I am a Metis; I'm part Cree and Dene Indian and part French,
I am probably a descendent of the Metis Voyageurs that played a major role in
the success of the Fur Trade
and, of course
the Hudson's Bay Company Incorporated probably would not have survived without
the assistance of the Metis and Indian people. In all likelihood the Hudson's
Bay Company's imported clerks and managers would have starved to death if it
wasn't for all the pemmican (dried buffalo meat, pounded into a pulp and mixed
with buffalo grease and wild berries, Mmmmmm) supplied by the Metis.
So, here I was (Winnipeg) in what was known as the Red River Area and where
made his first political impressions.
indicates the water system with Ile a la Crosse the center of a vast region
known as Rupert's Land. There are great number of smaller rivers, and
long bays to get access into deeper country away from the main routes.
Yellow are main roads, mostly gravel and some poor asphalt.
Louis Riel played a major role in the eventual development of Manitoba and it's
becoming a Province. He also was instrumental in drafting and declaring a Provisional
Government in the Red River region immediately after the 1869 Red River Resistance,
(they seized the HBCo. and all its assets). The main reason why the Metis reacted
at the time was that the HBCo. was in the process of turning over "Rupert's
Land" to the Dominion of Canada which would have kept the area as a colony and
thus, all governmental operations would have been decided by the four provinces
and the Federal government. Riel knew that in order that the Metis maintain
their decision making powers the region would have to be made into a province.
Since this was unlikely, the only way to force the issue was to set up a provisional
government. It was not long after this that John A. McDonald's government entertained
the idea, and Parliament eventually passed legislation in 1870. The legislation
included sections 31, 32, and 33 which would provide 1.4 million acres of land
for the children of the Manitoba Metis but, also protect the rights of the Metis
culture and way of life. Somehow, by 1871 certain parts of the Manitoba Act
were worded differently so as to basically do away with the idea of giving a
block of land to the Metis which would otherwise be dealt as a Metis homeland.
Instead the promised lands were given out in "fee simple", in separate packages
to all the possible descendants' children affected.
For the record, Flanagan's book "Metis Lands in Manitoba" that deals with the
supposed good handedness of the federal government is totally biased and in
favour of the government's prespective. In his conclusion, page 225 he wrote:
The evidence assembled in this book shows that the federal government generally
fulfilled, and in some ways overfulfilled, the land provisions of the Manitoba
To this writer, I would have to discount his findings and that the
Metis were duped in not receiving the said lands as a Nation of peoples, and
that the fee simple dispersement of the lands were designed so that eventual
alienation would take place, contrary to what Flanagan is trying to get across.
That is the main reason that the Manitoba Metis Federation must continue their
court battle to secure Metis land.
On a historical note, Louis Riel's last testament
is the will he wrote before he was executed.
Speaking of Louis Riel, did you know that his father ( Riel Genealogy
Louis Riel Sr.
was born in my hometown of Ile-a-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan. Louis David Riel's
grandfather Jean-Baptiste Riel was a French Metis Voyageur working for the North
West Company. Jean Baptiste married a Dene Aboriginal Marguerite Boucher (today
a common name in the La Loche region). however, in 1815 her family lived in
As Metis Peoples, even though we are the first children of the meeting of Aboriginal
and European People; we have to argue that on the basis of our Indian ancestory
we are entitled to a land base and that we have inherent rights. North West
Saskatchewan Metis have a Metis Land Claim in the Saskatchewan Queen's Bench
which was registered March 1, 1994. This Land Claim has been renewed as of 1999.
Therefore, going back to Louis Jr. it can be argued that he actually got his
political heart, mind and spirit from his father who was instrumental in organizing
the Metis once he moved to the Red River region during the middle 1800's.
Ile a la Crosse was one of the HBCo's most important Fur Trading Posts of the
day, because it was part of the Churchill River system and it's Cree name, 'Sakitowak'
means many openings; it was the hub in a network of hundreds of miles of water
routes. That is why the North West Company maintained a vigilante fur trade
war with the HBC until the early 1820's when the two companies merged.
The Churchill River flowed through Lac Isle a la Crosse,
to the West and North provided access through the Methy
Portage (La Loche) which took fur traders into the Clearwater and
eventually in to the McKenzie River valley and the far north to
the Arctic; to the
East, all the way to the Hudson's Bay and what is known today
as Churchill, Manitoba. The Beaver River provided access to
the Rocky Mountains; other rivers emptied into the Beaver River,
like the Cowan which provided access to Green Lake, Cowan Lake
(Big River), and from where a short overland trip by red river
carts brought you to the Saskatchewan River providing further
unlimited access to Western Canada and to the Red River
Region and onwards to Eastern Canada.
The Canoe River took trappers into what is now
known as the Primrose Air Weapons Range and North East
Alberta. Ile a la Crosse was an extremely important commercial
interest to the HBC and was a hotly contested Trading Post
considering that the North West Company, a bitter rival of the
Hudson's Bay Company battled continuously for the right to exclusive fur
trading in the region.
Ile a la Crosse today is over two hundred and twenty years old as it was incorporated
as a community in 1776; we are the second oldest community in the province of
Saskatchewan. Notwithstanding, that Cree and Dene Peoples have lived in this
region for the past several thousand years. As well, because of the Riel legacy
one could argue that Ile a la Crosse could very well be the actual original
homeland of the Metis
To this very day, ask any Saskatchewan Provincial Government Leader, Ile a la
Crosse has been one of the most outspoken communities in Northern Saskatchewan
and has also produced some of the most courageous and outspoken leaders on and
about Metis Rights in the Province. One must also consider that the majority
of Metis who have become Provincial Metis leaders in Metis politics are from
North West Saskatchewan. The present Saskatchewan Metis President is Clem Chartier,
who has been involved in Metis politics for many years is from Buffalo Narrows.
