Métis in Alberta
Métis in Alberta are Métis people, descendants of mixed First Nations/native Indian and white/European families, who live in the Canadian province of Alberta. The Métis are considered an aboriginal group under Canada's Constitution Act of 1982 and separate and distinct from First Nations (though they live in the same regions and have cultural similarities), and have different legal rights. Different Metis groups attempted to combine the joint influences of the Manitoba Metis Federation, the Metis Nation of Alberta, and the Metis Nation- Saskatchewan. This was done in hopes that the Metis peoples’ of Alberta would receive land and resource rights. In Alberta, unlike in the rest of Canada, Métis people have negotiated certain lands to be reserved for them under the Métis Population Betterment Act of 1938, known today as the Eight Métis Settlements. These Métis Settlements Federated in 1975 to protect existing Métis Settlement lands following the Alberta Governments dissolution, by Order-In-Council of four Métis Settlements from 1950-1960. Following legal challenges by the Federation of Métis Settlements in 1975 for the loss of natural resource against Alberta, the Crown in Right of Alberta settled out of court for a suite of legislation that would see self-government, land, and money transferred to the newly formed government of the Métis Settlements General Council (MSGC), Canada’s only Métis self-government. The Métis Settlements General Council is the legislator of the Federation of Métis Settlements. MSGC is the second largest land owner in the Province of Alberta.
Métis history in Alberta begins with the fur trade in North America. The Métis developed as a people by the interactions of European fur trading agents and First Nations communities. From 1670 to 1821 the Métis populations grew regionally, typically around fur-trading posts of the North-West and Hudson's Bay companies. For example, Fort Edmonton spawned a large Métis population that was involved in an annual buffalo hunt for many years. These Métis helped to establish the nearby settlements of Lac Ste. Anne (1844), St. Albert (1861), Lac La Biche (1853), and St. Paul de Métis (1890). The Hudson's Bay Company's land-claim in the west (called Rupert's Land) was sold to the newly formed Dominion of Canada with the passing of the British North-America Act (Canadas founding Constitution, 1867) The sale of the Hudsons Bay Companies claimed territory in 1869/70 officially ended its legal monopoly on the fur trade (not enforced since the trial of Métis trapper Guillaume Sayer in 1849). The fur-trade was an economic boom for the Métis as it opened the fur and buffalo meat trades to private Métis and non-Metis traders; however, it also exposed them to a flood of European and Canadian colonists seeking to profit and disenfranchise the Metis from their lands. Metis living closer to Canadian occupied territory such as the Red River Métis, today in parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, took up arms against the Canadian government in the two failed Riel Rebellions (or "Riel Resistances", 1869 and 1885) in an attempt to assert their rights in the face of the newcomers. Following the Rebellions, some Red River Metis fled north-west, married into the Northwest Metis populations of northern Alberta (formerly known as the Distinct of Athabaska, North-West Territories) or assimilated into surrounding Euro-Canadian society. The end of these rebellions combined with the collapse of the fur and buffalo meat industries forced many Albertan Métis off their lands and reduced them to critical levels of poverty. On the whole, the Métis cultures and communities survived with farming, ranching, fishing and industry replacing their traditional economy of fur-trading as the main economic activity in the Parkland Belt, though trapping and hunting have remained very important in the Rocky Mountain and Boreal Forest regions. More urban Metis who live in close proximity to other cultural groups may have intermarried and assimilated into mainstream Euro-Albertan society to the point that their descendants no longer recognize themselves as Métis. However, in much of northern Alberta, the Métis in more remote rural and isolated communities have remained culturally distinct. Many of the contemporary Metis Settlement population have retained their unique cultural heritage and history due to land-grants provided by King George V by way of the Metis Population Betterment Act of 1938. This act was important to Canadian history, the Metis were given back a certain amount of land for their use. 1990 was the official year that the constitution would be the Alberta Amendment Act 3.
In the early 20th century, as a response to Métis dispossession and impoverishment following the collapse of the fur-trade and marginalization of Metis/Halfbreeds by the newly dominate Canadian Society, Métis political organization, dormant since the Riel Rebellions, was revived in the mid-late 1920s, by a number of competing organizations such as the Half-Breed Association, the Métis Association, and the Half-breed Association of Northern Alberta. In 1932, a lasting and successful organization was founded following large half-breed gatherings in Frog Lake and Fishing Lake. These gatherings were organized by grassroots leaders such as Charles Delores and Dieudonne Collins. These men would call on the expertise of a local enfranchised Indian named Joesepf Dion of the Kehiwin Cree Nation (20 km from the former St. Paul Des Metis). The lasting organization would be known as "L’Association des Métis d’Alberta et les Territories du Nord-Ouest" by Malcolm Norris, Jim Brady, Peter Tomkins, Joseph Dion and Felix Calliou (the Métis "famous five"); this organization would fight for the recognition and formal establishment of the Metis Settlements. The Famous Five would go on to pressure the Government of Alberta on behalf of the Metis populations for a protected homeland, the Metis settlements. In response to the pressured lobbying, the Alberta legislature would call for a Royal Commission, entitled "The Ewing Commission" to investigate the conditions of the "Half-Breeds" (Metis) within the province. The Ewing Commission's (Ewing royal commission) final report called for a Métis land base and that it be provided by the provincial government under the Natural Resource Transfer Act 1930.
