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"The Struggle Continues": Metis Lands and SelfGovernment METIS LANDS IN MANITOBA. Thomas Flanagan. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1991. THE GOVERNMENTAND POUT/CS OF THE ALBERTA METIS SETTLEMENTS. T.C. Pocklington. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Centre, 1991. In April 1875 Vital Grandin, Catholic bishop for the Canadian North Western parish of St. Albert, wrote to the Minister of the Interior regarding conditions in the region. Grandin raised concerns about the Metis population, relaying their continuing claim of mistreatment by the Dominion government. "[W]e know too well that we have nothing to hope from the Canadian government except ill will and contempt," the Metis had reportedly told the bishop, "... the facts which have occurred and are still taking place at Red River are proof of it."• Generating this "ill will" were issues relating to Metis land tenure and selfgovernment , elements which early studies have portrayed as sites of struggle for Metis people during the late nineteenth century.2 According to several works written by Joe Sawchuck, Don McLean and Donald Purich over the past 15 years, the Metis during this century have remai~ed locked in conflict with the Canadian government over the same two issues.3 The Dumont case, a lawsuit currently being waged by the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) against the federal government, is one indication that the struggle does continue for the Metis. Lawyers representing the MMF maintain that Canada used legislative amendments to circumvent its obligations to the Metis under Sections 31-33 of the Manitoba Act. The end result, noted one MMF lawyer, was that the Metis "were promised land and didn't get it." This allegation is the focal point of Meris Lands in Manitoba, the product of research conducted on be212 half of the federal Department of Justice by Thomas Aanagan, a political scientist at the University ofCalgary. At the outset Flanagan insists that, while the Department of Justice commissioned this research, his analysis is an uncompromised examination of the issue. Lawyers with the department reportedly "asked only for the facts as I saw them" (viii), a claim that is intended to assure readers that Flanagan's conclusions are based on a thorough review of the documentary record and nothing more.4 The endnotes lend credence to this, illustrating the impressive array of archival materials which Flanagan consulted, including the diaries of Abbe N.L. Ritchot, a Metis delegate who played a prominent role in the negotiation of what became the Manitoba Act. The facts, according to Aanagan, show that Canada faithfully discharged its duties as set out by Section 31 of the Manitoba Act regarding the distribution of 1.4 million acres of land to the Metis. ''There is simply no evidence to sustain wild allegations that the government never gave the 1.4 million acres to the Metis," notes Flanagan, "or that it defrauded them of their land" (94). He expresses similar sentiments regarding the federal government 's compliance with Section 32 of the act guaranteeing Metis settlers ownership of lands settled prior to 1870. "In all parishes Manitoba Act [land] patents were granted where people really lived, while homesteads and special grants were used to give free land in marginal cases" (189). What, then, spawned the so-called "wild allegations" that the Dominion government failed to fulfill its responsibilities to the Manitoba Metis? The author cites misinterpretation by the Metis of the purpose of the Manitoba Act and the manner of its application after 1870. Ritchot's diaries are fundamental to Aanagan's sub-thesis of the Metis misinterpretation of the intention of the Manitoba Act. According to Aanagan the diaries reveal that Metis support for the Manitoba Act was based on both the written text of the act and certain assurances offered during negotiations between Revue d'erudes canadiennes Vol. 27, No. 4 (Hiver 1992-93 Winttr) the Metis and Georges Etienne Cartier. In the end, argues Flanagan, the Metis assumed that the 1.4 million-acre land grant promised in Section 31 would be allocated in large segments for the purpose of creating French enclaves in the province of Manitoba (46, 67-68). Flanagan suggests that this interpretation read too much into what were general assurances on the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-0251
Print ISSN
0021-9495
Pages
pp. 212-215
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-03
Open Access
No
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