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
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities