In 1902, 12 square miles were subdivided from Peepeekisis land and given to promising new graduates, as selected by Graham and school leaders. In 1906, a further 210 acres was portioned off and allotted to more graduates. This left under 8,000 acres for the original band members, who were now outnumbered by newcomers. Those placements who stayed were eventually granted full band membership.
Officially, File Hills Colony was touted as a model for other schools—a colonial showpiece. Tours for royalty and U.S. Government officials were given to display Canada’s ‘successful’ management of Aboriginal peoples.
Outwardly, the colony did seem to prosper for several years—by 1915 over 30 families were farming there. However, the reality was much darker. Rumours of abuse of power, excessive micromanagement, Graham’s total authority and suspicious gains in his personal wealth were rife. The social divide created by forcefully combining original band members with new placements also had long standing impacts. New placements had marriages arranged for them and lived under a strict set of rules. They were not permitted to have contact with those who adhered to traditional culture or to engage in cultural ceremonies. Social interaction between them was also closely monitored to prevent any “lapsing” into traditional ways. Additionally, they lost band membership on their home reserves. The loss of identity persists on both sides today.
In 1955, original band members took legal action. The judge ruled that more recent colony members could maintain full membership. In 1986, members submitted a specific claim to the Department of Indian Affairs and the Indian Claims Commission found Canada was in breach of its lawful obligations to the band. It was recommended that the claim be entered for negotiation under Canada’s Specific Claims Policy. The claim has yet to be settled.