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.
Technology for the Fur Trade
A short overview of the Red River Cart - a revolutionary invention that helped the Metis become masters of the plains and a dominant part of the fur trade.
An overview of some of the active hunting bands
The Métis, Cree, and Ojibwe people of the prairies were affiliated and associated into various multi-cultural “brigades” or bands throughout the 1800s. The use of the term brigade was derived from the old French term ‘brigare’ and was in customary use by Métis people during the fur trade period. The use of the term “band” was also used – especially in cases where the leadership or the larger majority of band members was considered (more or less) Indian. Some of the bands active in the northern Great Plains included, but were not limited to:
New York Times: May 4, 1895
A RAID BY HALF BREEDS
They Capture Arms and Powder at St. John, ND
FURTHER. TROUBLE IS NOW FEARED
The Indians Refuse to Submit to Arrest - Settlers Are Seeking Safety in Flight - Cause of the Outbreak.
Half-breeds encamped near St. John last night and raided the town. They looted the hardware store of Town Trader Brooks, securing 10 guns, 2 revolvers, 100 loaded shells, 8 kegs of powder, and a large quantity of shot. There were sixty in the party. The half-breeds have sent their children across the Manitoba line, and their encampment at Langan's place is reported to be in a strong state of defense. There are 400 half-breeds and Indians in camp at Langan’s, led by the worst element of the half-breeds.
Little Thunder (Red Thunder) is as intemperate in his speeches as ever. Several families of settlers at and near St. John went south to Rolla this morning for protection. The excitement here is intense and serious trouble is now apparently certain.
Marshal Cronan, with his posse of fifteen Deputies, arrived here at 11 A. M., but there was not a half-breed 1n sight then. Major Ralph Hall, Indian Agent at Fort Totten, arrived at Church's Ferry yesterday and accompanies the posse. He thinks he can keep the Turtle Mountain Reservation Indians quiet, leaving the Deputies to cope with the Canadian Indians and half-breeds. The posse will try to arrest the Iangrins and Dameraux half-breeds, who are wanted for cutting Government timber. The Deputies do not expect to be able to make the arrests without the aid of troops.
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.”
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities