In May 1996, the Shoal Lake Cree Nation and the Red Earth Cree Nation jointly submitted a specific claim to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, alleging that Canada had breached the terms of Treaty 5 and the 1876 Adhesion by not providing farming lands to the Red Earth and Shoal Lake Cree Nations. Following a near 9 year silence on behalf of the Federal Goverment, the First Nations requested that the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) investigate their claim, despite it not being formally rejected by the Federal Government. In December 2006, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs formally rejected the First Nations' claim. In addition, the ICC found that the Canadian Government had upheld its obligations to provide both First Nations with farming lands in accordance with Treaty 5. However, the ICC report suggests that both reserves are no longer viable places to grow crops and raise animals due to the increase in water levels. This finding by the ICC is significant in the discussion of sustainability and climate vulnerability of the Shoal Lake, Red Earth and James Smith First Nations. The ICC recommended that the Canadian government initiate discussions with all affected communities to find a long-term solution to the problems caused by the condition of their reserve lands.
Building on amendments made to the Indian Act in 1881 which enabled magistrates to have jurisdictional authority on reserves, this 1882 amendment granted the Indian Agent the same power as magistrates, despite lacking formal legal training.
Beginning in the 1880s, the Department of Indian Affairs implemented bureaucracy relating to the execution of justice on reserves. These administrative forms of non-Aboriginal justice served less as a protector of individuals and communities than an enforcer of an inappropriate and unhelpful system of law that facilitated the government’s agenda. Indigenous peoples were the most knowledgeable about their own cultural paradigms and the systems of justice that best served their philosophical perspectives. The stripping of power as it relates to self-governed frameworks of law, however, resulted in the continued inability of bands to provide for the safety and security of their own members. A forced reliance on non-Indigenous administered courts also resulted in the absence of authority for bands to correct problematic jurisdictional gaps, confusion over procedures and policies, and power vacuums whereby outside police forces refused to enforce by-laws.-------------------- In other cases, the exercise of local power through forces of non-Aboriginal justice extended from outside of the reserve to increase control. For example, in 1881, the jurisdiction of magistrates was broadened to reserves, and members of the Indian Affairs Department the Indian Agents were made ex officio justices of the peace. In 1882, the Indian Agent was given the same power as magistrates, despite lacking formal legal training. In 1884, another Indian Act amendment permitted Indian Agents, acting as justices of the peace, to conduct trials whenever they thought necessary, to “any other matter affecting Indians.” Within the same amendment, Indian Agents were granted judicial authority which enabled them to not only lodge a complaint with the police, but to direct the process of prosecution and then act as the sitting judge as well. Aboriginal peoples were thoroughly excluded and alienated throughout the judicial process, except by virtue of their position as the accused.-------------------- Also in 1884, in anticipation of an Indian and Metis uprising due to growing minority agitation, the Act was amended to prohibit inciting “three or more Indians, non-treaty Indians, or halfbreeds” to breach the peace or to make “riotous” or “threatening demands” on a civil servant. This amendment also prohibited the sale to any Indian in the west of “fixed ammunition or ball cartridge,” thus preventing stockpiling of ammunition. These actions effectively criminalized Indian and Metis political protest. Additionally, it prevented Indians from receiving the ammunition needed for hunting at a time when they were already suffering from government policy which restricted rations following the endangerment of buffalo herds. Not surprisingly, these measures did not quell the growing discontentment of Metis and Cree people, who were increasingly frustrated with government policy.
Changes to distribution of rations at Crooked Lake reserve caused problems. Instead of rations being sent in bulk to the chief for distribution among the band, rations were sent to the farm instructor to be equally distributed among band members. Indian Affairs complained that an unfair proportion of the rations were being given to the young, who were better able to provide for themselves. In comparison, an insufficient amount was being distributed to the elderly members of the band, who were not able to engage in food production practices. This change in the system of distributing rations caused violence on the reserve. The NWMP were sent in to deal with the situation, arresting several band members who were then taken into custody in Regina.
The National Indian Brotherhood organized its first provincial association in Saskatchewan, bringing together Indigenous peoples across the province to work towards the betterment of the lives in their communities and across the province. Walter Dieter, whose interview is referenced below in "relevant resources", was the founding chief of the organization. Dieter is Cree from Peepeekisis reserve, near Balcarres, SK.
Reports from Fort Benton stated that American officials had raided Indigenous camps, some belonging to First Nations residing on the Canadian side of the 49th Parallel. American Troops burned 250 lodges, taking horses they claimed were stolen by Big Bear and Lucky Man's bands, and seizing Métis goods and tools the Americans claimed to be smuggled. Indian Affairs Commissioner Edgar Dewdney suspected that the Americans had acted beyond their rights. He believed that as a result of the raids, First Nations and Métis who lived on the Canadian side of the 49th Parallel had returned. This was not the case, there were numerous Dakota groups which had not yet entered back into 'Canada' (Rupert's Land) and thus were left out of numbered treaty-making.
