An attack against Metis on the Milk River
Metis hunters were attacked by US Troops in 1882. As reported by the New York Times, two companies of soldiers attacked the Metis and Crees who were hunting on the Milk River in Montana. The hunters were forced to abandon their carts, supplies, and over 16,000 pounds of meat.
An effort to feed their families
On August 4, 1889, the New York Times reported that there was a concerted effort to stop Metis smugglers from running wood cut at the Turtle Mountains into Canada to sell in an effort to feed their families.
The Metis women were noted to be sending signals from one butte to the next to inform the smugglers about the movements of the government officers who were trying to arrest them.
French Residents Laud his Exploits during the 1885 rebellion
On October 5, 1886, the New York Times reported that a celebration was held in New York City for the visiting Metis hero, Gabriel Dumont.
During the celebration, Dumont was presented with a medal as a token of admiration for his bravery. The medal was adorned with ribbons and bars, including references to his battles at Duck Lake, Fish Creek, and Batoche.
Dumont thanked his hosts and discussed the struggle of the Metis people for their rights to their lands, and made disparaging remarks about the prowess of the English troops - exclaiming that he could have done much better if he had another 200 soldiers during his battles.
In a historical article, Lawrence Barkwell describes two Red River buffalo hunting trails. One of the trails proceeds south on the east side of the Turtle Mountains and enters the rich buffalo grounds of the upper Red River Valley. The other goes south, west of Turtle Mountains, heading for the Missouri Grand Coteau and the herds of that region. A map showing these trails is provided below:
The detailed description of each of the trails is offered below:
The eastern trail:
This trail left the Fort Garry / St. Norbert vicinity passing close to where Carman is now located, then ascending the escarpment of the plateau called the Pembina Hills (or Hair Hills), and from there, southwesterly to a butte known as Calf Mountain in the south-east portion of Township 3-6, then south-westerly, crossing thePembina River in 26-2-9-W of the 1st meridian and so on to Devils Lake, Dakota Territory and beyond to the Sheyenne River. Calf Mountain - Tete De Bouef (Buffalo Head, Calf Mountain) was built by natives as a ritual meeting place, and was used to bury great men of their time. Calf Mountain is to the east of the Pembina River on the Little Pembina River.
The western trail:
The old trail from Manitoba to Mandan country on the Missouri near the entry of the Little Knife River left Fort la Reine (Portage la Prairie) headed south past Calf Mountain (near Darlingford, Manitoba) past Star Mound (near Snowflake, Manitoba) to the west side of Turtle Mountain then south west to the Missouri. Star Mound Hill, also called Nebogwawin Butte, was once an Aboriginal campsite and burial ground. It is located near Snowflake, Manitoba. A large buffalo rubbing stone is located there
Barkwell, Lawrence: Buffalo Hunting Trails
BIA Memo to congress, Feb 11, 1971
A February 11, 1971, memo by the Bureau of Indian Affairs discussed the issuance of Pembina Judgement Funds in relation to how many people of Metis ancestry would possibly be eligible for distribution of Treaty funds. In discussing the Metis, the memo states:
“Metis (French for "half") does not merely mean "half-blood" or "half-breed", but has a much broader connotation, referring to a large cultural and sociological element formed during the buffalo hide trading era in the northern Plains. The Metis have French and other European ancestry, and Plains Chippewa, Plains Cree and other Indian ancestry. By the early part of the last century the Metis had developed a distinct culture, marginal to that of the tribal peoples and the Anglicized societies of both the United States and Canada. They were also linguistically distinct, having developed the "Metis jargon" which is sometimes called "Cree" but is predominantly French with many Chippewa and Cree elements.”
“By the late 1880's the Turtle Mountain area became inundated with Metis who had fled Canada after unsuccessful rebellions in 1869-70 and 1885. These people, together with some Metis who have evidently long been associated with the Pembina Band, and the conservative (called "full blood") Turtle Mountain or Pembina Chippewas formed the modern Turtle Mountain Band, the political entity constituted in 1932. The non-Metis or original Pembina form a small, conspicious conservative Indian minority on the reservation or in the Turtle Mountain area. It is not known how many other members of the Turtle Mountain Band will be able to trace Pembina ancestry to any useful rolls. Research does indicate, however, that annuity payments made under the 1863 treaty involved, almost exclusively, Chippewa Indian names, the well-known French or other European names of the Metis being absent. Some Metis, apparently those who have long been associated with the Pembinas, are able to trace their ancestry to persons whose names were distinctly Chippewa and who were undeniably Pembina”.
The memo continues…
“A non-reservation based element must also be considered in the disposition of the award. Pembina descendants, in unknown numbers, are found among the group generally called "Landless Indians of Montana". Most of these people are Metis, and as mentioned previously, some Metis will be able to trace Pembina ancestry to old annuity rolls. Some of the landless people are traditional Chippewas who, for a variety of reasons, were unwilling or unable to enroll with the organized Turtle Mountain and Chippewa-Cree groups. An area called "Hill 57" in Great Falls is probably the best known community of the landless people. Others are found elsewhere in Great Falls, and in Hays, Wolf Point, Helena, Chinook, other towns and cities, and among various reservation-based groups, generally as the spouses of enrolled tribal members.”
“Past efforts to enroll the landless people with organized reservation-based groups have been largely unsuccessful, although some were enrolled in the 1930's with the Chippewa-Cree Tribe. There have been several organizations among them such as the "Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians of Montana", also known as the "Landless Indians of Montana, petitioners in Indian Claims Commission docket No. 191, and the "Montana Landless Indians, Inc." It should be emphasized here that while rolls of landless Indians of Montana have been developed and are available to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, such rolls were made primarily in an effort to seek means of obtaining Federal services and land for these people and to assist them in affiliating with reservation based tribes. While they are relied upon to reflect the Indian blood of the persons listed thereon, they are not of value in determining Pembina ancestry.”
Metis author Alexandria Anthony has written a book exploring her Metis ancestry and her quest to reclaim it. According to Anthony, "This is a very personal journey for me and so many others. My Metis heritage and culture was stolen from me, I spend half my life not knowing who I was. I was filled with so much anger and a total loss of identity . The stigma of shame runs deep like a river and if not stopped will fill up an ocean called the future. For half of my life I was culture and heritage void. I lost out on so much, I was a Metis person hiding in plain sight and did not know it. This book for me is an attempt to exorcise shame and to regain my lost identity. We must embrace who we are and where we come from and preserve our heritage for the future generations. The Metis River of Shame must be dammed up so our children can truly embrace who they are. We are Metis Proud and Strong".
CHECK OUT THE BOOK HERE
The Turtle Mountain Metis classified as Indians
With many Indigenous communities that ended up within the legal dominion of the United States or Canada, there was a great deal of confusion and disagreement over how to identify some groups – especially when these groups possessed unique or broadly diverse cultural identities. For the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians of North Dakota this is especially true.
The Turtle Mountain Band is comprised of a western band of Plains Ojibwa with a predominant population of mixed-bloods (Metis) people who had their historical origins in the borderlands of the United States and Canada. Modern-day Turtle Mountain tribal members refer to themselves in many different ways. Some identify as Ojibwe, some as Chippewa, others as Metis or Michif. Nonetheless, they are all part of the same community and are legally termed as ‘Chippewa’ by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The term Chippewa became the formal classification given to all people living at Turtle Mountain, regardless of their individual cultural identity or degree of Indian blood. This is because the United States Indian bureaucracy of the late 1800s and early 1900s could not grasp the nuanced cultural realities of the close blood ties and the manner in which those who identified as Michif/Metis and those who identified as Indian/full-blood coexisted within the community – maintaining a joint, yet separate culture and identity. Because of this, Indian Affairs devised their own interpretation. Even though many of the people at Turtle Mountain would rightly be called Metis or half-breed in Canada, the United States government did not have such a concept available to use to differentiate or classify its indigenous people. “Metis” did not necessarily meet any standing criteria, so the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the courts could only use the term Chippewa or Indian to classify the majority of the population.
The close blood ties between the Chippewa and Metis band members were evident in how the leadership of the Turtle Mountain Band viewed things. Many of the Metis members crossed back and forth across the border on a regular basis (as they were accustomed). The government took issue with this, as they worried that new “indians” were flooding into the United States and burdening the government with more potential wards. When the Metis refused to pay any customs duties levied by the collector stationed at Pembina, the government took issue. The customs officials met with Chief Little Shell and 200 half-breeds. The Customs officer claimed that only “…ten of seventy half-breeds who crossed the border had paid the required duty”. Little Shell objected to the government’s treatment of the Metis as non-Indian. He told the collector: “…these are all my lands and these are all my people. They shall pay no duties and respect no Customs officers. I have many more children across the line, and I shall bring them all over. We recognize no boundary line, and shall pass as we please."
Read more: "The Turtle Mountain Indians." NYT July 27, 1882:2.
Rev. John Black speaks of the Metis people
Rev. John Black, a protestant minister who lived and worked in the Red River region during the early and middle 1800s provided a clear distinction between the people of the Metis Nation based on their distinct heritage. In writing about the (mostly) French half-breeds, Black stated:
“The French half-breeds, called also Metis, and formerly Bois-brule, are athletic, rather good-looking, lively, excitable, easy going being. Fond of a fast pony, fond of merry-making, free-hearted, open-handed, yet indolent and improvident, he is a marked feature of border life. Being excitable, he can be aroused to acts of revenge, of bravery, and daring”.
He continued: “The offspring of the Montreal traders with their Indian spouses, so early as 1816, numbered several hundreds, and they possessed a considerable esprit-de-corps. They looked upon themselves as a separate people, and, headed by their Scot-French half-breed leader, Cuthbert Grant, called themselves the “New Nation”. Having tasted blood in the death of Governor Semple, they were turbulent ever after. Living the life of buffalo hunters, they preserved their war like tastes. Largely increased in numbers in 1849, they committed the grave offence of rising, taking the law into their own hands, defying all authority…”
While the majority of these French Metis were descended from distinct French lineages, others were of French and Scottish descent. Some of the family names mentioned by Black included the McGillivrays, Grants, McLeods, and Mackays, who had French, Scotch, and Indian blood.
Black also mentioned the distinct “English speaking” half-breed as standing somewhat apart from the French and French-Scot Metis. He stated that as early as 1775 Orkneymen employees in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company at Cumberland House were intermarrying with native women. The offspring were English-speaking half-breeds who ranged from Hudson's Bay to the Yukon, but made Red River their home.
Black mentions several family names for the English speaking half-breeds, including Inkster, Fobister, Setter, Harper, Mowat, Omand, Flett, Linklater, Tait, Spence, Monkman, and others.
From John Black, Apostle of the Red River (by G. Bryce). (1908) Harvard Library.