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The History of Metis* Aboriginal Rights: Politics, Principle, and Policy

  • Thomas E. Flanagan (a1)

Abstract

This article gives a schematic overview of metis aboriginal rights from the Huron and Superior Treaties of 1850 to the Mackenzie Valley Treaty of 1921. It traces the evolution of federal policy in several stages: treating Metis as Indians, followed by individual grants of land, scrip and money. Pragmatism and expediency led to many inconsistencies in policy, but there were also pressures of administrative precedent favouring rationalization. Awareness of this history is essential in determining what metis aboriginal rights, if any, are still “existing” under s. 25 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Cet article résume schématiquement les droits des métis de 1850 à 1921. Il décrit l'évolution de la politique fédérale vis-à-vis des métis dans plusieurs phases: l'inclusion des métis avec les Indiens dans les traités, ensuite la distribution des terres, des scrips, et de l'argent aux individus métis. L'opportunisme a souvent produit des politiques contradictoires, mais la fidélité aux précédents administratifs a aussi opéré en faveur de la rationalisation. Il est nécessaire de comprendre cette histoire pour savoir si des droits métis sont “existants” selon la Loi Constitutionnelle de 1982.

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Notes

1. Purich, , The Metis, 172177.

2. 52 M. R. (2d) 291 (1988); 48 M. R. (2d) 4 (1988). The Supreme Court of Canada has now granted standing to the Metis (Calgary Herald, March 3, 1990, A7), and a trial before the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench is expected for late 1990 or early 1991.

3. For general treatments, see Taylor, John, “An Historical Introduction to Metis Claims in Canada,” The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 3 (1983), 151181; and Sawchuk, Joe et al. , Metis Land Rights in Alberta: A Political History (Edmonton: Metis Association of Alberta, 1981). I do not deal with the Metis settlement schemes undertaken by the Saskatchewan and Alberta governments, for these welfare measures did not profess any connection to aboriginal rights.

4. 13 & 14 Vict., c. 42, s. 5.

5. Morris, Alexander, The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North-West Territories (Toronto: Belfords, Clarke & Co., 1880; Cole's reprint 1979), 20.

6. Canada, Department of Indian Affairs, Indian Treaties and Surrenders from 1680 to 1890 in Two Volumes (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1891; reprinted 1905), vol. 1, 308–309.

7. Sprague, D.N., Canada and the Métis, 1869-1885 (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1988) covers Manitoba Metis claims in detail but in a rather partisan way. See also his earlier articles cited in the bibliography to his book.

8. S.C., 1870, c. 3, s. 31.

9. A.G. Archibald to Joseph Howe, December 27, 1870. National Archives of Canada, RG 15, vol. 236, file 7220.

10. Flanagan, Thomas, “The Case Against Métis Aboriginal Rights,” Canadian Public Policy 9 (1983), 315318.

11. For Ritchot's record of the negotiations, see Stanley, G.F.G., “Le Journal de l'abbé N.-J. Ritchot,” Revue d'Histoire de l'Amérique Française 17 (1964), 537564.

12. The New Nation, July 1, 1870.

13. House of Commons Debates, July 6, 1885, 3113.

14. S.C., 1874, c. 20.

15. Orders-in-council were printed as separate sheets and distributed to the government offices that used them. I have acquired xerox copies from several sources: a Department of the Interior office compilation now housed in the Law Library of the University of Alberta and in the Legislative Library of Manitoba; a bound volume of orders pertaining to Metis land grants in NAC, RG 15, vol. 227; and the general collection of orders-in-council in NAC, RG 2.

16. House of Commons Proceedings, March 12 and 24, 1873, NAC, RG 14 D 4, P-58, 16, 35. For indications of support, see Robert Cunningham to Louis Riel, March 20, 1873, Provincial Archives of Manitoba, MG 3 D 1, 195; A.-A. Taché to Robert Cunningham, March 28 and April 16, 1973, Archives of Ontario, MU 762; André Neault and Amable Gaudry to Robert Cunningham (in the hand of Louis Riel), July 23, 1873, AO, MU 762; N.-J. Ritchot to A.A. Taché, May 12, 1873, Archives de l'Archevêché de Saint-Boniface, T 12072-75.

17. Order-in-council, April 3, 1873; S. C., 1873, c. 38, s. 1.

18. Manitoban, December 17, 1870.

19. S.C., 1873, c. 37.

20. Order-in-council, March 23, 1876.

21. Cited in Stanley, G.F.G., The Birth of Western Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961; first published 1936), 246.

