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Oxana Ossiptchouk
10/12/2017

Story

 

 

 

La Facon Du Pays is a song about what is called "Daughters of the Country" or "Country Wives". Which were Indigenous Women taken as wives by the fur traders of the Hudson Bay Company and North West Company. Usually, they were the daughters of Chiefs and used as a tactic by the trader to generate better relationships between traders and Indigenous people. As a result of these relationships, a people known as the Métis were created by these liaisons and developed their own culture and way of life.

 

The Métis, Bois Boule, Half-breeds or Katipayimsosik were from the Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816 to the 1885 northwest Rebellion, Princes of the Plains. Nothing happened on its vast expanse without some involvement of these proud and noble people. From the formation of the province of Manitoba to the signing of the Treaties by First Nations, the Métis were an integral part of the western plains. They were the mediators between the white fur traders and the Plains Indians, having a stokehold in both cultures. This was the time in history for the Métis people, a time when Métis nationalism came to the forefront in the history of Western Canada. They were the free traders; the Courier de Bois, buffalo hunters, and negotiators of the many treaties of Canada and America.

 

The results of the negotiations were the Manitoba Act, passed by Parliament on July 12, 1870, and to take effect July 15. Although some of the Métis grievances were dealt with entry into Canada. It did not grant amnesty for individuals who involved with the creation of the new province, consequently, Riel and followers had to flee into the United States and would have to live the rest of his in fear of assassination. The Manitoba Act granted the Métis1,4000,000 acres of land where they could live. But this law was not abided by and it has been over 130 years of dealing with the government of Canada that have this legislation recognized. The Métis were abused and persecuted in the newly formed Province of Manitoba. So many left further west where they could maintain their way of life.

 The Canadian Government had no intention of living up to its end of the bargain. They sent Colonel Wolseley with 1200 soldiers embarked on a campaign of violence. Racism became an everyday occurrence, the need for land and the vanishing buffalo lead a massive westward migration of the Métis the new frontiers were they could live their lives as they once had. In 1870 the population of Manitoba was 12,000 of whom 10,000 were mixed blood and 6,000 French-speaking the remained being English speaking Half-breeds. In 1885 less than 12% of the population was of mix heritage. Except for John Norquay, an English speaking Half-breed became Premier of Manitoba in 1876. They were treated as second class citizens in the province which they helped to create. The Métis would never again dominant in their first homeland.

 A great migration took place which saw many of the Métis move from the new Province of Manitoba to places such as St. Laurent, Wood Mountain, Cypress Hills, Willow Bunch, Lewistown and other places that were traditional places the Métis had visited in their travels. It was in isolated pockets of Western Canada that they Métis thought that they could live out there live as they always had.

 It was not long though before many of the Métis living in St Laurent experience the same problems they had faced in Manitoba. They would have to take action, in 1884 lead by Gabriel a contingent of four Métis went to Montana to plead their case to Louis Riel who living in exile. They convinced him to return with them and send petitions to Ottawa. At this time the Métis wanted to be recognition of their rights to the land, which they now have been occupying for some time and wanted to retain title to it. Many petitions were sent to Ottawa and were heard by deaf ears. So began the protection of the Métis Homeland and ended with Métis people being destitute and homeless, wanting justice where there was none to be found. The result was the end to a way of life that many Métis had lived for hundreds.

 Growing up in a small Métis community in central, Saskatchewan it meant happiness. It meant closeness; it meant that there would always be someone special to be there for you. In this small community, everyone was pretty much the same. There were a lot of families; aunts, uncles and lots of cousins to play with.I have many memories from my childhood that I can vaguely recall. I can still remember some of the old elders from the time of the rebellion or what I have to call the “Protection of the Homeland”. At that time I did not know what kind of life they had lived. They were the last to remember the glory days of the Métis Nation. It was only later in my life that I realized the significance of why we were together like this.

 For us, life was simple but good. We were poor in money, but rich in spirit and love. At the age of 8, we moved from the place where there had been so many happy memories and relocated to another town where everything would be different. It was still summer and before I had to attend school, my family and I went up North to where my Mooshum was living. He lived on a road allowance next to Midnight Lake where he had a little cabin and lived his life as he always had. This spot was carefully chosen, like it had been by many other Métis in the past, to get away from having to pay taxes on the land. Life had seen many changes, but he still maintained his language and culture. He lived off the land, picking berries, digging Seneca roots and trapping.

For me at this point in my life, this was paradise because nature was accessible as walking out the front door. At night time the odd black bear would pay a visit and in the morning you would wake to the songs of the Whiskey Jacks and Meadow Larks. I recall on this one visit that we went out for a drive and came across a family of Beavers who were in the process of migrating and my uncle who was along with us on this trip decided to play with them for a short period. I thought that he must be so brave, as he grabbed at the young Beavers by the tail and then let them try to getaway. Trapping these animals in spring and winters was a way of life him. However, there was a deep feeling of anxiety and despair that took me as each day passed. I knew that I would be leaving soon and when I did, I would be leaving the environment that I grew up in and I would be embarking on a new path.

 The town we moved to was a prominently white community. It was here that I came to understand that I was different than the other people there. It was my first day of school and we were all up early. I was dressed in new clothes that my mother and father had bought me. I and my brother, who was a year older than me walked to our first day together. We arrived and the excitement quickly vanished as reality set in. The first recess bell rang and not knowing anyone else I made my way to the playground but found a quiet place out of the way. Solitude did not last long, the white children found me and the name-calling began. I had this strange feeling that I have never felt before. It was a feeling of loneliness, fear, and bewilderment that lurched forth from the pit of my stomach, tears rolled down my face as I walked away and heard, "Hello Indian". I can remember thinking I wanted to run away, run home, run to my Mooshums cabin.

 Once I was okay again, I began playing in the playground again. “Are you a half-breed?” Came a voice. It was another kid about the same age as me. I did not answer because I did not know what a Half-breed was. When I got home from school I decided to ask my mother what a Half-breed was. There was a long, uncomfortable silence and she did not answer. I knew that this was not a good thing and grew to accept that I was different. It was only later in my life that found out what being Métis was all about.