.67 It is not clear that the Maliseet were directly affiliated with the NAIB or involved with the UGICNS (which, despite its name, drew members from New Brunswick Mi’kmaw communities). However, as they observed the UGICNS fight centralization in Nova Scotia, the Maliseet no doubt recognized the potential of political mobilization in countering a similar federal plan in New Brunswick.68
23 Specifically, the Wulastukw tribe was a response to Ottawa’s control over community governance. Since 1899 the Maliseet, like all Native people living east of Quebec, had been federally mandated to elect chiefs and councillors according to a three-year system of election known as the triennial system – a system of community governance that gave considerable control to IAB officials in Ottawa and in the field.69 Tappan Adney explained that the Wulastkw Tribe was designed to "break up the band government" as imposed by the triennial system and to compel the federal government to "deal with the tribes, not the bands and individuals by which Indian Affairs has destroyed tribal unity."70 Also at issue in the creation of the new political unit, however, was the extent to which Ottawa attempted to more generally control Maliseet communities through what Adney called "a very old rule of despots and dictators."71 There was probably no more apt example of Ottawa asserting too much authority in Maliseet affairs than the attempt to force centralization.
24 The varied ways in which the Maliseet contested the proposed Kingsclear scheme suggests the depth of the opposition that existed in Maliseet communities to the centralization plan. Using these various means, the Maliseet voiced a convincing array of reasons as to why the Kingsclear centralization plan should be scuttled. One important source of dissatisfaction with the relocation plan was the fact that the move would threaten some important economic opportunities enjoyed by the Maliseet in their current communities. Woodstock, Devon (St. Mary’s), and Oromocto were adjacent to non-Native communities in which many Maliseet had jobs and other opportunities, such as ready markets for their handcrafts. Indeed, Ottawa’s own records bore out the importance of the work that Native people in New Brunswick secured off-reserve. According to these records, wage labour was the single greatest source of income for New Brunswick’s Native people in 1945. That year New Brunswick Native people earned $72,800, or 63 per cent of their total earnings of $115,470, through waged work. Given the dearth of on-reserve employment opportunities, these wages would primarily have been earned off-reserve.72 Agency reports suggest that, like New Brunswickers generally, many Native wage earners worked in lumber camps and sawmills. They also traveled to Maine in the late summer and autumn to help harvest blueberries and potatoes.73 Second in importance only to wage labour, IAB records attribute $26,700, or nearly a quarter of New Brunswick Native people’s annual wages, to a category called "other." Although undefined, "other" probably included money earned from guiding and the production and sale of handcrafts as neither of these undertakings appears in income-generating activities despite their reputed importance and frequent mention throughout agents’ annual reports. The sale of farm goods, fish, and the spoils of hunting and trapping accounted for additional 3.8, 3.8, and 2.7 per cent of incomes respectively.74 Although employment opportunities clearly took New Brunswick’s Native people off reserves – a fact reflected in branch records – this consideration was ignored by the IAB in formulating the Kingsclear scheme.
