|5th Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia|
November 1, 1892 – November 18, 1897
|Governor General||The Lord Stanley of Preston
The Earl of Aberdeen
John Herbert Turner
|Preceded by||Hugh Nelson|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Robert McInnes|
|4th Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories|
December 3, 1881 – July 1, 1888
|Governor General||Marquess of Lorne
The Marquess of Lansdowne
The Lord Stanley of Preston
|Preceded by||David Laird|
|Succeeded by||Joseph Royal|
|Member of the Canadian Parliament
October 12, 1872 – June 6, 1879
|Succeeded by||Francis Jones Barnard|
|Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Assiniboia East
September 12, 1888 – October 26, 1892
|Preceded by||William Dell Perley|
|Succeeded by||William Walter McDonald|
November 5, 1835|
|Died||August 8, 1916
Victoria, British Columbia
|Spouse(s)||Jane Shaw Moir (m. 1864)|
|Occupation||engineer, railway surveyor|
Edgar Dewdney, PC (November 5, 1835 – August 8, 1916) was a Canadian surveyor, road builder, Indian commissioner and politician born in Devonshire, England. He served as Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territories and the fifth Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia.
Early life and career
Following his education in civil engineering, he emigrated from England to British Columbia in 1859. In 1864, Dewdney married Jane Shaw Moir, the daughter of a tea plantation owner from Ceylon. This marriage was without issue.
Surveyor during the gold rushes of the 1860's
Dewdney was originally employed as a surveyor, and supervised the survey of New Westminster. In 1865, Dewdney was appointed by Governor Frederick Seymour to oversee the construction of a trail to the East Kootenay region of the British Columbia Interior so that coastal merchants might benefit from the burgeoning trade associated with gold mining in that area but also to secure line of communication with the region to prevent an American takeover of that part of the province. Although used for only a few years, parts of the Dewdney Trail, as it was known, remain to this day and are used for recreational hiking. Provincial Highway 3 largely follows the route of the Dewdney Trail.
Entry into politics
From 1868 to 1869, Dewdney became active in Colonial politics, representing the electoral district of Kootenay in the Legislative Council of British Columbia. After the Colony joined Canadian Confederation in 1871, he served as a Conservative Member of Parliament for the riding of Yale following his election in 1872. He was appointed a member of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald's cabinet in 1879, where he served as Indian commissioner for the North-West Territories until 1888.
In 1881, Macdonald arranged Dewdney's appointment as Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories, then an executive position. Dewdney resigned his seat in the Commons, but remained Indian Commissioner during his term as Lieutenant-Governor, which lasted until 1888. Macdonald, along with being Prime Minister, held the cabinet post Minister of the Interior. Dewdney took orders directly from Macdonald. Responsible government had not been granted to the North-West Territories, so Dewdney was the Territories' head of government. Perhaps his most notable decision in office was changing the territorial capital from Battleford to Wascana — Cree for "Pile of Bones" — in 1883: a featureless location without water apart from a short spring run-off Wascana Creek, trees or topography, but where Dewdney had secured substantial real estate for himself adjacent to the near-future planned Canadian Pacific Railway line. Other townsites were also considered probable territorial capitals, including Fort Qu'Appelle and Qu'Appelle, the latter to the extent of having been designated the cathedral city of the new Diocese of Qu'Appelle by the Church of England in Canada. The matter was a national scandal at the time. Still, the initial major street of Pile of Bones, when it was renamed Regina by Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne, was called Dewdney Avenue.
After his term as Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories, Dewdney was again elected to Parliament and served as the member for Assiniboia East (now southeastern Saskatchewan) from 1888 to 1891. During this period he also served as Minister of the Interior and Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
He retired from politics in 1900, after unsuccessfully running for Parliament in New Westminster, British Columbia.
