It’s a story of the federal authorities’s dealings with an Indigenous group that goes in a different way than you may anticipate.
Refugees or Righteous is investigative reporter Christopher Learn’s newest documentary for APTN Investigates. It chronicles the unusual story of a specific group of Dakota individuals who did issues their very own approach and were a profitable, self-sufficient group earlier than being relocated by the federal authorities.
Lengthy story brief, as an alternative of being allotted lands by the Crown and signing a treaty like most Indigenous teams, a gaggle of Dakota individuals [in the late 1800s, in present-day Manitoba] didn’t signal a treaty, purchased their very own land and thrived – till authorities interference successfully ended their lifestyle.
These individuals who made their residence close to Portage la Prairie, 85 km due west of present day Winnipeg, have prior to now been thought-about refugees from the USA by the Canadian authorities.
Their leaders at the moment are hoping to negotiate compensation.
A plan to start “Recognition of Indigenous Rights and Self Determination Discussions” was signed by Dakota Plains Wahpeton Nation Chief Orville Smoke and a federal negotiator in September of 2018 – but Dakota Plains representatives say federal officers went silent after that and deliberate conferences didn’t occur.
Chief Orville Smoke says he’s keen to negotiate with the federal government, and from his perspective, the notion that he’s not Indigenous to the place we now name Canada is ridiculous.
“We’ve always recognized the fact that we were here at time immemorial,” stated Smoke. “We extensively researched and then we found out that there was actual documentation putting us here pre-Manitoba.”
Historic maps in addition to archaeological proof do point out a Dakota presence north of the 49th parallel in western Canada.
(Element of an 1857 Hudson’s Bay Firm Map displaying Dakota Territory extending throughout the 49th parallel into present-day Canada.)
But correspondence from the federal authorities as lately as 1996, makes the declare that “the Dakota Sioux were not Indigenous to Canada” – and that they were, as an alternative, a nomadic individuals based mostly south of the 49th parallel who sometimes ventured into present-day Canada to hunt bison.
Extra just lately nevertheless, the federal authorities amended its place on the Dakota individuals in a 2009 letter to then chief Donna Elk of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation when an Indian Affairs official identified that, “Canada does not continue the historical practice of referring to the Dakota people as refugees.”
The notion that Dakota individuals may be one thing aside from Indigenous to Canada got here from historical past books the place a number of emphasis was positioned on their exodus from Minnesota after the so-called Dakota Struggle of 1862.
The U.S. Military famously hanged 38 Dakota males within the aftermath of the conflict, and later there were efforts to expel all remaining Dakota individuals from Minnesota by way of a $25 per scalp bounty, and by the confiscation of reservation lands.
Dakota individuals fled Minnesota, some coming north of the 49th parallel into British territory.
Because the story goes, the Dakota individuals introduced with them medals from the British, and proudly emphasised their earlier alliances with the Crown within the conflict of 1812.
But, archaeological proof signifies that the Dakota individuals were not newcomers.
Kevin Brownlee, curator of archaeology on the Manitoba Museum and a member of Norway Home Cree Nation, stated that the Dakota individuals were recognized to make a sort of pottery referred to as “sandy lake” ceramics.
“The idea that Dakota peoples were making this pottery has become fairly well accepted within the archaeological discipline,” stated Brownlee.
Brownlee stated the places the place sandy lake ceramics are discovered point out that Dakota individuals have lived in areas of present-day Minnesota, North Dakota, north-western Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
And the concept Dakota individuals were within the space round Portage la Prairie earlier to the exodus from Minnesota within the aftermath of the Dakota Warfare has been lengthy embraced by members of that group.
Geneva Smoke is grand daughter of Chief Orville Smoke of Dakota Plains First Nation – but she lives within the close by group of Dakota Tipi First Nation.
(Dakota individuals within the Sioux Village, also referred to as Lot 99, a bit of land close to Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. Photograph taken in 1949. Offered by Geneva Smoke.)
