A powerful request for the inclusion of the Metis
During the proceedings of the negotiation of the McCumber Agreement, the question of the Metis was addressed. The government agents wanted to leave the Metis out of negotiations and to remove them entirely from government protection as Indians.
Because of the government’s refusal to help the Metis members of the band, a good many Metis had already returned to Canada where they were able to get more assistance that they could from the stingy local agency. Other who remained were suffering – living outside the reservation and relying on what little general assistance they could get from the county, who normally refused to help them because they felt that the agency should be helping them as Indians. A catch 22!
Sub-chief Misko-benais, or Red Thunder, the chief soldier and councilman of Little Shell, decided to speak up on their behalf during negotiations. He stood up and addressed the McCumber Commission by speaking one of the most powerful speeches ever given on behalf of the Metis People. He said:
"When you (the white man) first put your foot upon this land of ours you found no one but the red man and the Indian woman, by whom you have begotten a large family."
Then, pointing to the half-breeds present, Red Thunder continued, "These are the children and descendants of that woman; they must be recognized as members of this tribe; that they have been waiting for a settlement for their lands for a great number of years, and in all that time they had gone hungry and many had died from starvation, and many others had dispersed themselves over the land and across the line into Canada in quest of something to live upon pending the settlement for their claims; and when this settlement is made you will again find them all back here again. And those, of us who are here assembled to meet you are starving. We are all glad that our Great Father sent you here and we hope that you will relieve us from starvation, for we have nothing to eat”.
His words were echoed by the next two sub-chiefs who spoke.
From: Printed Protest of Turtle Mountain Indians, Native Americans Reference Collection: Documents Collected by the Office of Indian Affairs, Part 2: 1901-1948. Col. 52. U.S. Department of the Interior Library, Washington, D.C.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities