Chapter 1: Assimilation
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However, there were some individuals who studied the issue of Aboriginal education and proposed much different models of instruction and learning. The men who served on the Bagot Commission (1842-44), for example, proposed that the separation of children from their parents would be the best way to achieve assimilation, and in his Report on Native Education (1847), Egerton Ryerson, Superintendent for Education, reiterated this idea, and also recommended that Aboriginal education focus on religious instruction and on agricultural training.
Confederation, in 1867, further complicated the matter. The promise of a sea-to-sea Dominion of Canada depended, in part, on the settlement of the west. However, this would prove to be a difficult goal to achieve: the United States was already looking at the prairies with annexation in mind. Besides, the west was already occupied. Unlike the Aboriginal people in the east who were in the process of being assimilated into mainstream culture to varying degrees, the western tribal groups maintained their autonomous ways of life.
Clearly, the Dominion's new government had much work to do. Politicians immediately got busy drafting the necessary legislation, and in the early decades of Confederation, they passed the following two acts: the Act for the Gradual Civilization of the Indian (1869), which called for "All Indians to be civilized," and the Indian Act (1876), which legally established the federal government's right to create laws that would apply to Aboriginal peoples. With such legislative groundwork established, a case was soon after made to develop an educational strategy that would completely assimilate Aboriginal children.
Politicians also determined that a transcontinental railroad would help to bring settlers to the west, and to fortify the western and southern boundaries of the Dominion. However, the Homestead Act required that title to the land needed to be secured before the building could start, which set in motion a treaty-making process with western Aboriginal leaders. The project of settling the prairies began in earnest.