A Colonial Distinction and Division: the Blurred Myth of Metis Separation from their Indian Relatives
One of the greatest mistakes that we see in the history of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa is the idea that there was a great division between the full-blood members of the band and those who were considered Metis, or half-breeds. History doesn’t uphold this belief. Rather, this concept seems to have arisen during the treaty-making times when government agents like Governor Ramsey sought to diminish the power of tribes like the Pembina/Turtle Mountain band by seeking to disregard anyone not full-blood from participation in government recognition of land and other rights as Indians – for the expressed purpose of weakening Indian claims and lessening the cost of purchasing land from tribes and issuing rations to those considered by the government as Indian.
The reality is that the Turtle Mountain/Pembina half-breeds (Metis) were Indians, judged by the manner in which they lived. That they were Indians is clear from the treatment they received from their fellow Indians. At essence, a half-breed was an Indian when he considers himself to be one and was accepted as an Indian by the band itself. The half-breeds involved in the life of the Tribe were considered to be and were accepted as Indians.
The idea that there was an appreciable difference between "half-breed" and "Indian" depended upon how a person might chose to be identified at any given time, and how he was regarded in general. In almost all ways, the half-breed (Metis) preferred the Indian way of life to that of the white man. They went to the plains to hunt buffalo rather than remain in the settlements and rely upon the civilized method of subsistence. As such, the half-breeds at Pembina were always considered by virtue of their Indian extraction as being in possession of Indian rights and as component parts of the band itself.
Once the US/Canadian border was established, the government assertion shifted even more to negatively paint the Metis members of the band as “foreign”. Government documents began to complain about “Canadian half-breeds”. However, this distinction was a colonial concept that overlooks the reality that the Metis were the children of the Indians and they were loved by their parents.
Adapted From: Indian Claims Commission[Docket No, 113 Objections to Defendant's Requested Findings of Fact, Reply to Objections of Defendant; Objections to Docket Nos. 191-221 Proposed Findings of Fact; Objections to Docket No. 246 Proposed Findings of Fact, Reply to Docket No. 246 Objections to Docket No. 113 Proposed Findings of Fact