Kaa-tipeyimishoyaahk – ‘We are those who own ourselves’: A Political History of Métis Self-Determination in the North-West, 1830-1870

Kaa-tipeyimishoyaahk – ‘We are those who own ourselves’: A Political History of Métis Self-Determination in the North-West, 1830-1870

University of Victoria, British Columbia
394 pages

Adam James Patrick Gaudry

Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in the Department of Indigenous Governance

This dissertation offers an analysis of the history of Métis political thought in the nineteenth century and its role in the anti-colonial resistances to Canada’s and Hudson’s Bay Company governance. Utilizing the Michif concepts of kaa-tipeyimishoyaahk and wahkohtowin to shed light on Métis political practices, this work argues that the Métis people had established themselves as an independent Indigenous people in the nineteenth century North West. By use of a common language of prairie diplomacy, Métis had situated themselves as a close “relation” of the Hudson’s Bay Company, but still politically independent of it. Nineteenth century Métis had repeatedly demonstrated their independence from British institutions of justice and politics, and were equally insistent that Canadian institutions had no authority over them. When they did choose to form a diplomatic relationship with Canada, it was decidedly on Métis terms. In 1869-1870, after repelling a Canadian official who was intended to establish Canadian authority over the North-West, the Métis formed a provisional government with their Halfbreed cousins to enter into negotiations with Canada to establish a confederal treaty relationship. The Provisional Government of Assiniboia then sent delegates to Ottawa to negotiate “the Manitoba Treaty,” a bilateral constitutional document that created a new province of Manitoba, that would contain a Métis/Halfbreed majority, as well as very specific territorial, political, social, cultural, and economic protections that would safeguard the Métis and Halfbreed controlled future of Manitoba. This agreement was embodied only partially in the oft-cited Manitoba Act, as several key elements of the agreement were oral negotiations that were later to be institutionalized by the Canadian cabinet, although were only ever partially implemented. These protections included restrictions on the sale of the 1.4 million acre Métis/Halfbreed land reserve, a commitment to establish a Métis/Halfbreed controlled upper-house in the new Manitoba legislature, a temporary limitation of the franchise to current residents of the North West, and restrictions on Canadian immigration to the new province until Métis lands were properly distributed. While these key components of the Manitoba Treaty were not included in the Manitoba Act, they remain a binding part of the agreement, and thus, an unfulfilled obligation borne by the contemporary government of Canada. Without adhering to Canada’s treaty with the Métis people, its presence on Métis lands, and jurisdiction over Métis people is highly suspect. Only by returning to the original agreement embodied by the Manitoba Act can Canada claim any legitimacy on Métis territories or any functional political relationship with the Métis people.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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