Cree women were the keepers of the lodge fires. They were known as the "iskwêw" (or iskwêwak, plural). The keepers of the lodge fires were the givers of life who kept the family warm and who ensured that there was a warm meal for their people to eat.
Enhanced & colorized by Dibaajimowin (08/07/2020)
Gabriel Dumont was a Métis hunter, merchant, ferryman, and political and military leader who was instrumental in the 1885 resistance against the government of Canada.
He was born in December 1837 at Red River Settlement, Manitoba, the second son of Isidore Dumont and Louise Laframboise. He married Madeleine Wilkie in 1858 at St Joseph (Walhalla, North Dakota).
During the North-West Resistance his military tactics scored some blows against the Canadian forces, and he was known for his great intelligence and skill.
Following the resistance he fled to the United States where he was harbored by friendly Métis at Turtle Mountain and Walhalla, North Dakota. He traveled to the east coast and was reputed to have been with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show for a brief time.
He was eventually granted clemency by the Canadian government and he returned to Canada, where he died, May 19, 1906 in Bellevue (St-Isidore-de-Bellevue) Sask.
Enhanced & Colorized by Dibaajimowin (07/26/2020)
Ayabe-Way-We-Tung, Chief Little Shell III (1896).
Photo taken during the delegation to Washington, DC.
It was reported that Little Shell and his delegates traveled by foot from Turtle Mountain to Devils Lake in the dead of winter to go to Washington. During the 80 mile walk in the middle of winter, temperatures were -40 windchill.
During the 1950s, a North Dakota State Senator recounted how, when he was a child, he and his family were sleeping in their homestead house. They heard some people enter the house in the middle of the night. They were too afraid to investigate, so they waited until morning. In the morning his father found Little Shell and his men busy cooking bacon. They enjoyed breakfast before heading back out in the cold and finishing their trek to Devils Lake.
Enhanced & colorized by Dibaajimowin (07/21/2020)
TERM OF LEADERSHIP: 1872-1903
After the passing of his father in 1872, Ayabe-way-we-tung became the third Little Shell Chief.
His first order of business as chief was to negotiate with Washington, hoping to secure an amenable treaty for his people for their lands in North Dakota, and for the establishment of a reservation that would serve them as a permanent homeland against the encroachment of white settlers. During his delegation of 1876, Little Shell and the other leaders of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa made a petition to the US Government asking for a settlement of their issues. They made several key points and concessions, and asked for considerations for their request to cede over 9-million acres of land in North Dakota. Among their main points were to define their territory formally with the government, to lodge a complaint about the establishment of the Sioux reservation at Devils Lake, and to ask for the establishment of a formal reservation of 50 by 60 miles in the area surrounding the Turtle Mountains. Unfortunately, the government refused to act upon their petition and soon thereafter a smaller reservation was established by Executive order in 1882. This reservation was further diminished in 1884 to the present-day size of 6 by 12 miles. The reduction of the reservation remained a bone of contention for Little Shell throughout all future negotiations with the government.
In 1892, negotiations between the government and the tribe were arbitrarily commenced in order to settle the title to 10-million acres of land yet unceded by Little Shell and the Turtle Mountain Band. The negotiating committee was headed by P. J. McCumber, and became known as the McCumber Commission. Even though Little Shell was the hereditary chief of the Band, the McCumber Committee refused to negotiate with him and his council – forcing Little Shell to walk out of the negotiations in protest. Taking advantage of this, McCumber instead undercut Little Shell by dealing with a “Committee of 32” which had been elected the previous year to deal with some internal problems within the tribe. The result of this negotiation was the so-called “Ten Cent Treaty” by which the Turtle Mountain Band, under the Committee of 32, agreed to cede their claims to their nearly 10-million acres of land for one-million dollars. This “treaty” was quickly contested by Little Shell and his council, who spent the next twelve years in a legal battle with the US Government. As a result, the Ten Cent Treaty was never ratified by Congress.
Little Shell III passed away in 1903 and Congress quickly ratified an amended McCumber Agreement (the Davis Agreement) in 1904.
Enhanced & Colorized by Dibaajimowin (07/20/2020)
This unique village existed until the early 1900s under chiefs Cobenais and Mickinock who maintained several camps along the Roseau River in northern Minnesota. The main village was located on the shores of Roseau Lake, which has since been drained for agriculture in the early 20th century.
Mickinock was famous for quelling a settler panic during the Ghost Dance phenomenon, when local white settlers heard a rumor that there would be an Indian uprising. The settlers fled their homes, leaving their livestock. Mickinock, Cobenais, and others fed and watered the livestock of several farms until word could be sent that there was no uprising. This saved the livestock from starvation.
There was also a legend of a windigo that supposedly lived in the muskeg around the lake. One day, it was reported that the windigo could be seen walking near the village and the next day Mickinock's wife died.
This photo, taken in 1887, shows Cobenais (wearing a green blanket around his waist) and Mickinock (holding a rifle), their wives and other relatives. The man standing with the little girl is a Metis man named Billy McGillis. He was originally from Red River settlement, but was forced to flee when he was accused of a murder. He wound up south of the Medicine Line at Mickinock's village and stayed - becoming their interpreter as he knew English.
Today, there is a stone monument designating where the village once stood.
Photo Enhanced & Colorized by Dibaajimowin (07/19/2020)
Told by James James (Man-standing-still-on-the-sky)
A party of Mandans, who were out on a war expedition in what is now north east North Dakota, arrived at the Pembina River. Having built a raft and deposited all their extra clothing and provisions upon it, they thus effected a crossing over the river. Leaving all their supplies on the bank of the stream they proceeded north towards the Ojibwe camp.