25 It was, therefore, not surprising that in a petition to the Special Joint Committee, the Maliseet at Devon "entered strong protest against the removal plan on the ground that their jobs were at Fredericton and vicinity and the Kingsclear place was too far away from their jobs."75 As Tappan Adney relayed to Ottawa, the Maliseet’s present communities were "convenient for the Indians who have local jobs."76 Tappan Adney re-iterated this point in a letter to the editor of Woodstock’s Sentinel Press in which he charged that "Kingsclear is miles away from the natural markets of the Indians here at Devon who are to be removed."77 A month later, that same paper printed a similar argument from Oromocto Chief John S. Paul, who stated that "the work we are doing now and what we can pick up around in Oromocto is very important to us."78 Paul recognized that his people were "well-known in the community [of Oromocto] and able to obtain work in that vicinity without any trouble, and that they are also well thought of in that locality." He feared that were "they moved to Kingsclear it would be more difficult to obtain outside work due to the numbers who would be living there" and, as he told solicitor H.H. Gunter, "there are better facilities for securing employment in the Oromocto district than there would be in the vicinity of Kingsclear or elsewhere."79
26 The Maliseet also had strong emotional and family connections to the communities in which they had lived for many years and were, for this reason, reluctant to leave. As the inhabitants of the Woodstock reserve made clear, they had lived "many generations" at their present location and did not want to move.80 The same was true of the Oromocto reserve. In making his case against centralization to solicitor Gunter, Chief Paul explained that his community’s opposition was vested, in part, in the fact that they had lived at Oromocto "for some 57 years."81
27 Despite their fondness for their communities, the inhabitants of St. Mary’s, Woodstock, and Oromocto did not harbour utopian visions of their situations. They recognized that housing conditions and unemployment, in particular, were problems, but they did not see relocation as the solution. At Oromocto, Chief Paul was well aware of the poor living conditions on his reserve, but he believed that improving the community, not abandoning it, was the best solution. In his complaint to H.H. Gunter, Chief Paul noted that their homes were "in a bad state of repair" and the community was in dire need of a water system. Paul also made clear the fact that the residents of the Oromocto reserve "had not been receiving any help financially from the Government and are in need of some assistance."82 In a letter published in Woodstock’s Sentinel Press, Chief Paul argued that the "grounds and land here in Oromocto Reserve are just as good as anywhere." Referring to IAB notions about the calibre of the houses at Oromocto, he continued that it was "only just because they [IAB officials] seen lots of shabby shacks they thought the land would be the same." He claimed that branch officials were "try[ing to] condemn this Reserve, also Woodstock" and wondered "Why couldn’t they build houses here on Oromocto Reserve as well as Kingsclear[?] It would be very pleasing suggestion for Oromocto Indians."83
28 The Maliseet of the Woodstock reserve were also quite aware that (as the IAB pointed out) their community faced a serious problem in that it was becoming overcrowded. But for them, the solution rested not in relocation but rather in the resolution of a long-standing land issue. At issue in Woodstock was a land deal that had been struck in 1908, when the Indian Affairs Department allowed Coster Wetmore to purchase 43.75 acres of the Woodstock reserve for a price of $585.50. In the aftermath of Ottawa’s brief 1897 contemplation of relocating the Woodstock Maliseet, Wetmore, who was clearly aware of this consideration, offered to buy the Woodstock reserve that adjoined his own farm. In 1898 he wrote to the DIA, explaining: "I live alongside of the Indian reserve here and am writing to know if it could be sold as the Indians or half breeds here are pretty troublesome in different ways."84 Informed by the Indian agent that the Maliseet would not want to sell or relocate, Wetmore’s offer was at that time declined.85
29 However, the idea of selling Woodstock reserve land persisted. Two years later, Carleton County Member of Parliament F.B. Carvell raised the issue with Clifford Sifton, the minister in charge of matters pertaining to Indians. Carvell asked about the possibility of selling the reserve land, noting that "it is in the midst of a very flourishing farming community and the farmers on both sides of the Reserve are naturally anxious not only to get rid of the Indians but to have the land opened for cultivation."86 Wetmore himself continued to lobby Ottawa, explaining in a 1900 letter to the department that while he would "very much like to see the Indians somewhere else," he would be satisfied with the ability to purchase part of the reserve and allowing the Maliseet to remain on another section where they "would still have a chance to live on a good road and . . . would be far enough away to make them much less of a nuisance."87 For the next few years, Wetmore persistently made his case that reserve land should be sold to him. In 1905, MP Carvell reiterated Wetmore’s proposal and asked for the DIA’s approval.88 At that time the DIA refused the offer. Three years later, however, amid Wetmore’s and Carvell’s continued lobbying, Maliseet Noel Polchies of Woodstock informed Indian Agent Farrell that the "Indians here have agreed that we may as well sell that piece of land commencing above the Indians houses . . . as we don’t use it and the money would be of use to us."89 On 13 March 1908 Farrell presented to the department what he called a land surrender from the Maliseet. It contained the marks of six signatories and a notation by Farrell that two members who should have voted on the issue were absent from the community and had not offered their endorsement.90 Later that spring, after a decade of trying, Wetmore paid $585.50 for 43.75 acres of land belonging to the Woodstock reserve.91