- Dempsey, Hugh A. Big Bear: The End of Freedom. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1985. 112.
- Hoy, Benjamin. “A Border without Guards: First Nations and the Enforcement of National Space.” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 25, no. 2 (2014): 89–115. http://dx.doi.org/10.7202/1032842ar.
- Hoy, Benjamin. "Uncertain Counts: The Struggle to Enumerate First Nations in Canada and the United States 1870-1911.” Ethnohistory 62, no. 4 (2015): 729–50.
Member of Parliament, Mr. Paterson, recommended a provision to the legislation which criminalized First Nations from purchasing or consuming alcohol. This was to be enforced by settlers who were given the authority to report a First Nations person who allegedly broke this new, egregious law, to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs. They could provide the names of witnesses to be called, but were not required to testify themselves, so as to avoid the possibility of being harassed by the accused. This provision was agreed to by the House of Commons.
This provision encouraged the policing of Indigenous peoples by settlers, allowed for settlers to have extensive legal power over Indigenous peoples, and created a double standard whereby Indigenous peoples were penalized for the same activities that settlers participated. As such, Indigenous peoples self-determination and authority continued to be undermined by the state, a theme widely seen throughout paternalistic policies. The Canadian Government implemented policies that criminalized Indigenous peoples in nearly every aspect of their lives, from ceremonies and community gatherings, to the sale of goods, mobility and the pass system, seeking legal counsel, voting, and many other laws that penalized Indigenous peoples for merely existing in a settler colonial state.
House of Commons Debates. 4th Parliament, 2nd Session, vol. II, 12 February 1880 - 7 May 1880. Pg 1997.
Connolly, an HBC employee, traveled to Northern Alberta, and married a Cree woman in 1803, according to Cree customs. When he returned to Quebec, he indicated that he planned to marry his wife in a government-recognized Catholic ceremony, but instead he married a different woman in a Catholic ceremony. The Cree woman he had originally married according to Cree custom was then moved to a convent in Winnipeg. The validity of the first marriage was called into question after his death, with questions of whether the first wife should be included in his inheritance. The marriage between Connolly and the Cree woman was upheld. This court case was the first to establish the legality of Aboriginal marriage practices under Canadian law. According to the decision made in this case, Aboriginal marriages would be upheld by the courts, though their divorces would not be.
On 6 July 1885 Riel was charged with high treason for his leadership in the North-West Resistance. His trial began on 20 July 1885. Riel could not afford a defense attorney, so money was collected from his supporters in Quebec and François-Xavier Lemieux and Charles Fitzpatrick (two prominent Quebec defense lawyers) were hired to defend Riel. The defense strategy was to prove that Riel was insane, as denying the charge of high treason was, at the time, viewed as implausible. Various witnesses were called that either upheld Riel's sanity or considered him 'insane.' Riel's final speech ended any prospects of acquittal. Riel spoke eloquently and passionately, justifying the reasons behind the resistance. After thirty minutes of deliberation, the jury arrived at a decision of guilt in relationship to the charge of high treason, with a recommendation for clemency. Judge Richardson disregarded the request for clemency and sentenced Riel to death by hanging in Regina on 18 September, 1885.
Riel's Lawyers appealed this ruling in the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench as well as the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council but neither altered the original verdict. Riel was executed in Regina on 16 November, 1885. The extreme punishment and exodus of Metis leaders after the resistance, like Gabriel Dumont who fled to the U.S., represented a great loss of Metis political leadership within "Rupert's Land" and Metis Nationhood. It demonstrated to Metis and First Nations people across the plains that asserting sovereignty and self-determination would be met with a swift and oppressive colonial hand; while this did not stop Indigenous peoples, policies and laws implemented after the resistance made it exceptionally more difficult to organize, resist, and protect their nations. The establishment of the NWMP and Indian Agents on Western reserves aimed to curb inter-community organization and acted as state surveillance.
The Queen vs. Louis Riel, accused and convicted of the crime of high treason: report of trial at Regina: appeal to the Court of Queen's bench, Manitoba: appeal to the Privy council, England: petition for medical examination of the convict: list of petitions for commutation of sentence, Ottawa: 1886. pp. 192-199.
In 1895, the One Arrow Band requested that their children be sent to the Duck Lake/St. Michael's Boarding School. Previously, the One Arrow Band refused to send their children to any boarding schools. However, they had been warned by the local Indian Agent that if they didn't send their children to any school they would be taken by force and sent wherever the Department wished.