The result of the report was the creation of twelve Métis settlements in 1938 by way of the Métis Population Betterment Act. In the late 1950s four of these settlements (Touchwood, Marlboro, Cold Lake, and Wolf Lake) were closed, requiring residents to relocate to the remaining eight settlements, all north of Edmonton. In 1938 the Peavine Metis Settlement in Alberta stretched 213, 117 acres and happened to be located in the boreal forest. Due to being resettled so many times, the Metis peoples' on the Peavine Metis Settlement were not very connected to that land compared to their ancestors.
The Alberta Federation of Metis Settlements Associations was formed in 1975 as the umbrella organization for the eight settlement councils. The Alberta Federation of Metis Settlements, now unified by federation, united all existing Metis settlements.
Different Metis groups attempted to combine the joint influences of the Manitoba Metis Federation, the Metis Nation of Alberta, and the Metis Nation- Saskatchewan. This was done in hopes that the Metis peoples’ of Alberta would receive land and resource rights.
In 1989, through decades of negotiations and meetings, the Federation of Metis Settlements and the Crown in the Province of Alberta reached an agreement, the Alberta-Metis Settlements Accord, that involved the payment of $310 million to the Métis by Alberta and the passage of four bills. The legislation consisted of Bill 33, the Metis Settlements Accord Implementation Act; Bill 34, the Metis Settlements Land Protection Act; Bill 35, the Metis Settlements Act and Bill 36, the Constitution of Alberta Amendment Act 1990. By this legislation, title to a total of 1,250,000 acres (510,000 ha) of land was transferred to the Metis Settlements General Council (MSGC).
As of the 2006 Canadian census, Big Lakes County had the most Métis people per capita of any Canadian census subdivision with a population of 5,000 or more, due to the census' inclusion of the population of three Métis settlement municipalities within Big Lakes' totals.
Recently, many other Métis people have moved to larger urban centres, becoming urban aboriginals. In 2006, a total of 27,740 persons living in the Edmonton census metropolitan area identified as Métis, accounting for just over half (53%) of the region's Aboriginal population. Between 2001 and 2006 the Métis population of the Edmonton region grew by 32%. Despite their recent legal victories, in 2006 Métis people in Alberta still faced higher rates of unemployment and disease, lower average incomes than their non-aboriginal neighbours.
The exact population number of Metis peoples’ in Alberta is undetermined due to the details surrounding what qualifies a person to be considered “Metis”. Usually, it is thought that a Metis person is a person descended from an indigenous person and caucasian settlers. However, there are a few different groups that consider themselves to be Metis, Indigenous peoples’ who are from Manitoba Red River Metis during the 1800’s, or all Indigenous peoples’ from Canada that are not recognized under the Indian Act.
The Mountain Métis
The Mountain Métis are a distinct Métis group who are descended from Métis who lived in the Athabasca River valley near Jasper House in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. In 1909 and 1910 a small group of families were evicted from Jasper National Park by the federal government to enable the creation of the park. They were compensated only for their improvements made to the land and not the land itself. Their descendants have fought since that time for compensation and recognition of their rights as an Aboriginal group. Their lobbying (along with non-Métis trappers and guides) was partly responsible the creation of the Willmore Wilderness Park in the 1950s, which they hoped would protect this hunting and trapping ground from oil and gas exploration. They have since come into conflict with some environmentalists and government officials who would prefer to exclude hunting and trapping from all parks in Alberta.
The Mountain Métis are represented by Grande Cache Metis Local 1994, a local affiliate of the Métis Nation of Alberta.
The Government of Canada has been in negotiations since with two Métis organizations, the Metis Nation of Alberta since 2016 and the Metis Settlements General Council since 2017 on general memoranda of understanding
Métis people in Alberta are also represented by the Metis National Council by way of its affiliate the Metis Nation of Alberta Association. The MNAA purports to represent Red River Metis in Alberta.
During the Constitutional talks in the early 1980s the MNAA was revived.
The mandate of the MNAA is to:
- be a representative voice on behalf of Métis people in Alberta;
- provide Métis people an opportunity to participate in government’s policy and decision making process; and, most importantly;
- promote and facilitate the advancement of Métis people through the pursuit of self-reliance, self-determination and self-management.
Overall, the MNA has evolved from an organization:
- with a small membership to an organization whose membership exceeds 35,000 people spread across the Province;
- focused on community consultation and representation to an organization that is both a representative body and a program and service provider;
- responsible for implementing specific projects to an organization responsible for providing ongoing programs and services;
- that simply reacted to government policy changes to an organization that is called upon to actively participate in the policy-making process.
Over the past 15 years, a new set of expectations has been established for the MNA through the:
- Alberta/MNA Framework Agreement process;
- Federal/Provincial/MNA Tripartite Process Agreement process; and
- Government of Alberta’s Aboriginal Policy Framework.
