“La Terre: la base de la nation Mechif” La Voix des Mechif: Episode 2
This second part focuses on the period of 1849 to 1885. The Mechif declared free trade in 1849, despite efforts of the settlers to control their pemmican trade. As settlers from Ontario increased in numbers, the Mechif were determined to protect their land base, essential to their established form of self-government. Negotiations with a recently formed Canadian government created The Manitoba Act of 1870. It set aside 1.4 million acres of land for the Mechif but while appearing to be benevolent, that was far from the case. The land was surveyed in odd ways and a scrip program saw speculators, including business and the Church, rush to purchase scrips from the Mechif at a fraction of their true value. Shunted off their land, this destroyed the Mechif Nation at Red River and many were forced to sleep in road allowances. Gabriel Dumont sought help from Louis Riel to protect their land in Saskatchewan; but with the help of settlers from Ontario and Québec, the Mechif were defeated in the 1885 Battle at Batoche. Riel was captured and Dumont fled to Montana. Even though the Canadian Government didn't have legal jurisdiction over the site of the battle, they acted as if they did. Instead of treating Riel as a prisoner of war, they used an obscure English 14th century statute to execute him for treason to the King. This set the tone for the Canadian Government's future treatment of First Nations with actions that included the banning of traditional languages and cultural practices, Residential Schools, and the Pass System. It also defined the future of the Canadian West, which became a multi-ethnic English speaking society instead of a French-English-Indigenous society as it remains today.
“La Vois des Mechif” is a series of three, 23-minute documentaries on the Red River Mechif or Métis people, produced and directed by Mechif historian, educator and storyteller Dr. Raoul McKay. It reveals the origin of a distinct nation with land, laws, its own language and culture.
Directed by: Brian Rougeau
Produced by: Dr. Raoul McKay, First Voice Media, 2002