Peepeekisis woman studies her community’s past in her Master’s of Anthropology
- Ryan Missens | June 29, 2018
A Peepeekisis woman used her studies to learn more about her own community.
Cheyanne Desnomie just successfully defended her master’s thesis in history. As an anthropologist, Desnomie feels she and others in the field have the opportunity to study different cultures from their own.
“Why should I go somewhere else and study other people when I can stay in my own community and tell the histories and stories of my own people that people don’t necessarily know about,” she said.
Desnomie decided to dedicate her research to study the history of her own community. Her research topic was the File Hills Colony initiated on the Peepeekisis First Nation in the late 1800s.
Her research found that William Morris Graham was appointed as the Indian agent to the File Hill and Qu’Appelle Agencies in 1897. One of his most memorable deeds in office and was remembered for was the establishment of the File Hills Farm Colony in 1898. The Colony was an experiment in Indian assimilation where Indian residential and industrial school graduates were selected to be a part of the project. The selected graduates were given more than half of the existing reserve land on Peepeekisis to start the colony. Graham also provided seeds and housing materials in order to the start the colony. Graham had hoped that the planned Christian and farming community would expedite the assimilation Indian families into mainstream society.
Desnomie from the Peepeekisis First Nation has a vested interest in the subject: after all, her research was about her family, community and her ancestors. In fact, her father was a great source of knowledge about the farm colony. He was able to share the oral history with his daughter and was a huge supporter.
“My dad was there and we are so close, so just to be able to show him what I’ve been able to do for the past few years just felt so awesome,” she said.
Desnomie spent 6 years using oral history from local elders to learn more about the experiment. She learned a lot of new knowledge about the farm colony experiment that wasn’t in the history books and gained an insight from the first nations perspective.
Desnomie also found that Graham’s Peepeekisis farm colony experiment was a success from the Government of Canada’s point of view. From the Peepeekisis Elder’s oral history the experiment was a failure that resulted in forced labour, social divide and a changed demographic within the community.