An act of spite between allies
Sometimes, the cooperation and relationship between the Metis and their Indian relatives was less than cordial.
One story tells of an 1856 Metis hunt which included 900 men, women, and children, that encountered an Ojibwe war party of 300 men. The encounter happened between the Maple and Rush Rivers [Cass County, ND].
During the expedition, the Metis hunting party was camped when the Ojibwe marched up to them. They tried to enlist the Metis to help them in a battle with a camp of Sioux (near Devil’s Lake) that they were intending to attack. The Metis declined as they were focused on hunting and hadn’t the will to participate in a bloody battle.
Their refusal enraged the Ojibwe who, when finding they could not induce the Metis hunters to enter into their scheme of aggression, took revenge by breaking the rules of the hunt the next day and driving the buffalo off out of spite.
From Wheeler-Voegelin, Erminie, 1903-The Red Lake and Pembina Chippewa
The boundary established by the white man was meaningless
During the 19th century, it was noted that “the subsistence of the half-blood population of the English settlements, the Indians, and the employees of the company [Hudson's Bay], is obtained from the buffalo of our plains. Their hunters and trappers prosecute their pursuits irrespective of boundary-lines…” Further, it is noted that the Ojibwe who spend part of their time around Pembina found their subsistence easily gained. “Their reliance for food is principally on the buffalo, but they get some smaller game; and when their resources fail, the super-abundance of fish supplies them, which, as they are caught by the women and children, who are always the most industrious, makes them careless about the future. They go to the Plains with their half-breeds after buffalo.”
Wheeler-Voegelin, Erminie, 1903-The Red Lake and Pembina Chippewa
Cooperation between relatives during the 1820s
During the 1820s, the Métis began organizing large-scale bison hunts that set out from Red River each summer and autumn. According to Alexander Ross, a retired trader living in the settlement, the 1820 bison hunt involved 540 Red River carts, a number that grew to 680 in 1825 and 820 by 1830.
The huge scale of the Métis hunts meant that the Métis dominated the Red River colony and the market for provisions. This competition caused some tension at times, particularly as the Métis were paid more for their hides and meat than were the Indians. However, what the Indians lost in trade to Métis competition, they gained back in access to the herds by working cooperatively with the Metis. Few of the Red River Ojibwa hunted bison by horseback themselves, but they accompanied their Métis relatives on foot and received shares of the meat during the large hunts.
The Ojibwa also benefitted from the large size of the main camp of the Métis hunt in other ways, for it made them less vulnerable to Sioux attacks and therefore enabled them to venture farther into Sioux territory after both bison and scalps. More than one hunt was disrupted, or ended in payments to cover the dead, by Ojibwa camp followers picking a fight with a party of Sioux encountered by chance.
In 1822, there were at least 180 adult male Ojibwa (representing a population of about 500 in all) trading at Fort Garry and the Netley Creek and Pembina outposts. These families were based in a wide arc ranging from the Turtle Mountain and Pembina Mountains to Peguis's encampment at Netley Creek and Black Robe's spring camp along the shore of Lake Manitoba. Delegations of Ojibwa from Red Lake (Minnesota), Lake of the Woods, and Rainy Lake visited the settlement periodically to renew ties with their Native kin and with the colony administrators.
Peers, Laura L. (Laura Lynn). The Ojibwa of Western Canada, 1780 to 1870
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities