Magazine article Canadian Speeches

How Whitey Stole the Lands of the Manitoba Metis

Magazine article Canadian Speeches

How Whitey Stole the Lands of the Manitoba Metis

Article excerpt

A Metis senator recounts the scam by which white settlers and the Government of Canada are said to have tricked his people out of a promised 1.4 million acres of land in the Red River area of Manitoba. When Ruperts Land was transferred to Canada, the Metis were promised title to the 1.4 million acres as compensation for the land they had occupied. The titles were never directly issued to them. Instead, they received script, which could be either redeemed for 160 acres of land per family, or sold for cash. Almost all the script was sold, for as little as $25 each. From debate in the Senate on Bill S-35 to honour Louis Riel and the Metis People, Ottawa, February 19, 2002.

I am pleased to rise in my place to speak on Bill S-35. A great deal has been written about the Metis people, and, particularly, one of our most acknowledged leaders, Louis Riel.

While I have been reading about the Metis people, the struggle they endured and still endure, and lived the struggles and endured as a Metis what they have, I learned much of what I know about the region and the people while growing up there, listening to the oral history and the stories passed down to me from my Metis ancestry. It is an absolute necessity that I rise to speak about this great Canadian hero.

The bill says its purpose is to honour Louis Riel and the Metis people by commemorating Riel's unique and historic role in the advancement and development of Confederation. It recognizes his contribution to the rights and interests of the Metis people and the people of Western Canada.

The bill also seeks acknowledgement of the arrowhead sash as the recognized symbol of the Metis people. Further, it encourages government departments to honour Riel by using his name for appropriate commemorative purposes. It is only proper that we install mechanisms to remember, praise and learn from the contributions of the Metis in building our great country.

I believe it is right to establish a day of recognition. It is right to establish symbols, and it is right to recognize and remember those individuals who played a political role in protecting the rights of their people, our heroes. Honestly, I do not believe Canada does enough to educate its people about our history, our culture and what makes us truly unique in the world.

One thing that makes this country unique is its leaders. People need leaders. They need heroes. People need leaders who have the ability to see what is going on around them, apply their knowledge and surmise what the future will bring. Leaders seek to move their people forward. They help to steer them down better roads.

The Metis were not a small and isolated group of people. They were involved throughout North America in its development. They have been brought up and created through the fur trade. The Metis established the rules of the game, so to speak, with the buffalo hunt, in which my ancestors participated. They established the Northwest Company. The Metis were the trailblazers who led explorers, missionaries and traders westward and inland. They acted as middlemen between the advancing European settlement and the native bands. They acted as interpreters when treaties with Indians were negotiated, and they fought against the annexation of the Northwest Territories to the United States of America. They existed with the other indigenous peoples long before either Canada or the United States were organized into countries.

The Metis share a claim through Aboriginal title with many Indian nations in Canada and the United States. That claim is reaffirmed in Canada through the Manitoba Act of 1870, the Dominion Lands Act and the Canada Act of 1982.

The Metis nation was instrumental in the formation of Canada and deserves special recognition for its huge contribution to the evolution of Canada. Often, these contributions have been ignored. …

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