30 The Wetmore land issue resurfaced in 1944 when Wetmore’s brother, who was then in the possession of the land, refused the IAB’s offer to purchase the tract for $1,000 for return to the reserve.92 Clearly, the IAB recognized that the return of the land would do much to alleviate the crowded conditions prevailing on the reserve. It is telling that the IAB’s main rationale for Woodstock’s relocation was its shortage of land. Tappan Adney articulated the Maliseet’s belief that the IAB was using as its relocation "pretext . . . [the] lack of building space when there would be plenty [of] space but for a paper . . . signed in 1908 deeding about 40 acres from the middle of the 150 acre reserve to Coster Wetmore."93 The Maliseet, therefore, took issue with a relocation premised on a land shortage at Woodstock. Moreover, the Maliseet firmly believed that the 1908 land sale had been illegal in the first place; the federal government, they noted, was not legally entitled to dispose of reserve land without the full support of a band, and the six signatories of 1908 – a time when the community had no chief – did not represent a sufficient level of endorsement. Indeed, just four years after the transaction, the Maliseet were decrying the sale. In 1912, when Wetmore proposed that he be allowed to purchase more reserve land the Maliseet not only refused to concede to a further sale but also "express[ed] themselves as being sorry for the surrendering of the land that was sold some time ago." The Indian agent, N.J. Smith, implored Ottawa not to allow a further sale and noted (with remarkable foreshadowing) that such a sale "will leave them without a place to get firewood or lumber if they should wish to enlarge their dwellings or build new ones."94 While the revocation of the Wetmore land sale promised to right an unlawful transaction, the Maliseet also saw the restoration of their reserve to its former size as an action that would negate the federal rationale for centralization.
31 The Maliseet also opposed relocation to the Kingsclear site in particular and offered a myriad of reasons as to why it was a poor choice for a settlement. In May 1947, when Tappan Adney was asked by the IAB to assuage Maliseet concerns and encourage them to relocate, he flatly refused.95 Recognizing Maliseet opposition to the Kingsclear site chosen by the IAB, Tappan Adney wrote: "That I will not do. The place has been condemned by all the Indians, and it would be useless for me to try."96 What was the source of this condemnation? First, the Maliseet explained that Kingsclear lacked the heritage of their existing communities and had never been recognized as a bonafide Maliseet settlement. In a petition to the Special Joint Committee, likely penned in 1946, Chief Oliver Polchies of Woodstock explained:Kingsclear used to be called French Village. . . . It was never a place the Indians picked out for a village. After the Indians at Ekapahak, the chief town of the Wulastook or St. John River Tribe were cheated out of Ekapahak and Indian Island where the Indians used to assemble for conferences, cheated by white man, they moved up to French Village where some of their old friends the French still lived. The Indians couldn’t make a living there. Three years ago there were only three Indian children in the school. Mostly old people left. The children when they grew up had to go away.97With strong words Tappan Adney described Kingsclear as a site with "nothing whatever to recommend it" – largely due to practical impediments.98 The site selected by the IAB was not on the banks of the Saint John River. Instead it featured "houses perched at a steep hillside" in "no spot the Indians would have chosen."99 Like the fairly new inland reserve site at Devon, Kingsclear lacked access to the Saint John River and the transportation by canoe and sustenance through fishing that the river provided the Maliseet. In a letter to Tappan Adney, Chief John S. Paul of Oromocto made this clear. He wrote that Kingsclear was "unsuitable for man to make his daily living such as hunting in spring [of] the year also fishing and all such a lot of other things. What Indian," he continued, "could make his living" at Kingsclear?100 Paul’s poor opinion of Kingsclear was seconded by the Woodstock Maliseet, who argued against the proposed site in their October 1946 meeting with the traveling Royal Commission as well as in a petition delivered to the Special Joint Committee. In this petition they stressed the unsuitability of Kingsclear by detailing just how many Maliseet people had in recent years tried and failed to establish lives there, thwarted by the site’s distance from markets and lack of river frontage.101
32 The federal rationale for Kingsclear’s selection was also a source of Maliseet discontent. According to federal plans, the centralized Kingsclear was to become a farming community. Centralized families were to be provisioned with "three acres and a cow" to allow them to make their living, an idea that was soundly chastised by the Maliseet. Tappan Adney, clearly cognizant of mid-20th-century trends toward expansive, consolidated farms, proclaimed the federal plan "the craziest idea, that a man and family can live on three acres of land, when the trend in farming is larger and larger tracts that will pay for operation by machinery." The farming scheme was, he suggested "an impractical plan even if the Indian wanted to farm." And this was an important consideration because the Maliseet made it clear that farming was not their preference. Maliseet men at Oromocto, St. Mary’s, and Woodstock were primarily wage-labourers within their communities as well as in the neighbouring non-Native communities of Woodstock and Fredericton. As one Maliseet woman matter-of-factly explained to Tappan Adney: "If we wanted to farm we would have farmed long ago."102 Tappan Adney succinctly summed up this opinion: "Why in hell must they keep on trying to make an Indian here into a farmer, and how in hell can anybody farm on three acres, and who in hell wants the stink of goats?"103 Despite generations of failed initiatives elsewhere, farming was the main "benefit" trumpeted by the IAB in reference to the Kingsclear site.
