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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Hunger, Horses, and Government Men

Criminal Law on the Aboriginal Plains, 1870-1905

Scholars often accept without question that the Indian Act (1876) criminalized First Nations. Drawing on court files, police and penitentiary records, and newspaper accounts from the Saskatchewan region of the North-West Territories between 1870 and 1905, Shelley Gavigan argues that the notion of criminalization captures neither the complexities of Aboriginal participation in the criminal courts nor the significance of the Indian Act as a form of law. This illuminating book paints a vivid portrait of Aboriginal defendants, witnesses, and informants whose encounters with the criminal law and the Indian Act included both the mediation and the enforcement of relations of inequality.

304 pages

Law and Society

Table of Contents

Introduction: One Warrior’s Legal History

1 Legally Framing the Plains and the First Nations

2 “Of Course No One Saw Them”: Aboriginal Accused in the Criminal Court

3 “Prisoner Never Gave Me Anything for What He Done”: Aboriginal Voices in the Criminal Court

4 “Make a Better Indian of Him”: Indian Policy and the Criminal Court

5 Six Women, Six Stories


Afterword: A Methodological Note on Sources and Data




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