Archival analysis is an curiosity she inherited from her mom, and Smoke does a Fb weblog concerning the story of Sioux Village – the identify typically used for the piece of land her Dakota ancestors bought and lived on within the Portage la Prairie space.
“We’ve always been here,” stated Smoke, “We didn’t just come up here when the Americans came.”
The acquisition of the Sioux Village in 1893 – also referred to as Lot 99 – was achieved by way of trustees as a result of Aboriginal individuals couldn’t legally buy land on the time.
And Chief Smoke says it was a time when issues were going very properly for the group.
“They pooled their money, put their wages together and bought a piece of land now known as lot 99,” stated Smoke.
“And they lived on it and they built houses. They made streets and grew gardens and they were employed. We had an accounting for everybody. There was no homeless. There was no child abuse. There was no missing women.”
But then got here authorities interference.
“For some strange reason in 1911, the city of Portage la Prairie made a motion to rid the Dakota in the area of their property,” stated Smoke. “They made a motion and sent it to the Department of Indian Affairs and Indian Affairs responded very quickly and thus we ended up here in a semi remote area.”
In 1911, the town of Portage la Prairie wrote to an Indian Agent to complain of “immorality and drunkenness in the Indian Village.”
What adopted was a greater than 60-year collection of occasions which deeply affected the group of Dakota individuals who lived round Portage la Prairie.
Within the ensuing years, the federal authorities wrestled not simply Lot 99 from them, but additionally a bit of land often known as Lot 14 which the world Dakotas had additionally acquired
Over this time interval, the group cut up – with some households shifting onto lands surrendered by the Lengthy Plain Ojibwa Reserve, and others shifting to a bit of land referred to as Lot 25.
Lot 25 later turned Dakota Tipi First Nation and the land acquired from Lengthy Plain turned Dakota Plains First Nation.
Chief Smoke of Dakota Plains wants the federal authorities to compensate the band for the lack of use of Lot 99 the place the group as soon as thrived.
“What I would like to do is to have them recognize what they’ve done to us – criminally,” stated Smoke. “And, we’re inside one other treaty reserve.
“I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that but the traffic stops at the bigger reserve. We tried everything to make ends meet. We had a store, we had a gas bar, we had VLTs – all of it. We just couldn’t get the population to support it.”
Smoke and band CEO Craig Blacksmith say that beneath the present funding mannequin, Dakota Plains is discovering it very troublesome to make ends meet.
“The budget that we get today has to be increased to a level where it’s a third more than what we are which comes out to $1-million to $1.5-million a year going retroactively to 1911,” stated Smoke.
“That’s what we were done out of. And when we negotiate. That’s what we’re asking. Give us that money back so we can carry on.”
(CEO Craig Blacksmith, and Chief Orville Smoke. Photograph: Christopher Learn/APTN)
Blacksmith additionally argues that given they by no means signed a treaty or surrendered any of their Aboriginal title, they could possibly be allotted a settlement based mostly partially on the protocols of the previous Dominion Lands Act.
“If you were the head of the household you were entitled to 160 acres,” stated Blacksmith.
Blacksmith identified that although the present-day band record of Dakota Plains has 260 individuals on it, it might, he believes be nearer to 400 if the band had been allowed to thrive and develop on Lot 99.
Blacksmith’s calculation goes like this: 400 divided by a household measurement of 5 individuals will get you 80 households.
Comply with Blacksmith’s math and also you finish up with compensation for Dakota Plains First Nation equal to about 32 sq. kilometres of excellent land – and Blacksmith interprets that to an quantity shut to $60 million.
Chief Smoke is hopeful that ultimately the federal authorities will come to the desk and play truthful ball.
“I think eventually we’ll get something,” stated Smoke. “No matter what, somebody somewhere is going to realize that the Dakota were treated unfairly and that we do need to compensate them rather than to making contribution dollars.”
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