Cheated: The Laurier Liberals and the Theft of First Nations Reserve Land

Written by:
Jennie Hansen , Bill Waiser
Narrated by:
Adam Barr

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
October 2023
9 hours 34 minutes
You won't find the Ocean Man and Pheasant Rump reserves on a map of southeastern Saskatchewan. In 1901, the two Nakoda bands reluctantly surrendered the seventy square miles granted to them under treaty. It's just one of more than two dozen surrenders aggressively pursued by the Laurier Liberal government over a fifteen-year period. One in five acres was taken from First Nations.

This confiscation was justified on the grounds that prairie bands had too much land and that it would be better used by white settlers. In reality, the surrendered land was largely scooped up by Liberal speculators-including three senior civil servants and a Liberal cabinet minister-and flipped for a tidy profit. None were held to account.

Cheated is a gripping story of single-minded politicians, uncompromising Indian Affairs officials, grasping government appointees, and well-connected Liberal speculators, set against a backdrop of politics, power, patronage, and profit. The Laurier government's settlement of western Canada can never be looked at the same way again.
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Merle M.

The true story of how First Nations across western Canada were cheated, suckered and swindled into selling their reserve land back to the federal government — only for the government officials to secretly buy the land and resell it for profit — is a blockbuster Canadian story. Bill Waiser and Jennie Hansen present a rollicking, jaw-dropping tour de force through the dark underbelly of Canadian Liberal party politics of the turn of the 20th Century, where politicians and civil servants pigged at the trough of political patronage in get-rich-quick schemes, all on the backs of starving First Nations trying to build new lives under new rules. This is a fascinating, well-told but gut-wrenching story. A must for those learning about farming history in western Canada and how First Nations were actively thwarted in their agricultural entrepreneurship. Narrated by Adam Barr, whose voice is like a deep honey version of Tom Hanks, the pace and flow keeps readers listening, though Canadians will shudder from time to time at French mispronunciations (Metis sounding the s) and Saskatchewan is… well, he’s not from here. I needed a paragraph that explained the difference between all the Indian Affairs bureaucrats (who does an agent report to, and what’s the difference between a commissioner and a superintendent?) I thought an example from a First Nation surrender that was NOT taken by the government (Little Red River, north of Prince Albert) would have added some good contrast. The timeline jumped around a bit too much from chapter to chapter, but if you let yourself just sink into the story and trust that their details were correct, Waiser and Hansen present an important story that I wish had been published 3 years ago. The current ‘cows and plows’ negotiations might have been much stronger for First Nations had they had this book in hand. Overall, an excellent book, and one to add to your reading list, whether you’re interested in reconciliation or just the black underbelly of Canadian Liberal politics.

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