Crisis: The starvation of the natives
Upon taking office May 1879 Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories, Edgar Dewdney, came face to face with the plight of the natives in the wake of the disappearing Buffalo. Indians had already starved to death at Qu'Appele, Fort Walsh, Fort Macleod, Battleford, Carlton, Fort Pitt, Fort Saskatchewan, Edmonton, Touchwood Hills, Fort Ellice, Moose Mountain, Fort Calgary, and elsewhere. Dewdney's solution was to locate the native tribes on reserves. There agents would teach them how to farm.
He reported conditions at the Blackfoot Crossing in July 1879 as follows:
On arriving there I found about 1300 Indians in a very destitute condition, and many on the verge of starvation. Young men who were known to be stout and hearty fellows some months ago were quite emaciated and so weak they could hardly work ; the old people and widows, who with their children live on the charity of the younger and more prosperous, had nothing, and many a pitiable tale was told of the misery they had endured.
By that autumn seventeen instructors were established at different reserves along with supplies of tools and seed. They began to teach the natives how to farm.
Dewdney was later denounced for not responding to four official requests for food aid during the winter of 1882-83 for "over 2000 Indians here almost naked and on the verge of starvation". When finally pressed to send food supplies after the official requests, Dewdney stated it was government policy to use famine to force Indians onto reserves.
The Northwest Rebellion of 1885
Edgar Dewdney was the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territories during the Riel-led rebellion of 1885.
Dewdney has been criticized for using the courts as an extension of administering his own concept of justice (Gavigan, p. 38). He reportedly withheld rations from the Cree until he realized that it created more violence among them (Gavigan, p. 36).
- A major east-west street in Regina, Dewdney Avenue, is named after him; Government House, the original Territorial government building and the local detachment of the RCMP (formerly its headquarters before these were transferred to Ottawa) and national training centre are on Dewdney Avenue.
- Dewdney, British Columbia is the name of a locality immediately east of Mission, British Columbia, located below the 920 m Dewdney Peak on the north shore of the Fraser River. The community was the namesake of the former Dewdney provincial electoral district and also of the now-dismantled Dewdney-Alouette Regional District
- The Dewdney Trunk Road was one of the earliest main roads in the Lower Fraser Valley of British Columbia, running from Port Moody to the community of Dewdney. Today it exists in sections in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam is a major thoroughfare running between Maple Ridge and Mission (where it is now officially Dewdney Trunk Road) , today ending short of Dewdney at Hatzic.
- The Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary in Saskatchewan, established in 1887 upon Dewdney's recommendation and the first wildlife reserve of its type on the continent, was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1987.
- "Lieutenant-Governors of British Columbia". www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
- ERIC J. HOLMGREN. "Sir Edgar Dewdney". www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
- Indian Claims Commission. Carry the Kettle First Nation Inquiry, Cypress Hills Claim. pp. 31,32
- Waiser, Bill (2016-03-29). "History matters: Westerners had to fight for vote". The StarPhoenix. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
- Pierre Berton, The Last Spike: The Great Railway 1881-1885 (Toronto: McLelland and Stewart, 1973), 120)
- Duncan C. Scott, "Indian Affairs, 1867-1912", in Adam Short and Arthur G. Doughty, eds., Canada and Its Provinces, Vol. VII, Toronto, Glasgow, Brook and Company, 1914, pp. 493-526.
- Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- Titley, Brian E. (1999). The Frontier World of Edgar Dewdney. Vancouver, B.C.: University of British Columbia Press.
- "Edgar Dewdney". Dictionary of Canadian Biography (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 1979–2016.
- Edgar Dewdney – Parliament of Canada biography
- E. Brian Titley (2003). “DEWDNEY, EDGAR.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 14. University of Toronto/Université Laval. accessed July 11, 2014.
- Edgar Dewdney Fonds and scanned documents.
- Shelley A.M. Gavigan (2012). Hunger, Horses, and Government Men: Criminal Law on the Aboriginal Plains, 1870-1905 (Google eBook) University of British Columbia Press.