33 Also offensive to the Maliseet was the fact that the Kinsgclear relocation plan, like the centralization scheme in Nova Scotia, was linked to another federal policy – the resettlement of returned Maliseet veterans.104 A number of Maliseets from the Saint John River Valley had served in the Second World War. Tappan Adney compiled a list of 98 Maliseet enlistees, including 21 from Devon, 12 from Oromocto, 7 from Kingsclear, 14 from Woodstock, and 44 from Tobique.105 On their return from war, the veterans expected to be provided a tract of land as was their right. For the Maliseet of the Saint John River Valley, however, the IAB made the veteran resettlement plan contingent upon relocation. The case of Woodstock chief and Second World War veteran Oliver Polchies stands as one example. After having served overseas for five years, Polchies returned to Woodstock believing that "he should receive reestablishment assistance on the same footing as a white veteran" in accordance with the Veterans Land Act. Rather than being allotted land on his own reserve at Woodstock, however, Polchies was informed that he would have to relocate to the centralized Kingsclear site to receive an allotment.106 Polchies was not alone. Three other veterans, all from Oromocto, were likewise informed that any land they might receive would have to be at Kingsclear.107
34 Other dubious tactics used by the Indian Affairs Branch to induce the Maliseet to move also served to deepen Maliseet discontent. They resented that they had not been consulted before the IAB purchased the Murray property at Kingsclear, a purchase that flew in the face of the Special Joint Committee’s alleged commitment to consultation. Indeed, Tappan Adney believed that "the one great defect in this plan was that the Indians were not consulted as to its feasibility."108 More significantly, though, the Maliseet opposed the coercion that was part of federal centralization policy – coercion that was felt in a number of ways.109 In Woodstock, Chief Polchies, when faced with the request to relocate, was reluctant to make a snap decision. He was, however, pressured by IAB officials to do so. Polchies explained to Tappan Adney that when federal officials asked his consent to have his community moved, he told them "he desired to consult members of the Band first, but was told they hadn’t time. Then he told them he wanted first to consult a person at Woodstock by phone, by the name being given ‘adney’; but they hadn’t time to wait."110 The Maliseet were also pressured to move by federal threats; if they did not move, their own communities would lose IAB services. Chief John Paul of Oromocto, for example, testified in a sworn statement that Agent Edward Whalen and another IAB official had "discussed with me the subject of removals to Kingsclear and told me that if the Oromocto Indians refused to remove to Kingsclear and choose to remain on their reserve, they will be considered by the government no longer entitled to the allowances and services that we have been receiving as Indians. That we will be white people and will have to pay taxes."111 In addition to these overt forms of coercion, the chief at Woodstock alleged that his community was being subjected to more subtle methods. In his submission to the Special Joint Commission, Polchies alleged that the IAB was trying to coerce the Maliseet at Woodstock to relocate by reneging on promised community improvement plans. Polchies wrote:Since last fall the Indian Agent has failed the government’s promise to make improvements much needed. After building a house for a veteran and starting to renovate the house of another veteran, work stopped. Mrs. Minnie Paul, wife of Peter Paul, Indian constable was promised a small addition to her house right away. This stopped. Outdoor privies are in disgraceful condition. Every year the government has plowed a garden site on a low bench of the River and given us seed for planting. This year the government would not plow and told us we have to look after the gardening ourselves. We are told there is no chance to put cellars under our houses. . . . We think the government was intending to move us all down to Kingsclear, that is why they stopped work last fall.112The Maliseet at Woodstock, he felt, were being bullied into moving to Kingsclear.