This period has also seen a steady rise in the number of Métis people in the Province who have registered as members of the MNA. Membership in the MNA grew by almost 300% in the last decade. Clearly, more and more Métis people in Alberta recognize the benefits of MNA memberships and the importance of the MNA as an organization.
As well, the MNA has made a transition from solely a representative body to an organization responsible and accountable for the ongoing delivery of a variety of programs and services. The MNA has continued to make significant strides as an organization and has been successful in developing and implementing a number of projects and initiatives (including Apeetogosan Development Inc., Métis Urban Housing Corporation of Alberta and the Aboriginal Human Resource Development Agreement – Labour Market Unit.)
The MNA has accepted new responsibilities and expectations and is moving towards becoming a more “results-based” organization. It has addressed issues relating to internal governance and has, in turn, developed the administrative capacity to meet the expectations that are placed upon it.
The MNA has proven itself very capable of playing a role in the policy development process. Its elected officials and staff sit on a wide range of committees responsible for an even wider array of issues.
The MNA, like any organization, has gone through a distinct evolution in its history. While it has had to deal with any number of contentious issues over the years, the MNA’s development has been built upon a strong record of successes, often achieved with minimal financial resources.
The Rupertsland Institute of Alberta is an affiliate to the Metis Nation of Alberta. Their mission is to enhance the individual self-sufficiency and the collective well-being of Metis people through quality education, training and research. www.rupertsland.org
There was a law defining case that was remembered as the first time the issue of Metis rights were recognized under s. 35 of the Constitution Act 1982. A man named Steve Powley was scrutinized and almost punished for knowingly hunting without a license. When the case made it to the Supreme Court of Canada Powley’s case was protected by the Metis Aboriginal right to hunt and the case was dismissed.
List of settlements
The Metis Settlements General Council "is the political and administrative body for the collective interests of the eight Metis Settlements... the General Council has 44 members consisting of 40 elected members from the Settlements, and 4 elected Executive members."
Historic and current Metis settlements:
- Buffalo Lake (Caslan) or Beaver River
- Cold Lake
- East Prairie (south of Lesser Slave Lake)
- Elizabeth (east of Elk Point)
- Fishing Lake (Packechawanis)
- Gift Lake (Ma-cha-cho-wi-se) or Utikuma Lake
- Goodfish Lake
- Kings Land
- Paddle Prairie (or Keg River)
- Peavine (Big Prairie, north of High Prairie)
- Wolf Lake (north of Bonnyville)
- Gift Lake comprises two parts. The majority is located within Big Lakes County, while the balance is located within Northern Sunrise County. The Big Lakes County portion (part "A") had a population of 658 living on 811.68 km2 (313.39 sq mi) in 2016, while the Northern Sunrise County portion (part "B") had a population of 0 living on 1.05 km2 (0.41 sq mi).
- Kikino comprises two parts. The majority is located within Smoky Lake County, while the balance is located within Lac La Biche County. The Smoky Lake County portion (part "A") had a population of 934 living on 442.27 km2 (170.76 sq mi) in 2016, while the Lac La Biche County portion (part "B") had a population of 0 living on 1.30 km2 (0.50 sq mi).
- MacKlem, Patrick (December 1, 1997). "Aboriginal Rights and State Obligations". Alberta Law Review. 36 (1): 97. doi:10.29173/alr1020. ISSN 1925-8356.
- Métis Settlements General Council (MSGC)
- "Origins and Identity". www.albertasource.ca. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
- "Western Settlements". www.albertasource.ca. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
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- email@example.com. "Mountain Metis who were evicted from Jasper in the Canadian Rockies in 1909 and 1910". www.mountainmetis.com. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
- Christianson, Amy; Mcgee, Tara K.; L'Hirondelle, Lorne (September 2014). "The Influence of Culture on Wildfire Mitigation at Peavine Métis Settlement, Alberta, Canada". Society & Natural Resources. 27 (9): 931–947. doi:10.1080/08941920.2014.905886. ISSN 0894-1920.
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- "2006 Aboriginal Population Profile for Edmonton". www.statcan.gc.ca. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
- McEwen, A. C. (April 1995). "THE METIS SETTLEMENTS LAND REGISTRY IN ALBERTA". Survey Review. 33 (256): 77–86. doi:10.1179/sre.1995.33.256.77. ISSN 0039-6265.
- Bell, Catherine; Leonard, Clayton (April 1, 2004). "A New Era in Metis Constitutional Rights: The Importance of Powley and Blais". Alberta Law Review. 41 (4): 1049. doi:10.29173/alr1317. ISSN 1925-8356.
- "Metis Settlements General Council". Metis Settlements General Council. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
- "Specialized and Rural Municipalities and Their Communities" (PDF) (PDF). Alberta Municipal Affairs. August 30, 2013. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
- "Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, census divisions, census subdivisions (municipalities) and designated places, 2011 and 2006 censuses". Statistics Canada. January 30, 2013. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
- "Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, and designated places, 2016 and 2011 censuses – 100% data (Alberta)". Statistics Canada. February 8, 2017. Retrieved February 9, 2017.