22. Ibid.

23. S.C., 1879, c. 31, s. 125(e).

24. S.C., 1883, s. 81e.

25. Flanagan, Thomas, Riel and the Rebellion: 1885 Reconsidered (Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1983), 6769.

26. Order-in-council, January 28, 1885.

27. For a debate over the wording, see Hatt, Ken, “The North-West Rebellion Scrip Commissions, 1885-1889,” in Barron, F. Laurie and Waldram, James B. (eds.), 1885 and After: Native Society in Transition (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1886), 191192; and Thomas Flanagan, “Comment on Ken Hatt,” ibid., 205-206.

28. Order-in-council, March 30, 1885.

29. W.P.R. Street to David Macpherson, April 5, 1885, NAC, RG 15, vol. 574, file 175, 917.

30. Order-in-council, April 18, 1885.

31. Ibid.

32. Order-in-council, April 13, 1886.

33. Order-in-council, March 12, 1892.

34. Lyndwoode Pereira to Louis Schmidt, May 5, 1894, NAC, RG 15, vol. 583, file 187, 263.

35. A.M. Burgess to Lawrence Vankoughnet, March 17, 1888, NAC, RG 10, vol. 3793, file 46,025-2.

36. Order-in-council, December 14, 1888.

37. See the orders-in-council of March 24, 1891; February 28, 1894; and May 6, 1899. Appendix C to order-in-council, December 28, 1895.

38. Appendix C to order-in-council, December 28, 1895.

39. Order-in-council, June 27, 1898.

40. J.H. Ross to J.A.J. McKenna, May 4, 1899, cited in Hall, D.J., “The Half-Breed Claims Commission,” Alberta History 25 (1977), 4.

41. N.-O. Côté, memo, April 14, 1899, NAC, RG 15, vol. 760, file 504, 454.

42. Hall, David J., “Clifford Sifton and Canadian Indian Administration 1896-1905,” in Getty, Ian A.L. and Lussier, Antoine S. (eds.), As Long as the Sun Shines and Water Flows (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1983), 122123.

43. J.A.J. McKenna to Clifford Sifton, April 17, 1899, NAC, RG 15, vol. 771, file 518,158.

44. S.C., 1899, c. 16, s. 4.

45. Order-in-council, May 6, 1899.

46. Mair, Charles, Through the Mackenzie Basin: A Narrative of the Athabasca and Peace River Treaty Expedition of 1899 (Toronto: William Briggs, 1908), 5859.

47. Lyndwoode Pereira to J.G. Terriff, July 13, 1899, NAC, RG 15, vol. 760, file 504,454.

48. Walker, James and Côté, J.-A. to Sifton, Clifford, June 24, 1899, Canada Sessional Papers 13 (1900).

49. House of Commons Debates, July 14, 1899, 7513.

50. St. Catherine's Milling and Lumber Company v. the Queen (1889) 14 App. Cas. 46 (P. C.).

51. Sanders, Douglas, “Metis Rights in the Prairie Provinces and the Northwest Territories: A Legal Interpretation,” in Daniels, Harry W. (ed.), The Forgotten People: Metis and Non-status Indian Land Claims (Ottawa: Native Council of Canada, 1979), 21 makes both points.

52. J.A.J. McKenna to Clifford Sifton, February 22, 1902, NAC, RG 10, vol. 3033, file 235-225(1), C-11314.

53. Ibid.

54. Frank Pedley to Clifford Sifton, August 17, 1903. Ibid.

55. Order-in-council, June 29, 1905.

56. Morrison, James, Treaty Research Report: Treaty Nine (1905-06): The James Bay Treaty (Ottawa: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Treaties and Historical Research Centre, 1986), tells the story of the treaty but says nothing about the Metis.

57. Long, John S., “Treaty No. 9 and fur trade families: Northeastern Ontario's halfbreeds, Indians, petitioners and métis,” in Peterson, Jacqueline and Brown, Jennifer S.H. (eds.), The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Métis in North America (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1985), 147.

58. Ibid.

59. Ibid., 155-156.

60. Order-in-council, May 12, 1908.

61. N.-O. Côté to W.J. Roche, May 11, 1914, NAC, RG 15, vol. 991, file 1,247,280.

62. Order-in-council, April 12, 1921.

63. Flanagan, , Riel and the Rebellion, 8085.

64. Order-in-council, May 6, 1899.

* I write “Metis” with a capital M but without an accent, following the increasingly common practice of the Metis themselves. Donald Purich, The Metis (Toronto: James Lorimer, 1988), 5. This orthography emphasizes that the term “Metis” now applies equally to English or French mixed-race persons. I retain the accent when it appears in quotations.

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