35 Publicly the IAB denied these charges, claiming that any relocation would be strictly voluntary. For example, when Tappan Adney alleged to IAB Director R.A. Hoey that branch officials were using coercive and threatening tactics to force relocation, a memo from the Office of the Superintendent of Reserves and Trustees responded that "it is the intention that centralization would be on a purely voluntary basis and that it was not the intention to compel any family to move to Kingsclear against their wishes."113 However, the attitude evinced by branch officials, including Hoey himself, lends considerable credence to the Maliseet allegations. When, in the fall of 1946, New Brunswick cabinet minister H.F. Bridges became involved in the controversial plan at Maliseet request, the response he got from the IAB seemed to confirm Maliseet fears that the IAB was committed to relocation even in the face of concerted Maiseet opposition. Responding to charges passed by Bridges to the IAB concerning the alleged coercion, the Minister of the Interior W.J.F. Pratt wrote:It is noted that the Chief of the Oromocto Reserve is perturbed over the possibility that the Oromocto Indians may be moved to the Kingsclear Reserve and I can give no assurance that such a move will not be carried out in the future. The Indian Affairs Branch have under consideration a centralization programme for the Indians of the Saint John River valley and although no definite decision has been reached as to the inclusion of the Oromocto Indians it has been recommended that they be included and moved to Kingsclear next year and that decent houses be constructed for them on the new Reserve.The minister then discounted the scope of Maliseet opposition: "It is only to be expected that some of the older Indians will oppose any proposal to move them from land on which they have lived all their lives, even though the move, if it takes place, cannot but improve their living conditions." He went on to further justify the relocation, explaining that "any proposal of this kind must be considered from the point of view of future generations of the Band, as well as present members." If the Oromocto Maliseet were moved, he stated, "such decision will be made on the grounds that the move will be of definite benefit to the Band as a whole."114
36 In another instance, a charge levelled by Tappan Adney accusing Agency Inspector J.E. Morris of bullying the Maliseet met a response that likewise confirmed Maliseet allegations that the branch had a clear intent to move them regardless of the level of dissent. Morris opened his letter to Tappan Adney "emphatically deny[ing] that the Indians in any way were threatened to persuade them to move to the Kingsclear area."115 However, as his letter continued, Morris demonstrated his and the IAB’s unwillingness to support any Maliseet who chose not to "voluntarily" relocate. Seemingly unable to recognize the contradiction between his concept of the "voluntary" nature of the plan and the assertion that the IAB would not support reserves that elected not to move to Kingsclear, Morris maintained thatthe Indians at Oromocto and Woodstock were informed that there was a building program being undertaken to assist them in establishing themselves in decent, well-constructed houses with cement basements, thorough brick chimneys from the basement up and that I would not recommend the expenditure of public funds to make extensive repairs, putting in basements for houses at the Woodstock Reserve which is already overcrowded and would, undoubtedly, if a fire started in any one of them, completely wipe out the whole settlement if the wind happened to be high or in the right direction. Regarding Oromocto Reserve, the area does not lend itself to digging out cellars as the subsoil is slatey and rocky. Further at this reserve and it also applies to the Woodstock Reserve they have not sufficient acres of arable land in which to raise vegetables, fruits etc., nor have they pasture to keep a cow and other livestock. The intention of building new houses is to establish them on an area where they will have plenty of good land available for gardening, where there is pasture and water available as well as sufficient land to raise fodder for winter feeding. This office is very concerned about the present unsanitary conditions of the houses at these Reserves. We are undertaking, at considerable cost to the taxpayers, to assist these Indians and it is important for the success of the scheme that the Indians give us their full co-operation.116Tappan Adney noted, referring to an exchange he had had with Hoey himself over federal plans to compel the Maliseet at Oromocto to move, that "Hoey indicated no intention of changing his mind nor remedying the complaints of Oromocto Indians."117
37 Maliseet concerns about federal centralization tactics were not eased by the experiences of the few Maliseet who did agree to test the waters at Kingsclear. In the spring of 1947, a few members of the Oromocto reserve made the move upriver to the Kingsclear site. Things did not go well at the new community. In a letter to Chief William Saulis of Tobique, Oromocto’s Chief Paul complained about how they had been treated following their relocation: "We were told last spring that if we move to Kingsclear Reserve we’d be looked after. But things turn out just the opposite way." Promised farm stock failed to materialize, and the homes constructed were cold and drafty. As a result, all of the families who moved to Kingsclear soon wanted to return to Oromocto, but some were unable to do so. Three Oromocto families, according to Paul, were "stuck" at Kingsclear because branch officials had dismantled their Oromocto homes while they were away. Paul also suggested that the Oromocto community was being "punished" with the closure of its school and the cutting of relief. Aghast at their treatment, Chief Paul remarked: "I don’t believe Indians ever experience[d] anything like this before."118
38 Despite the fact that a few families tried their luck at Kingsclear, it never became the centralized home of the Saint John River Maliseet as per Ottawa’s plan. As in Nova Scotia, there is no one defining moment marking the end of the centralization plan in New Brunswick.119 By 1949, however, talk of Maliseet centralization had waned. In 1950, the names of the province’s Indian agencies were changed to reflect Ottawa’s interest in establishing Kingsclear as a place of prominence in Indian administration, but the Maliseet did not move there en masse nor did it become the hub of Indian affairs administration.120
39 Factors external to the Maliseet community doubtless contributed to the plan’s abandonment. Lisa Patterson suggests that changes in the upper echelons of the federal government in 1948 created an administration less committed to centralization. That year, Louis St. Laurent replaced Prime Minister King as Liberal leader, J.A. MacKinnon was named head of the Department of Mines and Resources, and Major D.M. Mackay replaced centralization’s great supporter, R.A. Hoey, as director of the IAB. Patterson notes that federal correspondence after this date reflected a move away from the advocacy of total centralization in Nova Scotia. That Nova Scotia centralization limped on past this date, she argues, was the result of the fact that so much of that program’s infrastructure was already in place.121 In New Brunswick, however, centralization had not progressed as far, and so perhaps with this changing of the guard it was more easily halted. The New Brunswick plan was also undermined by the fact that by the end of the 1940s the ambitious Nova Scotia scheme was recognized as a failure – not just by the Mi’kmaq who had long been decrying it, but also by branch officials. The centralized reserves of Shubenacadie and Eskasoni were overcrowded and isolated from sites of waged labour (just as Kingsclear was for the Maliseet) and, as a result, their residents were unable to find work. Federal officials were also disillusioned by the fact that centralization did not reduce branch spending. Much to the dismay of officials at the IAB, relief costs did not fall but instead increased.122
40 The scuttling of the New Brunswick plan may also have been connected to the fact that the IAB found itself preoccupied with the pressing task of drafting the long-awaited Indian Act revision, the end result of the Special Joint Committee and its eastern Royal Commission.123 Between 1948, the year the Royal Commission completed its work, and 1951, the year the new Indian Act was passed, the future of Canada’s Indian policy remained unclear. In the interim, IAB officials were probably little interested in committing time and energy to a new centralization program, particularly in light of the less-than-satisfactory results in Nova Scotia.
