As farming operations could not, with any degree of success, be carried on with these Indians, the great difficulty to be contended with has been to find them, not only employment, but that of a more or less remunerative nature. Wherever the department has been successful, the Indians have shown themselves capable and persevering in the performance of heavy work, and have earned considerable amounts in the mining of coal, filling contracts for ties and hay and wood from the reserves, in freighting, and in other directions - this with Indians who were the last to enter into a compact with the Government, and at all times regarded as the most warlike, and consequently the most restless under restraint, and disdainful of anything approaching hard work.
Again reverting to that most important subject of irrigation, I would say that the department has had Mr. Ponton, one of its surveyors, who has given the subject much intelligent study, working both on the Blackfoot and Blood Reserves, and he has been, in a great measure, successful, in an experiment on the latter, in raising water by buckets attached to a wheel worked automatically by the current of the river. Although the experiment has not been on a large scale, it is felt that the idea can be materially extended to advantage. It might be said that this plan was tried in advance of the greater one of drawing the water upon the reserve through an extended ditch, requiring much time and labour for construction, which, it is to be hoped, can be attempted next season.
The Agent and Indians of the Piegan Agency deserve credit for their efforts at irrigation, which, although on a small scale and hardly successful, will, with skilled assistance, which will be granted later on, be extended, and eventually prove a success.
The Calgary Irrigation Company has constructed a ditch of some twenty miles in length through the Sarcee Reserve. Through this it is thought that some 10,000 acres of reserve lands can readily be irrigated; thus provided, frost does not prove disastrous, crops can be ensured, and all the hay necessary to meet the Indians' wants and to place upon the market can, under all conditions in the future, be had.
Emancipation from Superstitions. - The year just passed has shown the department that the sun dance has become an Indian ceremony almost, if not quite, of the past. For a long time the department's policy has been in the direction of suppressing it by moral suasion, and, step by step, it has been robbed of its most revolting ceremonies, so that in the end it has afforded little attraction to a great proportion of the Indian population. So long as it remained a prominent performance, so long did it keep burning those superstitions which it was sought to eradicate. The abandoning of this dance evidences in no small degree the civilizing influences brought upon the Indian, and the great change in his feelings and modes of thought. The success attending these efforts cannot be fully appreciated save by those acquainted with the Indian character. The "medicine men," the guiders of thought and action and the inspirers of fear in all but the very boldest, had to be fought. To win Indians from such a thraldom, and to get them to disregard the influences of generations, required no small amount of courage and skill in management. But two attempts this year have been made to hold sun dances, and these, robbed of the old-time attractions, proved unsuccessful and were not completed.