With the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Native people had little choice but to bend before a huge tide of immigration that eventually brought millions of new settlers into the western part of the continent. First Nations moved to settled reserves and attempted to make new lives for themselves. While the state's authority over them was exercised primarily through the Indian Affairs branch of the federal government, the state formed a partnership with the Christian churches to implement their policies. Perhaps most notable among these co-operative endeavours was the decision to advance the old civilizing mission through educating Native children. The state intended that education, as delivered by Christian evangelists, would be a powerful tool in the assimilationist program.
In practice, however, the education policies devised in Ottawa and the realities of the schools did not always mesh seamlessly. While many school officials belittled and devalued the worth of Aboriginal culture and heritage in their attempts to assimilate children, others did not. In 1891, for instance, the Reverend E.F. Wilson, an Anglican clergyman who participated in the founding of Shingwauk Indian residential school in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, advocated the creation of an Indian legislature and an Indian capital city as the site of a third order of Canadian government. He was outspoken in condemning the assimilationist course of the dominion's Indian policy, asking, "Why should we expect that Indians alone, of all people, should be ready to give up all old customs and traditions and language, and adopt those of the aggressor on their soil."