Donald B. Smith
Without any doubt, Duncan Campbell Scott, Deputy Superintendent General of the Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932, was Canada’s best-known Indian Affairs civil servant. His views of Indigenous peoples were often intolerant and harsh, and he believed “the happiest future for the Indian is absorption into the general population.” Though much has been written about Duncan’s career and writings, we know little about his childhood and how his upbringing shaped his views and career ambitions.
Historical digging has revealed an interesting link between Duncan’s hard line on Indigenous issues and his father, Rev. William Scott (1812?-1891). In 1883, Rev. Scott wrote an in-depth report on the Mohawk land struggle at Kanehsatake/Oka that reveals his inability to see the power and strength of Indigenous peoples and the land. The document reveals the Methodist minister’s fluency as a writer, his ability to master and organize a great deal of material, his knowledge of French, and his total and unconditional support of the newly-established Department of Indian Affairs, a department his son would go on to lead only twenty years later. Rev. Scott’s report is available online (William Scott, Report Relating to the Affairs of the Oka Indians. Made to the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs (Ottawa: Printed by MacLean, Roger & Co., 1883) and it deserves greater historical attention, as does the life of its author.