On Mike Rainone’s article

Reader responds to the March 2 Reflections story in Ponoka News.

In response to your article of March 2, it is apparent that you’re in need of education in the area of our history.

Your article started with the statement that land designation for reserves was the result of the Riel Rebellion. This information is very wrong. As you should be aware, in 1692 Christopher Columbus got lost and he stumbled on this land where the Indigenous people that lived on the land since time immemorial, referred to as “Turtle Island”. Upon his arrival, assuming he had reached his intended destination, referred to the people as ‘Indians’ because he thought he had reached India. Fast track a hundred years to 1763 when King George lll issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which has been referred to as our ‘Indian Bill of Rights’ because this proclamation promised land security from the encroaching colonizers. This document prohibited sale of ‘Indian land’ unless it was to the Crown. Please google for more information on this particular topic.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 also gave the representatives of the Queen a framework for negotiation of treaties with the indigenous/original peoples. Although there were a number of treaties (sometimes referred to as Peace and Friendship Treaties) signed with the First Nations people, the numbered treaties are more important to note with reference to your article. From 1871 to 1923, the Crown entered into treaties with the various First Nations of what is now known as Canada. These are now referred to as the Numbered Treaties. [Please remember there was a Civil War in the United States and there were fears of this war in Upper and Lower Canada. Another contributing factor was the whiskey traders who were encroaching the land and making trades with the First Nations. Google for more information]

The people of Maskwacis are part of Treaty #6 and this territory covers an area in Central Alberta (from the Rockies), Central Saskatchewan and into Manitoba. Very large tract of land. Treaty 6 includes among others, the Medicine Chest. Immediately after the signing of our treaties, the demand for land by the settlers, railway companies and others increased and there was immense pressure on the Department of Indian Affairs to ensure land was surrendered (remember the Royal Proclamation prohibited sale of land unless it was to the Crown). The pressure was so that amendments to the Indian Act were required and passed by the Laurier government to increase cash distributions to the First Nations for land surrender. Now, land surrender was conducted under questionable circumstances; if the Dept. of Indian Affairs were satisfied that the people were not living on the land they considered it to be abandoned. People may have been out hunting or visiting relatives in other areas. Some, like Sharphead, were largely affected by the effects of colonization and had succumbed to starvation or disease. Land surrender in many cases was not voluntary. My point to this, treaties were not the result of the Riel Rebellion. Riel and his followers reacted to news that Canada had sold land without the knowledge and consent of the First Nations people. That is another matter you should Google.

The language of the people in Maskwacis is Cree, more specifically Plains Cree. It is not just an Indian language as you referred. There are many First Nations people in all of Canada and the United States and we all have a language. We have a history that spans thousands of years, we have a culture and traditions that have survived the loss of our main food supply the buffalo, residential school, the Sixties Scoop. We survived the continued efforts to assimilate us by banning our ceremonies, by prohibiting our children to speak their language in residential schools, by imposing a pass system whereby our people had to obtain a pass to leave the boundaries of the reserve, surviving the diseases brought on with infected blankets, by disenfranchising our women if they married a non-status person, by disenfranchising anyone who joined a religious order or who made efforts to gain a higher education. We still speak our language, we still practise our ceremonies and our culture is still very much alive. Please use proper terminology when you refer to our history, please research our history before you submit articles about us.


Pat Swampy

Mike Rainone’s Note:

The wording in the article was “at the end of the Riel rebellion”, and not “because of the Riel Rebellion” and it only referred to the time period during which it occurred.


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