The Metis ignore the US Government to Hunt & fight the Sioux
In 1844, Amos J. Bruce, Superintendent of the Iowa Agency wrote to the Secretary of Indian Affairs to complain about the Red River Metis, who were ignoring the boundary and hunting in the United States. In addition to their large hunts, the Metis were fighting against the Dakota Sioux and ignoring calls to return to Canadian territory.
"It becomes my duty to call the attention of the Government to the fact that the half-breeds of Red River make regular incursions into the Sioux country far within our boundary, and slaughter annually vast numbers of buffalo; the number yearly killed by those people of these animals within our territory cannot be less than 30,000. The supplies of the British Hudson Bay Company post are drawn from this source principally, buffalo flesh dried and tallow being sent in large quantities inland for that purpose."
"Our Government, I think, should see that the rights of the Indians under their protection are not infringed upon. These half-breeds have not the least shadow of a claim to hunt upon the Sioux country, but, on the contrary, subject themselves to the penalty affixed by law to be inflicted upon all foreigners illegally in the Indian country."
"They come to hunt in large bands, well armed, and in too much force to fear the Sioux; and as to the threatened interference of our Government, they laugh at the idea. The consequence of such a state of things is, that quarrels are constantly occurring between the half-breeds and the Sioux Indians, attended, some times, with fatal effects. I have advice of a fight which took place a few days since, between these people, at least 150 miles within our boundary. It appears that a half-breed Chippewa of Red River was killed by a party of Yanktons, of the Missouri, which was retaliated by a large party of half-breeds upon another band of Sioux, (belonging to Lake Traverse) who had no cognizance of the affair, and who were attacked by the half-breeds without any warning, and eight Sioux were killed and two taken prisoners."
From Report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs (1844). GPO, Washington, DC
The struggle to reject the psychology of colonialism
One of the major problems facing the Metis Nation is that of the effects of colonialism, which has led to a colonial mentality.
A colonial mentality is the internalized attitude of ethnic or cultural inferiority felt by a people as a result of colonization. It corresponds with the belief that the cultural values of the colonizer are inherently superior to one's own, or that there is shame to expressing ones culture or true self – leading to a propensity to try to hide (or downplay) these differences.
This colonial mentality is apparent in how many people of native or Metis descent hid their identity, language, and culture, and/or withheld knowledge of it from their children during much of the 20th century. This has led to great confusion, especially among the Metis people, many of who assimilated and adopted the overall mentality of their colonizers in order to make life easier for themselves and their offspring in a racist and colonial world.
Even today, as many people are finding and reclaiming their true heritage as indigenous people, the colonial mentality is in effect and is affecting the Metis Nation. As a result, many Metis came to view their own traditional culture and identity through the lens of colonial prejudices, many people of Metis heritage have internalized the institutionalized, racist culture of their colonizers; dismissing their own indigenous native roots as backwards, and something to be ashamed of.
Because of this, some Metis people – while embracing the mixed nature of their heritage on the surface – harbor an insidious need to differentiate themselves from other indigenous people by clinging to the European colonial side of their heritage to provide a psychological ‘buffer’ against people they have been taught are inferior to the colonialists. Due to this internalized colonial affinity, many people discount the wisdom and beauty of their own indigenous ancestors, seeing the ways of the colonizers as inherently superior, therefore making themselves superior by proxy. Unfortunately, when we believe in their superiority, our motivation to fight for our own liberation is splintered and our ability to engage in self-determination is affected.
Working toward decolonization requires us to consciously assess how our minds have been affected by colonization. Only then can we take those actions needed to reject the colonial programming with which we have been indoctrinated. We also need to assess the claims of colonial society regarding its superiority over our indigenous ways. When we regain a belief in the wisdom and beauty of our indigenous selves and reject the colonial lies that have inundated us and affected us for generations, we can finally release our true identity and liberate ourselves from the effects of colonization.
The movement and range of Metis was quite expansive
This is an interesting map showing the breadth and range of Metis movement across their territory. Six (6) ancestors/ancestral families were mapped.
