Even though the US/Canadian border was established in the early 1870s, the Metis mostly disregarded this artificial “medicine line”. One of the main groups who operated between what was US territory and what was now Canada were the nomadic Métis bands known as the ‘hivernants’ (or overwinterers) who hunted the buffalo wherever they roamed and traded at posts along the upper Missouri River.
Often called the Cypress Hills hunting brigade, this group of hunters included Plains Saulteaux, Cree, Nakota and Métis buffalo hunters who regularly gathered on the Milk River plains along the border at Cypress Hills then followed the herds along the Milk River and down into the Judith Basin of Montana and east to the Grand Coteau near the Mouse (Souris) River. They were one of the bands who were part of the great assembly of the Nehiyaw Pwat alliance which was also known as the Iron Alliance — a historic poly-ethnic group that hunted, fought enemies, and married between each other, creating a ‘Iron’ alliance of peace and mutual prosper.
Many of the families associated with this band were enumerated on the 1850 Minnesota Territory census and had close ties to the Pembina settlement, and a number of men were also part of the Pembina and Red Lake Bands — receiving half-breed scrip under the Old Crossing Treaty of 1863.
Some of the names from the band included: Trottier, Wallette/Ouellette, Bottineau, LaFountain, Laverdure, Wilkie, Berger, Charette, Fagnant/Fayant, Caplette, Dumont, Gariépy, Peltier, Malaterre, Jolibois, Breland, Delorme, Vilibrun, Parenteau, Thomas, Davis, Marion, Lemire, Morrisette, St. Germain, Robillard, Laplante, Gladue, Brien, Morin, Poitra, Hamlin, Vallie/Vallee, Racette, LaPierre, Swain, Fiddler, Grant, Belgarde, Houle, Lafournaise, Langer, Larocque, Champagne, Short, Amyotte, and many others.
Following the diminishment of the buffalo and the defeat at Batoche, some of the band members scattered around Saskatchewan and Alberta; others went to Montana and became the landless Indians of the Little Shell. Many other band members moved to Turtle Mountain in North Dakota and Canada, where they had long-standing family ties. Those on the US side of the border obtained Indian status (in most cases) and settled onto the Turtle Mountain Reservation.
(2013) History of the Cypress Hills Hunting Brigade The Petition of 1878. By Lawrence Barkwell
(2016) Hivernant Métis Families, Brigades and Settlements in the Cypress Hills. by Jack Elliott
Ethnic identity crisis is a strange phenomenon indeed – especially when it comes to people who falsely claim to be indigenous (Indian, Inuit, or Metis). These People who have no right to make their claims, but because of something missing inside themselves they blatantly stake wild claims that can adversely affect actual Indigenous people. Now, we’re not talking about actual Indigenous people who were divested of their cultural identity by factors like adoption or government policies like relocation, who are undertaking a journey to discover their true Indigenous identity. Rather, we are talking about those who claim Indigenous heritage based on family lore, a mysterious Indian ancestor they found on Ancestry.com, or who just want to be Indigenous so they make it up.
Individuals who suffer from an ethnic identity crisis usually do so for an assortment of reasons. Some just want to be part of another ethnicity because they think it’s cool, noble, or they just like what the other culture represents. Others do so because of the apparent benefits that the think Indigenous people receive, such as the ability to get scholarships or to check a box on a job application.
Now some of these people might actually have an Indigenous ancestor, but that ancestor is long forgotten and their family has likely lived as European for several generations – fully assimilating themselves and happily enjoying the benefits of white privilege. However, the popularity of DNA tests, genealogical research, and some of the recent legal decisions in the US and Canada have peaked a curiosity in them. Maybe they want hunting rights; maybe they think that they can cash in on some of the rumored “easy money” that they think can be had by Indigenous people; but suddenly they are 100% Indigenous and proud of their “Indigenous heritage” no matter how remote or uncertain it may actually be. Even if their Indigenous ancestry comes from a (often dubious) great grandmother from the early 1600s, they make a decision that of all of the succeeding generations who have lived as white people, that single Indigenous ancestor will hereinafter define them and make them Indigenous.
Sadly, most of these persons suffering from an ethnic identity crisis understand the real truth – that they are really not Indigenous. Nonetheless, they dig in their heels and thump their chests with misplaced pride. Knowing that they don’t actually have a link to an actual Indigenous community, they might claim to be Metis using the racial definition of a person with mixed European/Indigenous ancestry as the basis for this claim. They might run out and join a “tribe” or a “Metis” group in order to get a card to bolster their credentials. In the most extreme cases they might even start their own group and recruit others of similar dubious Indigenous heritage to join them because there is safety in numbers. A lone person suffering an ethnic identity crisis making false claims is easily dismissed as a wannabe, but several of them together can shout really loudly and make a big stink about it – fooling those around them who might not be privy to their doubtful claims.
So what can be done about these people suffering from ethnic identity crisis? Sadly, not much. They will likely always be a thorn in the side of true Indigenous people and communities. They will continue to scream about their “pride”, shout about their (supposed) proof, and they will threaten those who do not believe them and who stand against the damage they do to Indigenous people. It’s sad, but it probably won’t stop any time soon.
Are you Métis, or do you think that your ancestors were Métis? Proving this is often more complicated than simply finding a long lost "Indian ancestor" and making the claim to being Métis based on having a drop of Indian blood.
In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the settlements awarded by the federal government to the Métis inhabitants of Manitoba and the former North-West Territories. The records created by the scrip commissions, and the Department of the Interior in its administration of federal land policies, are now consulted by a wide range of users. The records have become particularly important, however, in two key areas: in the debate surrounding Métis allegations into the mishandling of their rights, as an Aboriginal people, by the federal government; and in family histories, especially with those seeking re-instatement under the Indian Act.
The Library and Archives of Canada have a search engine that can direct a researcher to a photocopy of the original scrip document, or at least give a reference number to the library collection.
The link to do the search is accessible through the link below:
Monsters of Hunger and Violence
In the old days, some Anishinaabe people believed that the windigo spirits had an understanding with some people who help them – even enticing some people to become windigo themselves. Hence, a person who is a windigo can go on for a long time killing and eating people before they are caught and punished. In some cases, it was said, there were windigo women — called "des femmes windigo" by the Metis and called “Windigokwe” by the full-blood Ojibwe.
One story recounts how a Metis man by the name of LaRoche was once busy fishing near his hut. He had set his net and was making another net ready on the beach. He heard a noise and when he looked up he saw, to his terror, a strange woman standing in the water near his net. She was taking fish out of the net and eating them raw! LaRoche, in his horror, took up his gun and killed the woman. Hearing a gunshot, his wife and daughter ran out of the wigwam and shouted "Nish! You must cut her up at once, or else she'll come to life again, and we shall all be killed!" So he did.
Another story told of a Metis man who was hunting ducks along the edge of a slough. He heard a small rush of water and thought it was a duck to shoot, but he was horrified to instead see a windigo crouching in the cattails! This windigo was reputed to haunt this area and had supposedly killed a couple of men who lived there. The Metis man pretended not to notice the windigo, and quietly walked away from it slowly. The man then raised his gun, acting as if he was about to shoot a duck, but instead he wheeled around and fired at the windigo. The windigo fell from the shot, but soon picked himself up and disappeared into the reeds, for it had merely been wounded. The hunter quickly packed up his camp and left the area.
Adapted from: Kitchi-Gami: wanderings round Lake Superior, By Johann Georg Kohl
What thoughts ran through Louis Riel's mind as he stood on the scaffold, waiting for the trap door to open to his death? Perhaps he thought about the turmoil that surrounded him, a turmoil that still surrounds the controversial Métis leader today. Even now, Louis Riel is a hero to many, a visionary, the fiery leader of a downtrodden people. To others he is a madman, a traitor, or a misguided zealot.
Riel was born in the Red River Colony of what is now Manitoba, the son of a prominent Métis leader and a French Canadian mother. He was educated as a lawyer in Montréal, but he returned to his home at the age of 24, just as Canada was preparing to acquire the vast territory called Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company. Since the Red River Colony was part of Rupert's Land, the Métis people feared that they would lose control of their own homeland.
The Métis are the proud descendants of French and Anglo Canadian voyageurs, fur traders, and native mothers. They were great buffalo hunters of the plains who saw their way of life threatened by the arrival of English-speaking Canadians from the East.
Riel gathered others around him to stop Canadian representatives from entering the settlement. They formed a "provisional government" to negotiate with the Canadian government. Their actions, known as the Red River Rebellion, led to the creation of the province of Manitoba in 1870.
Though there was also no bloodshed in the Rebellion, the provisional government did execute one unruly prisoner named Thomas Scott. The heated reaction the execution created in Ontario forced Riel to flee for his safety. He spent years in Québec, New England and in the American Midwest. Though he was twice elected a member of Parliament, he did not dare take his seat in Ottawa.
It was during these confusing years that Riel's religious feelings, which had always been strong, grew to a steadfast conviction that he was sent by God as the prophet of a new North American Catholicism.
In 1884, Riel was teaching school in Montana when some Métis from Saskatchewan asked for his help in their difficulties with the Canadian government. Like the Red River Métis, they feared that their lands would be taken. Riel wrote petitions and letters to Ottawa. Then in 1885 the Métis lost patience and claimed a provisional government of their own. On March 26, about 300 Métis, led by Riel, clashed with about 100 North West Mounted Police and volunteers, touching off the Northwest Rebellion.
The Canadian government responded quickly with a force of 8,000 men. The armies met on May 9, 1885 at Batoche, and by May 12, the overpowered Métis were defeated, and Riel surrendered.