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November 6, 2023
The Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty No. 3 is the only instance of a Métis community collectively adhering to one of the historic treaties negotiated with First Nations across Canada. As a part of Treaties Recognition Week, the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community is raising awareness about the “Halfbreeds of Rainy Lake and Rainy River.”
In the 1870s, Métis pressed their land and rights claims in the Fort Frances area and ultimately negotiated with Canada and collectively signed on to the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty No. 3 in 1875 as a distinct group. Following the signing of the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty No. 3 in 1875, Parliament passed the first Indian Act in 1876.
With the passage of the Indian Act and the organization of the Department of Indian Affairs, federal officials refused to continue to recognize the Halfbreeds of Rainy Lake and River as a distinct Métis group and uphold the Crown’s promises made to them as a collective, despite the expressed language and promises in Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty No. 3.
In effect, the Halfbreeds of Rainy Lake and River were provided only two options: (1) become “Indians” under the Indian Act, or (2) receive no benefits from their Treaty with the Crown. These government policies breached the promises made and the Honour of the Crown.
This betrayal of the treaty promise made to these well-known Halfbreed families—as Métis—continues to this day. While some of the descendants of the “Half-breeds of Rainy River and Rainy Lake” have joined Indian Act Bands in the Treaty #3 territory, including what is now known as Couchiching First Nation, many Métis descendants of the “Half-breeds of Rainy River and Rainy Lake” have not and are the Métis successor to the “Half-breeds of Rainy River and Rainy Lake.”
“Our unique history and existence as a Métis community in Northwestern Ontario with Treaty rights and broken Crown promises must be told as a part of Treaties Recognition Week’” said Theresa Stenlund, MNO Regional Councilor for the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community (NWOMC). “Canada’s breach of the honour of the Crown effectively defeats the very purpose of the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty No. 3 and requires reconciliation.”
Despite repeated efforts, the promises made in the 1875 Métis Adhesion have never been honoured by the Crown, nor have the Métis community’s other claims and rights been fully recognized. This is now changing. In 2017, the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community signed an agreement with Canada to begin negotiations with a view to finding a “shared solution.” As a part of these discussions, the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community has been clear that it does not make any claims to and does not seek any reserve lands in Treaty #3 that are held by individual First Nations, including Couchiching First Nation. Nor does it seek to merge or become a part of existing Indian Act Band in Treaty #3.
“The Métis experience in treaty making—whether that be through exclusion to date or by breaches of the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty No. 3—must be told. The NWOMC, is working hard to ensure this happens,” said Regional Councillor Stenlund.