Metis Loss of Education Opportunities Due to Forced Transience and Lack of Government Funding


Although the Manitoba Act was legislated with the purported intent to recognize Metis land rights, it is clear from the actual effect of ongoing amendments to the Manitoba Act, in addition to other bureaucratic delays, that the government prioritized the settling of newly arrived EuroCanadians to Metis people. Following the 1870 and 1885 resistances, many Metis people gave up hope of obtaining land and were forced to migrate to unsettled areas. After 1870, many Metis migrated west to the area now known as Saskatchewan. After 1885, many Metis migrated to unsettled road allowances and to more northern parts of the province of Saskatchewan. When living on road allowances, economic survival required Metis families to move frequently in search of work and to avoid eviction. It should be acknowledged that other barriers to education existed for Metis children, including not being recognized as Indigenous (and thus not qualifying for residential school education). In this case, however, government unwillingness to construct schools or transport children in remote communities, in addition to the transience required in order to make a living, resulted in Metis children not being able to obtain an education (see related entry on Metis economic activity post-1870 and post-1885). Several primary source interviews, as listed below in "relevant resources" cite transience and distance from schools as an obstacle to obtaining education. It should be noted that at least one interview participant, Metis man Ron Caponi, cited discrimination in the school environment as preventing him from being more "education conscious." Another Metis woman, Mary St. Pierre, describes the jurisdictional hurdles involved in getting an education as a Metis child, which eventually led to her being educated in a residential school: "When I was twelve year’s old they tried to put me in the school. My, my Godfather lived on the reserve. My Godfather put me in the residential school. I wasn’t there for two weeks and I was thrown out of the school. I went to school, to Crooked Lake. It’s in the big valley. There’s a big school standing there. This was a residential school. I only went to school for two weeks. That was all. And I didn’t like the school anyway because we never left home. We were always with our parents. So I was lonesome, I guess. Then when I got home my father kept on thinking about me going to school. So there’s a little town over here called Dubuque. So, he decided to send us to school. So then my youngest sister and I, we went to school but we were thrown out on the first day [that] we were in school. So we came home and told our dad ‘we can’t go to school there, the government won’t let us go to school there’. So then, he came back home and told my mother ‘yeah that’s right, the kids can’t go to school there because we have to pay taxes’. So that was it, I never did go to school again." Metis woman Helen Sinclair also described her attendance at a residential school because of being adopted by a First Nations family - there were some Metis children who attended residential schools for various reasons (please see related entry).

Education became mandatory to survive in the evolving 20th century marketplace as Metis people witnessed the near-extinction of their life source (buffalo) due largely to settler over-hunting and were simultaneously alienated from land rights which would have enabled them to engage in agricultural careers. Refusing to provide access to educational services has economically hindered the Metis, and has resulted in significant ongoing financial disparities between Metis and non-Indigenous people. This was commonly expressed by several interview participants, including Metis man Clarence Trotchie: "I look back at my parents and I feel sorry for them, uneducated, unable to get any kind of a good job or work. We lived a true Metis way of life" and "I think education has to be the key. We have to look at bigger and better things, as I mentioned, become (inaudible), getting professional jobs, lawyers. Without this we're going to stay at the welfare level"(see interview below in "relevant resources"). Metis woman Isabelle Betty Roy also said: "Well most of the them at the time were, you know, just doing odd jobs, not many of them had trades. They weren't lucky enough to go that far in school to learn anything of real value, you know.” As did Metis man Gilbert Rose: "I can read, yeah I can read the bible. But I can’t write, I can’t spell, that is where my problem is that is why I had to work like a slave all of my life because I could have got good jobs but I couldn’t writes, oh I missed a lot of __ jobs hey.”
Sub Event
The government's refusal to recognize land rights led to Metis dispossession of land. Survival required Metis families to move frequently in search of work and to avoid eviction.