Throughout the nineteenth century, Canada and the United States struggled to gain accurate demographic data on the First Nations and Métis communities they claimed to oversee. Enumerators grappled with linguistic and cultural differences, distrust, the ambiguity of racial categories, and the geographic mobility and isolation of many Native American communities. Understanding how, where, and why national census takers and Indian agents failed to overcome these challenges sheds light on the locality of federal power and the pathways through which Native Americans maintained their autonomy.

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