41 Credit for the scuttled Kingsclear plan, however, must also be attributed to the Maliseet.124 Their anti-centralization campaign had the desired result of swaying both public and federal opinion. First, it is clear that the Maliseet’s publicity campaign paid off; it won for them not only the support of well-placed advocates such as Edwin Tappan Adney and federal cabinet member H.F. Bridges, but also the support of many non-Natives in the province as well. The success of this public campaign was demonstrated by an April 1947 editorial appearing in the Woodstock Sentinel Press. Commenting on letters the paper had received from both Tappan Adney and Oromocto’s Chief Paul, the newspaper’s editors publicly backed the Maliseet in their opposition to centralization. The editors wrote that they were compelled "to add our voice to that of Mr. Adney’s in protest against the move." The editorial continued: "The Indians are undoubtedly wards of the Government but that they should be moved to a region which they consider less advantageous than their present site without their full consent, seems to us an unreasonable viewpoint on the part of the Department. After all we all have a certain responsibility toward the Indians. Let’s make sure that in carrying out this responsibility we take some consideration of the Indians’ feelings in the matter."125 Tappan Adney himself certainly believed that the public opinion was being swayed by the Maliseet campaign against centralization. In a letter to IAB Director R.A. Hoey, Tappan Adney stated that "as publicity is giving to these proceedings, the people at large are becoming aroused, their sympathy with the Indians denied even human rights."126 The power of public opinion helped dissuade Ottawa from proceeding with its plan.
42 The Maliseet also succeeded in their bid to make officials in Ottawa aware of their opposition to centralization. First, they drew on the political strength of their newly reconstituted Wulastook Tribe to make their case against centralization in an impromptu meeting before several members of the Special Joint Committee in Ottawa. In July 1947 Chief William Saulis of Tobique, a key player in this re-formed political organization, funded his own trip to Ottawa, where he met with members of the Special Joint Committee and introduced them to the new political structure. Saulis had in hand a letter that was signed by all of the other members of the new political body – a tactic he thought would be valuable as the joint effort in writing "in one body" would "pack a final punch."127
43 It was, however, in their representations before the traveling Royal Commission that the Maliseet made their strongest case against centralization before federal officials. The anti-centralization messages they conveyed to the commission clearly deflated federal enthusiasm for the Kingsclear plan. At each brief stop it made, the Royal Commission faced a volley of anti-centralization arguments from the Maliseet: they depended on the economic opportunities of their home reserves and were committed to their towns’ heritage and connections to family, past, and present; they adamantly opposed the coercive tactics of the IAB; and they believed that a settlement at Kingsclear, which was centred on small-scale farming, was doomed to fail as indeed initial efforts there suggested. Tappan Adney was impressed with the force of Maliseet representations before the commission and he believed that the commissioners were moved by them. Of Chief William Saulis’s testimony before the commission, he wrote (with characteristic melodrama) that after the chief spoke "there was a silence from the Committee. They were profoundly impressed by the dignity and earnestness of the unlettered savage. At length the Committee said that they would accept his spoken word for fact."128
44 The traveling Royal Commission also relayed Maliseet concerns to the Special Joint Committee sitting in Ottawa. Committee member and commission member D.S. Harkness assured Tappan Adney that the members of the Royal Commission had brought the centralization issue before the Special Joint Committee proper where the offensive aspects of the policy were challenged: "The matter of the removal of Indians from their various Reserves along the Saint John River was raised in the meeting of the Committee, held yesterday, by Mr. John MacNichol. I also took up the question and protested against the compulsion which in my opinion has been put on these Indians, particularly the veterans, to move to Kingsclear. I trust that as a result of the representations made the Department will be more careful in the methods they use to persuade the Indians to concentrate at the Kingsclear Reserve."129
45 For his part, Tappan Adney, in a letter to an editor, remarked that "government cannot be unaware of the unanimous wishes of the Indians and at the same time allow this new policy of its Indian department to go right on into execution."130 It seems he was right. Officials in Ottawa did not merely hear the Maliseet position on centralization – they were convinced by it. In Ottawa, Special Joint Committee member John R. MacNichol took up Maliseet concerns about the alleged coercion that was part of the centralization plan, compelling IAB Director Hoey to declare that there is no governmental authority for the department "to ask any body of Indians to remove from their present reserves."131 Commissioners who traveled to the east were particularly convinced of the soundness of the Maliseet anti-centralization representations. In a radio address that was printed in the Hartland Observer, Special Joint Committee and Royal Commission member W. Garfield Case dismissed the viability of a centralization scheme, noting that "its apparent weakness is the idea of taking these Indians back into the hinterland so to speak, whereas we have already commented on the fact that they are making their greatest progress near the white settlements." Tappan Adney recognized the importance of this statement and, in the margins beside his newspaper clipping of the article, he wrote, prophetically, "This cooks the goose of the Kingsclear blunder."132