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The railway brought thousands of settlers to the West. Life for Aboriginal peoples was altered forever. More and more of their lands were taken from them. Unable to travel freely across the land, fishing and hunting, they couldn't provide for their people. The buffalo were gone too, hunted almost to extinction.
I Was There
Father Lacombe, living among the Blackfoot Nation, said this about the coming of the railway:
"Like a vision I could see it driving my poor Indians before it, and spreading out behind it the farms, the towns and cities.... No one who has not lived in the west since the Old-Times can realize what is due to that road ..."
The Great Railway: Illustrated, by Pierre Berton. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, ©1972, p. 167
Meeting between surveyors and Native people on the north shore of Lake Athabasca, Alberta, 1893
Native residents on Crow's Nest Pass Line Railway, British Columbia
"We were here before anyone else.... Indians always had a tradition of sharing, so they must have felt they were simply sharing their land with the newcomers.... As more settlers came, the natives were pushed farther and farther away until they found they couldn't even fish in their own streams."
"We Were Promised So Many Things", by Chief Stephen Knockwood. From the book Voice of the Pioneer, Volume Two, edited by Bill McNeil. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1984, p. 123
Poundmaker, chief of the Cree Nation, saw what the railway would mean and in the spring of 1881 he told his people to prepare: "Next summer, or at the latest next fall, the railway will be close to us, the whites will fill the country, and they will dictate to us as they please. It is useless to dream that we can frighten them; that time is past; our only resource is our work, our industry, and our farms. Send your children to school ... if you want them to prosper and be happy."
The Great Railway: Illustrated, by Pierre Berton. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, ©1972, p. 224, 226
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