Some children were playing and digging wild carrots along a slough some distance south of the camp. As the Mandan crept cautiously along, they came in sight of the children playing along the slough. Among these children was a little girl, a daughter of Misko Makwa, or Chief Red Bear. Immediately the Mandans dashed forward to capture the children, but as the children were fleet and did not have far to go they all escaped except the daughter of Red Bear. She was very young and could not run fast enough, and so was taken captive. After being captured she was immediately scalped on each side of her head and let go.
Meanwhile, in the Ojibwe camp, a certain medicine man or 'jessikad' of the tribe, Mishequt, who was also chief, by his magic art had divined that something unusual was about to happen and had called together a council of the warriors. While this council was in progress, one of the children, a little boy who was the first to reach camp, burst in upon them with the cry, “The Sioux! The Sioux!,” mistaking the Mandans for their dreaded enemy the Sioux. Immediately all was commotion, the Ogichidaag rushed to their wigwams for their arms and started after the enemy.
On the way to the slough they met the little girl staggering toward the camp, her scalp gone and her head covered with blood. The foremost among the warriors were two sons of Red Bear, older brothers of the little girl, and thus were the first to meet her. Stopping for a moment to kiss their little sister, they sped on in pursuit of the enemy, leaving the rest to follow. As they reached the north bank of the Pembina River they were just in time to see the last of the Mandans disappearing over the bank to escape from defeat in battle.
Source: Hesketh, John. 1923. “History Of The Turtle Mountain Chippewa.” Collections Of The State Historical Society - , O. G. Libby, Editor. Grand Forks, North Dakota
A recent mapping project by Dibaajimowin has led to a comprehensive map showing historical Metis communities and settlements across most of the Metis Nation homeland. Presented in ArcGIS format, this mapping application can be accessed by Computer desktop or on a mobile device. The application is available HERE.
The ‘Medicine Line’ is what the indigenous people called the colonial-enforced US/Canadian Border.
Prior to the establishment of the border, Indigenous people moved freely across their territories. Their boundaries were the various rivers, mountains, and streams which they used to note where they had unquestioned tenure and rights to use the lands and resources.
However, once the US and Canada established their border, it was made clear to the Indigenous groups that the border now existed and that they were to choose which side they were to live and stay on. While this was some cause for concern and was viewed as an impediment, many native people wisely saw this as an opportunity. When conflicts arose between some natives and the government, the Medicine Line served as a “magical” reprieve. If pursued by soldiers, all that was needed was to flee north (or south) into British/Canadian territory (or US territory) because soldiers and police were forced to stop at that point of the border.
During the late 1800s, the border famously allowed Sitting Bull to escape to Canada following the battle at the Little Big Horn, and it also allowed for a rising growth of illegal trade in whiskey and guns to develop, with the half-breed Metis serving as successful smugglers of both forms of contraband.
During the spring of 1871, it was noted by US authorities that many of the Metis from Saskatchewan and Alberta were carrying on illegal trade of liquor. It was noted by military authorities attacked a half-breed encampment at Fort Peck. The officer in charge wrote:
“Last winter it was found necessary to have the aid of the military to suppress the illegal traffic carried on between the Red River half-breeds of the North and the Indians under charge of the United States. An attack was made on the half-breed camp, and all their liquor and contraband goods destroyed. About one hundred barrels of whisky and large quantities of other liquors were destroyed at Fort Peck, on the Missouri River, being destined for the Indian trade; and the Department is to be congratulated that the vigorous means adopted have accomplished such desirable results, and that the convictions obtained in the spring of 1871, and the prompt pursuit of parties starting out into the Indian country with liquor, and the destruction of their stores and equipment, have resulted in so much benefit.”
While the smuggling of liquor was problematic, after the incident at Little Big Horn and in the time leading up to the Metis rebellion in 1885, gun running became an even more serious concern. Authorities noted that large numbers of Metis half-breeds were freely crossing the border, and they were travelling quite frequently with some of the renegades who had fled to Canada under Sitting Bull. Complaints were made that the Metis from Canada were trading with the potential hostiles in the US and furnishing them with ammunition. US Colonel Miles was sent from Fort Keogh, Montana, with a strong force to break up their camps and force them to return north of the boundary. It was noted:
“On July 31, Colonel Miles reported that the main hostile camp [of Sitting Bulls followers] had retreated north, across the boundary, to Wood Mountain; the column followed and halted on the main trail at the British line, whence it returned to Milk River. Attention was then turned to the camps of the half-breeds which had formed a cordon of outposts around the main hostile camp, furnishing the Indians with guns and ammunition. On August 4, Captain Ovenshine, Fifth Infantry, with a portion of Colonel Miles' command, arrested a band of half-breeds on Porcupine Creek, capturing one hundred and forty-three carts and one hundred and ninety-three horses. On August 5, four camps of half-breeds were arrested, numbering three-hundred and eight carts. On August 8, Colonel Miles reported the total number of half-breeds arrested by various detachments eight hundred and twenty nine, with six hundred and sixty-five carts.”
This problem was also noted by Canadian authorities who worried about the Metis being armed from the US side of the border by Metis in Montana who could access guns more freely. Authorities noted that during in early 1885, the Metis in Saskatchewan were actively being provided the latest and best make of American rifles by smugglers from the south. In October, forty rifles were received in one lot alone by Gabriel Dumont, who kept a small general store at his ferry. When questioned about the guns by the police, Dumont told them that the rifles belonged to a party of white gentlemen who were going north to hunt moose, and that he was “holding them for them”. In addition to arms, large quantities of ammunition were also being smuggled across the border from the United States, and sent north to Batoche. All the while, Louis Riel continued to carry on a correspondence with his friends in Montana, requesting more assistance and aid from Montana, and elsewhere in the United States.