According to results, it appears that the central focus of every single family/person is the Red River settlement area around Winnipeg. Even though hunting areas may have extended as far west as Fort Edmonton, Sweetgrass Settlement in Montana, the Cypress Hills area of Alberta, or as far east as Sault Ste Marie, the focus remains at Red River. These mapped areas would suggest that the idea of a Metis genesis in the Red River region as the central homeland of the Metis Nation is a certainty.
Further, based on data such as this -- that the idea of a Metis "homeland" in the Prairie Provinces (as maintained by the MNC) is a valid position.
Some of the historical communities included in this effort include:
A blending of people and a continuity of traditions
Large numbers of Ojibwe and their Metis (half-breed) brethren began trading at posts throughout the Northwest by the late 1790s. They spread out across an enormous territory which included the area around Fort Alexander at the mouth of the Winnipeg River and other posts along the east shore of Lake Winnipeg; up the Red River to slightly past Pembina and west to the Hair Hills and Turtle Mountain; then throughout the Interlake district; along the Assiniboine River past Brandon House, Shell River, Dauphin River, and Red Deer River; along the Qu'Appelle River; north and immediately west of Lake Winnipegosis; and along the North Saskatchewan as far as Edmonton House and Lac la Biche.
The seasonal round that most of the Ojibwe and Metis used in the Red and Assiniboine River areas after 1800 did not change greatly for several decades. Each year there was a robust hunting of buffalo, trapping of beaver, and also harvesting of sturgeon in August in some locations. The autumn trapping period continued as before, sometimes preceded by a brief bison hunt to provision it. Generally, though, the full-blood Ojibwe groups hunted moose, deer, bear, and small furs in the parkland during the autumn, while the Metis elements continued to hunt buffalo well into December or January. This difference caused many Metis to live as Hiverants on the plains, or to winter in places like Pembina, while the Ojibwe displayed more continuity with the past, spending their winters in familiar wooded territory, especially in the Turtle Mountains and the wooded river valleys and hills west of the Interlake region.
It was during this time that the population of Metis began to increase exponentially. These peoples had existed in the west before 1800, but their numbers were relatively small and scattered. This changed quickly with the union of the XY and North West companies in 1804, and the economy-oriented reorganization of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1810–11, when many lower-ranking employees were either dismissed or quit when their pay was lowered. Many of these “free men” chose to remain in the west with their Native or mixed-blood wives and made their living by hunting, trapping, and performing some labor at trading posts. As their numbers increased, Ojibwe/Metis groups developed in areas that the Ojibwe had formerly dominated: the Interlake, Swan River, Turtle Mountain and Pembina areas.
Adapted from Peers, Laura L. (Laura Lynn). 1994. “Ojibwa Of Western Canada, 1780 To 1870.” Manitoba Studies In Native History. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press.
An Essay on Metis Heritage in the 21st Century
Metis Heritage is the summation of our inherited traditions, artifacts, culture, and links to the past. Most important, it is the range of contemporary activities, meanings, and behaviors that we obtain from them.
Metis Heritage includes, but is much more than simply having a Native ancestor. It is both tangible and intangible. It is a legacy of songs, foodways and recipes, language and nicknames, dances, and many other elements that we inherited from our ancestors and which help us to identify ourselves.
Metis Heritage is, and should be, the subject of active personal and public reflection, contemplation, and discussion. “Where did we come from?”; “What have we lost?”; “What is worth saving?”; “What can we, or should we, forget?”; “What memories can we enjoy, regret, or learn from?”; and (especially) “Who owns the past and the right to claim the identity of Metis?” These are all questions that need to be answered.
Metis Heritage also involves deciding who is entitled to speak for past generations and who should lead the current Metis Nation. Active public discussion about material and intangible heritage—the intellectual property of individuals, families, and communities—must take place as we move forward in the modern, multicultural world.
Metis Heritage is a contemporary activity with far-reaching effects. It can be an element of far-sighted work as a nation and is the platform for political recognition and reconciliation. It is a medium for intercultural dialogue, a means of ethical reflection, and the potential basis for economic development that benefits present and future generations.
Metis Heritage is simultaneously individual and communal; local and global. It is an essential part of our past, the present we live in, and of the future we will build for our children and their children.
Fort Peck Agent Deals with 200 Starving Metis from Turtle Mt.
