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The History of Metis Petitions

By Lawrence J. Barkwell Coordinator Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute The Metis people have made extensive use of their right to petition government for redress of grievances. Unfortunately, the Canadian government has seldom responded to the Metis in a positive fashion. The right to petition government for redress of grievances is the right to make a complaint to, or seek the assistance of, ones government, without fear of punishment or reprisals. In British parliamentary law that the right to petition the Crown or Parliament for the redress of grievances is a fundamental right that dates back to before the reign of King Edward I, in the thirteenth century. This found expression and was entrenched in British law by the British Bill of Rights (1688); an Act of the Parliament of England passed by Parliament on 16 December 1689. It was a restatement in statutory of the Declaration of Right presented by the Convention Parliament to William and Mary in March 1689 (or 1688 by old style dating), inviting them to become joint sovereigns of England. It lays down limits on the powers of sovereign and sets out the rights of Parliament and rules for freedom of speech in Parliament, the requirement to regular elections to Parliament and the right to petition the monarch without fear of retribution. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not list a specific right to petition, whereas this right is entrenched in the U.S. constitution. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Metis History of Petitions Metis Petition from Penetanguishene, 1840. Petitioning that they receive the same presents (annuities) as the Indians and land and hunting rights. They note that they have always served willingly in the Canadian Militia. Red River Petition of 1845: The Mtis petitioned the Governor of the Council of Assiniboia to recognize the Mtis land tenure. The Mtis also asked for free trade with the United States. At this time, British troops were sent to Red River Settlement because of the official fear of a possible Mtis uprising. Red River Petition of 1846. In 1847 Metis lawyer Alexander Koonaubay Isbister headed a deputation to the British Government presenting the petition of 1846 from 1,000 inhabitants of Red River for status as a recognized colony.

Memorial from the Half-Breeds, 1849. An October 1, 1849 petition to the House of Representatives of the Legislative Assembly of Minnesota regarding Metis rights. Metis Petitions from Sault Ste. Marie, 1850. The Metis petitioned that they not lose their land as a result of the Robinson Treaty. At the same time the Ojibway Chiefs sent a similar petition in support of the Metis. Metis Petition of May 3,1873: John Fisher and ten other Mtis sent a petition to A.M. Burgess, Deputy Minister of the Interior. Metis Petition from Lake QuAppelle, 1874. On September 11, 1874 Augustin Brabant and the Metis of Lake QuAppelle petitioned for land and hunting rights. Metis Petition to Join Treaty Four, 1876. On September 7, 1876, 30 Metis at Fort Walsh petitioned on behalf of the Metis of the four districts of Assiniboia to join Treaty Four. Petition from Metis at Blackfoot Crossing, 1877. On September 19, 1877, John Munro and the other Metis at Blackfoot Crossing presented their petition to Lieutenant-Governor David Laird Lieutenant Governor, N.W.T. They petitioned for farm implements, seed and assistance in settling the land. Cypress Hills Metis Petition for a Reserve, 1878. In 1878, a group of Metis at Cypress Hills had sent a petition with two hundred and seventy-six signature requesting a reopening of the buffalo hunt between November 14th and February 15th each year and the granting of Metis reserve land. The request was for a strip of land 150 miles long along the American border beginning where the Pembina River crosses the border. This strip was to be fifty miles from south to north. St. Laurent Petition of February 1, 1878: The Mtis at St. Laurent (Batoche) prepared a list of grievances. In a letter to the Lieutenant-Governor David Laird, Gabriel Dumont asked for local schools to be subsidized by the territorial government, assistance for Mtis farmers, and the appointment of a French-speaking magistrate, a Mtis member of the territorial governing council, and a land grant to extinguish the Mtis Aboriginal title. Petition from the Metis and Old Settlers of Prince Albert, 1878. On February 21, 1878, the Metis and Old Settlers of Prince Albert sent a petition asking for an immediate survey respecting the river lot system, and a distribution of scrip. Petition from the Metis at St. Albert, April 10, 1878. Metis Petition from the QuAppelle Settlement, 1880. On September 2, 1880 the Metis of the QuAppelle Settlement petitioned for their land rights.

Metis Petition for a Reserve in Montana, 1880. On August 6, 1880 Louis Riel and the Metis of Montana petitioned General N.A. Miles for a reserve in Montana. Petition from the Metis Residents of Edmonton, 1880. On May 19, 1880 Octave Majeau and the Metis of the Edmonton area petitioned for Metis scrip as had been issued under the Manitoba settlement scheme of 1870. Metis Petition from Battleford March 4, 1881: The Mtis residents of Battleford sent a petition with seventy-three signatures to John A. Macdonald, the Minister of the Interior. Metis Petition from QuAppelle Valley, 1882. On August 29, 1882, the Metis from the QuAppelle Valley petitioned for land rights, with forty-four signatures. Metis Petition from St. Antoine de Padoue 1882. On September 4, 1882, Gabriel Dumont, Jean Carron and others (44 signatures) sent a petition to Sir John A. Macdonald, regarding land claims. Petition of the Metis of St. Louis de Langevin, 1883. On, November 19, 1883, the Metis of St. Louis (on the South Saskatchewan River) petitioned for land rights. The St. Louis Mtis petitioned George Duck, the land agent in Prince Albert, with thirty-two signatures. Riel Petition of December 1884. Louis Riel and Henry Jackson drafted a petition listing the grievances of the Northwests inhabitants. The government responded by appointing a committee to investigate Mtis claims and to make a list of those who did not take Scrip in Manitoba. Half Breeds of Moose Factory, Petition of September 15, 1905.

Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute