- Discuss Mistahimaskwa’s efforts toward establishing an Indigenous coalition.
Answer: As reserves were being established in western Canada during the 1880s, Mistahimaskwa (“Big Bear”) resisted. Instead, he encouraged other Plains Nehiyaw chiefs to select adjacent reserves, which would effectively create an interconnected Indigenous territory in southern Saskatchewan. His efforts almost succeeded until the government realized what effect these adjacent reserves would have in uniting First Nations people. They forced Mistahimaskwa to take a remote and isolated reserve in 1882. Still, he tried to convince other reserves to be as close together as possible around Battleford. Two years later, Mistahimaskwa rallied 2,000 people for a thirst dance that was intended to select a single representative to speak for all First Nations peoples for a period of four years. He wanted to challenge Ottawa with regards to their neglect in fulfilling treaty promises. However, his efforts to unite First Peoples were not successful given the government’s tactics of dividing them, using food rations as their instrument, and providing for the arrest of any First Nations person on another’s reserve without permission.
- Briefly describe Louis Riel’s requests of the government in his petition to Ottawa in 1884.
Answer: On December 16, 1884, Louis Riel wrote a petition to Ottawa. He argued that all the people living in western Canada had the right to be treated with the same dignity granted to British subjects. He was lobbying for the interest of Métis, First Nations, and Whites alike. Amongst the complaints he listed were the fact that his people were starving and that White settlers were being charged too much for land. He also believed in self-government for the Métis and that the treaties should be honoured.
- Explain why the community of St. Laurent was seen as a threat by the Canadian government.
Answer: Led by Gabriel Dumont, the Métis community of St. Laurent established a governing body in 1873. Dumont was the first elected president and eight councillors were also chosen. This governing body enacted 28 laws based on the rules and regulations of the buffalo hunt and also added the right to raise taxes. Many other social issues were also listed including employment conditions, the settlement of disputes, and crimes. This beginning seemed promising in terms of self-governance. However, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) was already uneasy about St. Laurent, partly because Dumont had earlier offered his services to Riel during an 1870 visit. The press began to run headlines such “Another Stand Against Canadian Government Authority”; it was also reported that ten thousand Nehiyaw were mobilizing for conflict. The council agreed to formally disband based on promises that the buffalo hunting regulations would remain intact, and that better representation would be provided on the North-West Council.