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RSMIN History

Red Sky Métis Independent Nation™ (RSMIN) consists of descendants of the “half-breeds” recognized by the crown as beneficiaries and annuitants under the Robinson Superior Treaty of 1850, in concurrence with the First Nation peoples. [1] However, RSMIN is distinct from the First Nation peoples, by ways of our traditional lands, traditions, customs, and practices.

History of the Métis People of Lake Superior

Red Sky Métis Independent Nation’s™ ancestry can be dated back to as early as 1506, when Jehan Denys landed in Newfoundland. Denys was a French sailor, captain, an expert navigator and voyager from Honfleur, Normandy.[2] Connected to Montreal and to the fur trade, these explorers married aboriginal women establishing a new generation of Canadians that embraced the cultures of both worlds.  By the 1600’s, they had established permanent settlements along the shores of Lake Superior that provided a foundation for the North West Company and, later, the Hudson’s Bay Company trading routes.

The French fur trade was carried out on at the present location of Thunder Bay as early as 1679 when Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut established a trading post at the mouth of the Kaministiquia River, which attracted tribes who lived hundreds of miles away in the forests and on the prairies. According to Jacqueline Peterson’s, “Many Roads to Red River, Métis Genesis in the Great Lakes Region,” widespread intermarriage between employees of the fur trade and Aboriginal Women is one of the key characteristics of the Great Lakes fur trading industry, and as a result “by 1815, tangible evidence of a 150-year long alliance between men of the fur trade and native women was everywhere and in abundance” (62). Arthur Ray writes that these intermarriages were occurring in the Upper Great Lakes region by the late 1650s. It was these relationships that led to the birth of children who lived between two cultures and became known as Métis.

In 1850, William Benjamin Robinson was tasked to treat with the Native people residing in the Lake Superior and Lake Huron regions. The necessity for a treaty resulted from the discovery of minerals and natural resources in the territory surrounding the respective lakes. Included under the provisions of the treaty were twelve hundred and forty persons including eighty-four half-breeds.[3] The inclusion of ‘half-breeds’ in the Robinson Treaties represents a turning point in Métis-Crown relations. The Robinson-Superior Treaty recognized the Métis community’s rights to annuities as well as hunting and fishing rights within the specified territory.

During the treaty negotiations, Robinson refused to deal separately with the Métis at the time, he included the 84 half-breeds in the numbers who would receive annuities suggesting that the chiefs could determine what share they would receive.  In his report to R. Bruce, at Indian Affairs after the Treaties were signed, Robinson wrote:

“I told them I came to treat with the chiefs who were present, that the money would be paid to them…that when in their [the chiefs’] possession they might give as much or as little to that class of claimants [the Métis] as they pleased” (par. 17).

The Chiefs, recognizing the value of the Métis, did not exclude them from receiving full treaty benefits.

Métis people in this area are the descendants of the original employees of the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) working at Fort William as well as other posts. They are considered the first permanent settlers of the Thunder Bay Regions. Peterson describes these early settlements as “occupationally monolithic,” dependent on the fur trade and largely populated with Métis, who were eventually intermarrying between themselves (41). They are also known as members of a group who chose to remain associated with the district as whole, who traveled between the various posts of the area to work. Many of them remained for long periods of time at one post, where their families were inevitably raised, and whose children intermarried.

The decline in the fur trade after the 1860s did not deter the Lake Superior Métis, rather they turned to other employment opportunities including, mining and working on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. As described in Alison Gale’s Report, in 1881 a census of the Algoma district indicates that some ancestors of RSMIN were working as “labourers, carpenters, hunters, voyageurs, interpreters and HBC officers at Nipigon” (40).

Evidence of exclusionary policies towards the Lake Superior Métis can be seen as early as 1879 when Indian Affairs began questioning if the Métis should remain on the annuity pay lists[4] (Wright). This debate became more pronounced in 1891 when arbitration between the Ontario, Quebec and Canadian government was planned to investigate who was responsible for the payment of annuities under the Robinson Treaties. In February 1895, it was decided that those included on the pay lists prior to the Union would continue to be paid annuities (Gale 34). The Métis would, however, be labeled ‘non-transmissible’ to deter the payment of their children under the Robinson Treaty, 1850.

Today RSMIN people possess a strong sense of shared identity.  Approximately 8,000 Red Sky Métis Independent Nation citizens reside in communities throughout the Robinson-Superior Treaty area as well as throughout Canada and the World. The RSMIN Community is committed to the preservation of history, traditions and practices.

Our history and culture is celebrated in the traditions and songs of the Great Rendezvous, chronicled in the annals of the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company and occupies an uncontested, pre-eminent position in the historical record of the founding of Thunder Bay, Gateway to the West. It unites the traditions of the people of New France and English Canada with that of our Aboriginal mothers into a distinct and vibrant Métis culture. We are the voice of the Métis people of the Red Sky Métis Independent Nation whose ancestors the Coureurs de Bois, the first colonists – the French Voyageurs, settled this area and brought Canada to the attention of the World as a land of unsurpassed natural wealth and unparalleled opportunity.

A Separate Identity

Although the Crown aligned the original 84 Métis with their Ojibwa neighbours, they continued to maintain their status as a separate culture, with their own traditions and aspirations.

