Unfortunately, the increase in quantity of grain raised in the North-west Territories failed to offset the quality, which was greatly affected by unpropitious weather in many localities during the harvesting of the crops. For the best quality of grain low prices prevailed, and for inferior grades a market was hardly obtainable.
The fruitlessness of too much dependence being placed, in the North-west Territories, upon cereals, to meet the Indians' demands, had for some years past been recognized by the department; consequently efforts have been made in the direction of raising only such quantities of cereals as the time necessary for the rapid and proper rearing of stock and the raising of roots and vegetables would permit, the tendency being to enlarge the areas of the latter as much as possible.
Stock-raising. - The raising of stock is not surrounded by so many elements of uncertainty as that of cereals, and it is constitutional in the Indian, that is, the Indian of the West, to evince a greater fondness for the rearing and care of stock than the production of grain and roots, owing to the monotony necessary in the case of the latter; and where difficulties arise with the Indian as to the proper caring of stock, this is in a great measure owing to his improvident nature.
The Indian in his natural state would undergo wonderful privations and fatigue in the chase; but when he had returned to discharge the fruits of the hunt at the door of his lodge, he considered his labours as ended and that he had earned a well-deserved rest, while the remainder of the work, however listed, was to be done by his squaw - so he is now unwilling to exert himself for a lengthened period, particularly if the results cannot readily be seen. Without much difficulty an Indian can be induced to cut hay or cut firewood, where he knows they are readily sold for cash; but to get him to make hay for stock in the early stages of rearing small herds, when he is not allowed to sell, becomes a much harder task.
Through a great deal of watching and patience, the loan system, as applied to cattle in the North-west Territories, has been brought to work admirably among the Indians. This system, in a few words, is the lending to the Indians of one or two animals, upon condition that, at the expiration of a certain time, he will return to the department an equal number - these in turn being loaned to others. So successful has this system proved, that many individuals have managed to collect about them herds of sufficient size as permit, without detriment, sales to be made, bringing in ready cash: thus the Indian, who for a long time remained skeptical, has become aware of the value of stock.
Fishing and Hunting. - Fishing and hunting, for those who in the main have to depend upon this mode of existence, have been fairly good. The restrictions placed upon the former have, without doubt, proved beneficial, and must in due course be the means of replenishing, many of the inland waters, which were fast becoming depleted. Fur-bearing animals have been found in fair numbers, but the prices obtained for their pelts have been low, thus materially reducing the profits of the hunter.
Health and Sanitary Regulations. Upon the Whole, the health of the Indians has been good.