The superintendent of the Fort Peck Agency reported on troubles he was having with half-breed Metis haunting his agency during the year of 1894. According to his report, there were many of these people coming from Canada and from Turtle Mountain, and he was increasingly overwhelmed by the sheer numbers requesting assistance after fleeing harsh conditions and starvation at Turtle Mountain .
According to his letter to the Secretary of Indian Affairs, he stated that he was "...a great deal annoyed by Indians and half-breeds coming from the Turtle Mountain country, from the American and Canadian side of the line. Late in last fall nearly 200 poverty-stricken and diseased wretches of half-breeds, foisted themselves upon me, and stated that they had come from the subagency of Devils Lake, at Turtle Mountain, and that starvation compelled them to leave. They had to be taken care of. The Department acted very generously in their cases. To have returned them at that season of the year would have caused much suffering and loss of life to the children. I got rid of them as soon as I could".
Adapted from United States Congressional serial set, Issue 3306, Report to the House of Representatives (1895). Government Printing Office.
A 1901 Report by the Indian Agent at Devils Lake
In 1901, the Indian Agent for Devil's Lake, which included the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, wrote to the Secretary of Indian Affairs regarding Metis who were present at Turtle Mountain. According to the Agent, following the dispersal of the Metis after the 1885 uprising, the Turtle Mountain Band had absorbed about 30 families of Canadian Chippewa half-breeds who had settled the area prior to 1892, but who had been rejected by the McCumber Commission of 1892. Despite being rejected by the Commission, these families who had grown over the years and had intermarried with the Turtle Mountain Band refused to remove from the reservation and no steps were taken by the Department of Indian Affairs to remove them. While the Canadian half-breeds were not drawing rations as Indians, surviving by farming on certain lands they were able to obtain, or by working for white farmers as hirelings, they still were being allowed to obtain wood and hay from the Indian reservation.
The Agent also noted that during the past year, the Canadian government had been issuing scrip to certain Canadian Metis born within their borders between certain dates. Many of the 30 families were participating, and other Turtle Mountain Chippewa families were also proving their claims to their right to draw scrip for many of their children. In working with the Canadian half-breed Commissioner, J.A.J. McKenna, the Agent provided a roll of the Turtle Mountain band. In addition, McKenna visited the Devil's Lake Agency and visited the Fort Totten School. McKenna made a proposition to drop all Turtle Mountain Metis who originated from Canada from the Canadian roll, and to issue no scrip to either members of the Turtle Mountain band or to any who had participated in the rights, privileges, and benefits of United States Government schools, thus heading off practically all of the Cree and Chippewa half-breeds at Turtle Mountain from participation in the 1901 Canadian scrip rights.
These individuals were later included in the Davis roll prepared for the Turtle Mountain Agreement of 1904.
The Agent finally noted that the Turtle Mountain Band should never be considered as a true band of Indians. Rather, he noted, that "They are half-breeds, quarter breeds, etc...it is quite impossible for a casual observer to tell that any degree of Indian blood exists among the majority of them."
Adapted From Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1902. Government Printing Office.
Early mixed-blood communities of eastern canada
While it cannot, and should not, be argued sensibly that the eastern mixed-blood population of Canada should be considered part of the historical Metis Nation that developed on the prairies of Canada and the northern United States, it cannot be disputed that a mixed-blood population did arise during the earliest years of European settlement of Acadia and the east, or that historical mixed-blood communities did develop there.
In 1632, a French nobleman named Isaac de Razilly, a famous naval commander and a Knight of Malta, sailed to Mi'kmaq country in a fully equipped warship, accompanied by two other vessels. He brought with him 300 colonists—farmers, laborers, craftsmen, a dozen women, some children, and a few Capuchin priests. After founding a small habitation at Canso on the Atlantic coast, Razilly made his principal settlement at La Hève, where he founded an offshore fishery.
After Razilly's sudden death in 1635, his successor, Charles de Menou d'Aulney, relocated most of the La Hève settlers to Port Royal, where they established themselves on fertile marshlands opposite Poutrincourt's original site. Some colonists, mostly those who had taken Mi'kmaq wives, remained in La Hève, which became a settlement of mixed-blood families.