Even the name of the Red Sky Métis Independent Nation™ is imbedded in the cultural heritage of the area.  The skies were a navigational tool and a red sky was also used to predict weather conditions.  Handed down through the generations, the name is intended as a reverence to nature and the magnificence of the red skies seen along the trading routes.

The Red Sky Métis trace their ancestry in Canada back to 1506 and the arrival of Jehn Denys in Acadia.   Connected to Montreal and to the fur trade, these explorers married aboriginal women establishing a new generation of Canadians that embraced the cultures of both worlds.  By the 1600’s, they had established permanent settlements along the shores of Lake Superior that provided a foundation for the North West Company and, later, the Hudson’s Bay Company trading routes.

Community Heritage

The Red Sky Métis Independent Nation people possess a strong sense of shared identity, connection to the past, and contemporary culture.  The RSMIN Community is committed to the preservation of history, traditions and practices.  For the benefit of future generations and the preservation of our heritage.

The RSMIN Community Heritage Wiki (CHW) was developed to document and preserve Community Heritage. CHW contains a compilation of summaries of original documents, reports and people.  Additionally, the CHW includes traditional knowledge information including interviews with RSMIN citizens, elders and other people involved with the community. The CHW also captures oral transmission of stories, histories, lessons and other knowledge in a way that can be preserved for many years to come.

For more information regarding the preservation of your knowledge or family history please visit the  About RSMIN Community Heritage Wiki (CHW) page.

Works Cited

Gale, Alison. “Report on the Red Sky Métis Independent Nation (The Historical Ancestral Indigenous Métis First Families of Upper Canada).” Trails in Time Historical Research Inc. (2005). Print.

Library and Archives Canada, Amos Wright, RG. 10, “Letter from Amos Wright to J.S. Dennis,” volume 2090, 16 July 1879, file 14455, microfilm reel C-11155.

Library and Archives Canada, W.B. Robinson, RG. 10, “Treaty No. 60,” volume 1963, 7 September 1850, file 5045-2, microfilm reel C-11122.

Library and Archives Canada, W.B. Robinson, RG. 10, “W.B. Robinson Report to R. Bruce,” volume 191, 24 September 1850, nos. 5401-5500, no. 5451, microfilm reel C-11513

Peterson, Jacqueline. “Many Roads to Red River, Métis Genesis in the Great Lakes Region: 1680-1815.” The New People: Being and Becoming Métis in North America. Ed. Jacqueline Peterson & Jennifer S.H. Brown. Winnipeg: The University of Manitoba Press, 1985. 37-71. Print.

Prowse, D.W. A History of Newfoundland, from the English, Colonial and Foreign Records. London: London Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1896. Print.

Ray, Arthur. “An Economic History of the Robinson Treaty Area Before 1860.” (1998). Print.

 

Further Reading

RSMIN Community Heritage Wiki (CHW).  You can now find this wiki site at rsmin.ca/CHW.

 

The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North West Territories Including the Negotiations on which They Were – Alexander Morris

http://eco.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.30387/3?r=0&s=1

 

Many Roads to Red River, Métis Genesis in the Great Lakes Region: 1680-1815 – Jacqueline Peterson

https://books.google.ca/books?id=q8qervZ6nakC&pg=PA37&lpg=PA37&dq=Many+Roads+to+Red+River,+Métis+Genesis+in+the+Great+Lakes+Region:+1680-1815&source=bl&ots=eb5qxVJBUY&sig=h1mVaKVCBZvG3bhP7px-dBkHG3k&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CBwQ6AEwAGoVChMIkOSp1fyKyAIVkU2SCh3b9gpX#v=onepage&q=Many%20Roads%20to%20Red%20River%2C%20Métis%20Genesis%20in%20the%20Great%20Lakes%20Region%3A%201680-1815&f=false

 

Robinson Superior Treaty, 1850

https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100028978/1100100028982

 

Historical Profile of the Lake Superior Study Area’s Mixed European-Indian Ancestry Community, Final Report – Prepared by Joan Holmes Associates Inc.

 

Relevant Court Cases  

  1. v. Powley

http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/2076/index.do

 

Daniels v. Canada

http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/fc-cf/decisions/en/item/61753/index.do?r=AAAAAQAGcG93bGV5AQ

 

Manitoba Métis v. Canada

https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/12888/index.do

 

 

[1] William Benjamin Robinson stipulates, in his Report, that there were 84 half-breeds in the Lake Superior region at the time of the treaty. According to the early pay lists recorded in the Hudson’s Bay Company and Indian Affairs Records, however, there were anywhere between 42 and 43 families or between 147 and 159 people residing in Fort William and Michipicoten (now Wawa) respectively. An additional 4 families and 20 people are cited as residing in the Fort Nipigon and Long Lake regions. See The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North West Territories Including the Negotiations on which They Were by Alexander Morris – http://eco.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.30387/3?r=0&s=1 for Robinson’s full report.

[2] For information on Jehan Denys see – A History of Newfoundland, from the English, Colonial and Foreign Records by D.W. Prowse – https://archive.org/details/historyofnewfoun00prowuoft

[3] See note 1

[4] The pay lists (or pay sheets) were used to track the families who were entitled to annuity payments under the Robinson-Superior Treaty, 1850. Each list identifies the name of the patriarch, number people in each family, amount of annuity paid, location at which the annuity was distributed, year and author of the pay list. In some cases the pay lists also include information regarding who witnessed the payment as well as births and deaths.