As Their Natural Resources Fail
392 pages, 6 x 9
79 b&w illustrations, 5 tables
Release Date:07 Mar 1997
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

As Their Natural Resources Fail

Native Peoples and the Economic History of Northern Manitoba, 1870-1930

UBC Press

In conventional histories of the Canadian prairies, Native people disappear from view after the Riel Rebellions. In this groundbreaking study, Frank Tough examines the role of Native peoples, both Indian and Metis, in the economy of northern Manitoba from Treaty 1 to the Depression. He argues that they did not become economically obsolete but rather played an important role in the transitional era between the mercantile fur trade and the emerging industrial economy of the mid-twentieth century.

Tough reconstructs the traditional economy of the dynamic fur trade era and examines its evolution through reserve selection and settlement, scrip distribution and the participation of Natives in the new resource industries of commercial fishing, transportation, lumbering, and mining. His analysis clearly shows that Native people in northern Manitoba responded to the challenge of an expanding market economy in rational and enterprising ways, but that they were repeatedly obstructed by government policy.

Numerous interpretive maps, figures, and illustrations provide indispensible aids to Tough's argument. His book will be essential reading for anyone interested in the history of western Canada and the role of Native people in the post-fur trade era.


  • 1998, Winner - Clio Award (Prairie Region), Canadian Historical Association
A vibrant explanation and analysis of the considerable role northern Manitoba peoples played in shaping their own destiny. Based on rich primary sources, hitherto untouched, Tough’s study invites the examination of serious students of native studies and dependency theory. B. M. Gough, Choice
... uncovers some of the misconceptions within current anthropological, sociological and historical writing pertaining to Aboriginal peoples in subarctic North America. His meticulous research and attention to archival documents provides new insights into the ways in which international financial capitalism and paternalistic government policies impacted on the Aboriginal peoples of North America ... a harsh but realistic look at the alienation of Aboriginal peoples from their lands and resources.... richly illustrated .... a fascinating book .... He has achieved a level of analysis and comprehension of international market forces and Indian Department politics that is unparalleled in the literature. His book should be required reading for anyone interested in the history of Aboriginal peoples in the 19th and 20th centuries. SSHARE / ERASSH
In As Their Natural Resources Fail, historical geographer Frank Tough has mounted a powerful argument for bringing economic history back into the analysis of Native peoples' experience. ... his analysis is founded on a rich and diverse theoretical literature; and his persuasive exposition and argument are buttressed with a large number of maps, tables, charts, and pictorial illustrations. ... his arguments demand attention and respect.  As Their Natural Resources Fail is an impressive work that no postsecondary institution that takes Native history seriously will fail to include in its library. J.R. Miller, Canadian Book Review Annual
Frank Tough is head of the Native Studies Department at the University of Saskatchewan.

Illustration, Figures, and Tables




1 “To Look for Food Instead of Fur”: Local Economies - Indian Bands and Company Posts

2 “The Only Remedy Is the Employment of Steam”: Reorganizing the Regional System

3 “Dependent on the Company's Provisions for Subsistence”: The Decline of Kihchiwaskahikanihk (York Factory)

4 “To Be Shut Up on a Small Reserve”: Geographical and Economic Aspects of Indian Treaties

5 “Lands Are Getting Poor in Hunting”: Treaty Adhesions in Northern Manitoba

6 “Terms and Conditions as May Be Deemed Expedient”: Metis Aboriginal Title

7 “Go and Pitch His Camp”: Native Settlement Patterns and Indian Agriculture

8 “Nothing to Make Up for the Great Loss of Winter Food”: Resource Conflicts over Common-Property Fisheries

9 “A Great Future Awaits This Section of Northern Manitoba”: Economic Boom and Native Labour

10 “They Make a Comfortable Living”: Economic Change and Incomes

11 “Wait until Advancing Civilization Has So Interfered with Their Natural Resources”: Surplus Labour, Migrations, and Stagnation

12 “The Fish and Waters Should Be Ours”: The Demise of Native Fisheries - Regulation and Capitalization

13 “Civilizing the Wilderness Will Affect Us”: The Demise of the Hudson's Bay Company and the Re-Emergence of Competition

14 “And Now That the Country Has Gone Mining Crazy”: Industrial Capital, Native People, and the Regional Economy



A. Fur Trade Productivity and Prices: Stagnation and Revival

B. Summary of Treaty Terms (Written Version)

C. Some Land Scrip Intricacies Notes Index

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