Rod Bishop of Green Lake, who passed away just a few short years ago was a fearless
advocate of our Metis Rights. Rod's son-in-law Gerald Morin is the Metis National
Council President who is from Green Lake, in North West Saskatchewan.Buckley
Belanger from Ile a la Crosse is the Minister of Environment and Resource Management
for the Government of Saskatchewan.
Today, with all the industrial development taking place in Northern Saskatchewan
the Metis people and our Aboriginal cousins are once again in the front lines
defending land we have always believed to be ours. However, we also want to
play a part in the development; we want to be co-managers of development. We
want the royalty sharing revenues to better our communities, we want to be in
business, but not at the expense of the environment.
What about our war veterans? Many Metis also served in both World Wars and in
World War II many young men from Ile-a-la-Crosse went overseas with the Allied
Forces to liberate Europe from the onslaught of the German Forces. Men like Vital
Morin, who spent months as a prisoner of war, others like Leo
Belanger, who saw a great many friends and fellow Canadians gunned down
as they rushed the shores of Normandy and Juno Beach. The Canadian government
forgot about these heroic Aboriginal Canadians who risked their lives for something
they believed in. Many non-aboriginal Canadians received farm land as gratuity
for their part in saving Eurpope, but for the majority of our Metis and Aboriginal
War Veterans they received absolutely nothing. Many of these same men lived in
squaller, welfare and other means to survive once they returned to Canada. To
this day the governments have never fully recognized the big and important role
Aboriginal speaking veterans played in defeating the German War machine. For one,
it is a fact that Indians and Metis speaking their mother tongues played a major
roles in sending and receiving vital messages because the Germans were not able
to understand them as they were not in any secret codes, Indians spoke in their
own language and as a result were able to communicate important strategies without
fear of the Germans finding out. These heroes must be recognized for these important
roles they played. Not only that, most Aboriginal men in the Allied Forces were
crack shots and therefore, also played major roles as snipers and having the ability
to do survaillance work undetected because of their expertise in bush warfare.
This is a salute to all those Aboriginal Veterans of Northern Saskatchewan that
served their Country so courageously.
On a historical note, Sarah
Riel the sister of Louis Riel is buried in Ile a la Crosse where she died
of some illness or mishap in 1883. There are rumours in Ile-a-la-Crosse amongst
elders who claim that she may have been pushed down some stairs at the mission.
Was it because of her love and continued support of her brother Louis Riel who
at that time would have been teaching and raising a family in Montana. Or is it
just that, another rumour?
She was serving as a Grey Nun at
the time of her untimely death; she was in her thirties. She
was considered a rugged traveller considering the hardships
she endured travelling in routes where
even rugged voyageurs had to struggle in order they survive.
In winter the long cold journeys by horse and sleigh or by
dogteam. In the summer travel by canoe and york boats sound
romantic but, they endured rushing waters and rapids and lots
of bugs. She was close to her brother Louis, as evidenced by
the letters they wrote each other. There are perverted antagonists and so-called (Federal Government Trial) experts on Riel who claim that Louis and Sara had an inncestual relationship. It is an insult to my Metis pride that such a thought would be processed by a so-called expert, a professional. I mean the siblings probably hadn't seen one another for years and it is only natural to be concerned for one's sibling's well being. To me it is no surprise because I know Metis people care greatly for one another.Siblings actually care for each other for the most part as opposed to what I have witnessed in the non-native community and which the Aboriginal community is slowly embracing. Global and Materialistic. I detest people that write for the sole purpose of creating controversy and discriminating against the Metis.
Today, her gravesite is
still very visible where she was laid to rest among other
Grey Nuns, Oblate Priests and Oblate Brothers, on a sand covered
hill overlooking A'la Pointe Roche as it is known in
Sakitawak. As kids we used to go to Lapointe roche in the spring to snare mullets and northern pike; We would cook and eat the fresh fish right then and there.
There is information which I have come across myself which says that Sara died in the far north amongst the Askeemeweenowak (Inuit) people.I have scanned a copy of the Jean Baptiste Roman Catholic Church records at Ile-a-la-Crosse that shows her death and the photo of the headstone should stop those rumours. I think how she died is still a mistery which we will probably never know as the story has died with whoever was involved.
The above a photocopy of the Church record entry when Sister
Sara died. There are signitures from what looks like three nuns, and four Oblate
The top photo (map) is from Landsat5 satellite, the white areas are
frozen lakes. Ile a la Crosse and Beauval are actually
very close in proximity. The two communities are only about
thirty-two air miles apart and about 55 miles to go around
by vehicle. This photo was taken in November 1996; the yellow
lines are all weather roads; the one running South from
Buffalo Narrows to Beauval is supposed to be paved, but if
you drive on it, you will agree that it is merely tar mixed
with gravel; a cold mix as opposed to asphalt which is hot
mix. The roads tend to
become choppy and could be hazardous to your vehicle. Sask. Dept.
of Highways will disagree on that, but recent lawsuits have
proven otherwise. Some travellers have been compensated for
damage done on their vehicles. The rest of the roads are
straight loose gravel. If you venture to visit make sure you
have a couple of spare tires (I don't mean to scare you, it isn't all
bad). The people are friendly, the air
is clean, you can drink the water straight out of the lakes,
the scenery is breath-takingly beautiful, and fishing is
pretty good most of the time and you can eat the fish too. I
hope you can make it up here; if you do, look up Mrs. Cecile
Bouvier at the Beauval Junction,(Amy's Bar and Grill), she has beautiful native
handicraft available; tell her Mike Durocher sent you.
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