During the next 15 years, the population at Port Royal grew. As in La Hève, some of the single men took local Mi'kmaq women as wives and a small French-Mi'kmaq mixed-blood population began to emerge in the region.
Although most mixed-blood children were raised as Mi'kmaqs, in some instances Franco-Mi'kmaq family clusters formed unique communities. For instance, the mixed offspring of French colonists and Mi'kmaq women at La Hève formed their own distinct community on Nova Scotia's east coast from the early 1630s onward. Later that century they were said to live “like Europeans” and “numbered seventy-five or more”. The occasional suggestions of Indian agriculture seem to stem chiefly from these mixed families. Similar mixed-blood communities developed elsewhere in the region.
From Prins, Harald E. L. 1996. “Mi’Kmaq: Resistance, Accomodation, And Cultural Survival.” Case Studies In Cultural Anthropology. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Pub.
Metis noted as not being attracted to white people
An interesting observation of the Metis people can be found in Alfred O. Legge’s “Sunny Manitoba”—an 1893 overview of the newly established province.
Legge notes that the rapid settlement of Manitoba before, and subsequent to the establishment of the province within Canada, had much to do with the development and influence of the Metis people. Legge wrote: “The effect of drawing north and west many of the half-breed pioneers of civilization, who formerly fished in its rivers, and hunted the buffalo and the moose on its wide prairies. They are sometimes called Metis, from the Spanish word mestizo, indicating Indian-mixed blood. Generally of French and Indian parentage ; the mixture of Scotch blood is sometimes indicated by familiar names”.
In describing how the Metis came to be, Legge didn’t mince words: “The French betrayed no such repugnance to intercourse [sex] with the native Indians—or even to marriage with the Indian women—as the average Briton has done. They seem especially to have cultivated the friendship of the Crees, whose women were superior to those of other tribes, alike in mental and moral qualities. Not a few of these however—or, in Canadian phrase, "quite a few"—have married their daughters to gentlemen in good business and even official positions”.
However, Legge noted that despite being created by white men marrying (or procreating with) Indian women, Metis people did not generally return the attraction: “But whilst the Indian blood of the Metis is so diluted as frequently to leave little trace, either in complexion, speech or character, intercourse with the whites is comparatively rare. The law of reversion to type, with which Mr. Darwin has familiarized us, is naturally operative here, producing an approximation towards the Indian type of their progenitors. The affiliation of races is thus checked, and in a few generations the half-breeds of Manitoba and the North-West are likely to become wholly merged in the native races, to the great advantage of the latter. The semi-nomadic life of the past has already ceased to characterize them. Industrious, intelligent, and many of them fairly well educated, a very large majority live upon their Reserves, untrampelled by tribal rights which deprive the Indian of all security in his property.”
adapted from "Sunny Manitoba: Its people and industries" by Alfred O. Legge (1896)
A bountiful hunting site in northern Montana
The Sweet Grass Hills, were an important hunting location for the Metis of southern Saskatchewan and northern Montana. These hills consist of three buttes—Gold Butte, Mount Royale, and West Butte—in Liberty and Toole counties, Montana. Each of the Sweet Grass Hills consists of a cluster of foot-hills lying around a central butte, reaching up to 7,000 feet above sea-level.
These buttes were the center of the feeding-ground of the great northern herd of buffalo hunted by the Metis and other Indian tribes of the region. This herd ranged from the Missouri River north to the Saskatchewan, but always made its appearance in the area between the buttes around the end of August.
According to all accounts, the number of buffalo who would be found in the region was beyond all estimation. During the boundary commission survey, one surveyor said, “Looking at the front of the herd from an elevation of 1,800 feet above the plain, I was unable to see the end [of the herd] in either direction”.
Because it was such a rich hunting area the tribes of the region would often fight over the spoils of hunting, especially during the height of hunting season. It was not uncommon for the Blackfeet, Assiniboine, and Gros Ventres to accidentally encounter each other at this location. Even an occasional war-party of Sioux, coming from the direction of the Bear Paw Mountains, might be found here. However, it was the Metis who most often called this location their own.
Adapted from: DEPARTMENT OF STATE. REPORTS UPON THE SURVEY OF THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN THE TERRITORY OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE POSSESSIONS OF GREAT BRITAIN (1877)