Published on January 15, 2012 by Amy
James Gladstone (or Akay-na-muka, meaning “Many guns”) (May 21, 1887 – September 4, 1971) was the first Status Indian to be appointed to the Canadian Senate.
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Gladstone was a Cree by birth but was adopted by the Blood Reserve on which he was born; the Blood belonged to the Blackfoot nation. He attended an Anglican Mission school on his reserve until 1903, when he moved to an “Indian Industrial School” in Calgary and apprenticed as a printer.
After leaving school in 1905, Gladstone returned to his reserve where he worked as an interpreter. He also found work on ranches in the area wrangling cattle. In 1911, he found work with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a scout and interpreter and also worked as a mail carrier on his reserve.
Eventually, Gladstone established himself as a farmer and rancher and worked with his sons to assemble 400 head of cattle and also introduced modern farming practices to the reserve.
In 1949, Gladstone was elected president of the Indian Association of Alberta and was sent to Ottawa three times to press for improvements to the Indian Act. His acceptance by both Blackfoot and Cree assisted him in bringing the different groups together in one political organization.
He was appointed to the Senate by Progressive Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in January 1958, two years before Status Indians won the right to vote in Canada and pressed for Aboriginals to be enfranchised. He sat as an “Independent Conservative” until he retired from the Upper House in March 1971.