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Laird, David (1833–1914)

David Laird.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-A1

Laird was born on March 12, 1833, in New Glasgow, PEI, and was educated at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary at Tutor, NS. In 1859 he founded, edited, and published the leading Liberal journal of the island. Laird was elected to the Charlottetown city council in 1860. He became a Liberal member of the House of Assembly in 1871. In 1873 he took part in the negotiations to incorporate Prince Edward Island into Confederation and won a seat in the House of Commons in Ottawa. Laird was made Minister of the Interior in 1873, and assisted in the expansion of the railway west. He obtained 75,000 square miles of territory in the Qu’Appelle Valley region. In 1876 his department created the Indian Act. That year he became the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territories as well as superintendent of Indian Affairs. In 1877 he negotiated Treaty 7 with the Blackfoot and other tribes in southern Alberta. He remained Lieutenant-Governor after the Liberal defeat in 1878, but left office in 1881. Due to the difficulties of Transportation at this time, the Territorial Council was forced to relinquish most of its powers of administration to Laird. He used his position as Lieutenant-Governor to secure funding to develop local schools and pay for public works. He had little interest in territorial government, making little effort to discuss constitutional problems with the federal government. In 1882 he ran for federal office but failed to win his riding. In 1898 he was appointed Indian Commissioner for Manitoba and the NWT, and he presided over three more treaties, Treaty 8 in 1900, Treaty 9 in 1905, and Treaty 10 in 1906. He resigned his position as Commissioner in 1909 and became an advisor to the federal government on Aboriginal issues. He died January 12, 1914.

Jeremy Mohr

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Further Reading

Robb, Andrew. 1965. “Laird, David.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Toronto: University of Toronto Press; Thomas, Lewis H. 1978. The Struggle for Responsible Government in the North-West Territories 1870–97. Toronto: University of Toronto Press; Weeks, Blair (ed.). 2002. Minding the House: A Biographical Guide to Prince Edward Island MLAs 1873–1993. Charlottetown: Acorn Press.
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