September 12th: Commemorating the 148th Anniversary of the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty #3
[Kenora, ONTARIO, September 12, 2023] — This year, on September 12 we commemorate the 148th anniversary of the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty #3, the only instance of a Métis community collectively adhering to one of the historic treaties negotiated with First Nations across Canada.
Historically, it was the policy of the Government of Canada (“Canada”) to not negotiate treaties with Métis communities, as it encountered them from Ontario westward in what was then known as the historic North-West. Instead, Canada sought to resolve Métis land-related claims through the Manitoba Act, 1870 or on an individual basis using the issuance of Halfbreed scrip.
However, in 1875, a distinctive group of ‘Halfbreeds’ who were known as the ‘Halfbreeds of Rainy River and Rainy Lake’ and are now part of the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community, became the only known exception to this federal policy approach to exclude Métis from treaties.
In September 1875, Surveyor General John S. Dennis arrived in present-day Fort Frances to meet with First Nations chiefs to settle reserve boundary issues. There, he was met by a delegation of “Half Breeds” seeking to join Treaty #3—as “Halfbreeds” (i.e., a distinctive Métis community, not as ‘Indians’ or Ojibway).
Two days later, on September 12, 1875, Nicolas Chatelaine, acting on behalf of the “Half-breeds of Rainy River and Rainy Lake,” signed an adhesion to Treaty #3 with Canada known as the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty #3. In 1874, Dennis had signed an adhesion to Treaty #3 with the Indians of Lac Seul, evidencing that he clearly knew the Halfbreed collective at Rainy Lake and River were not ‘Indians.’
Under the Halfbreed Adhesion, Canada promised the “Half-breeds of Rainy River and Rainy Lake” reserves of land and the benefits of Treaty #3 as if the Métis had been original signatories of that treaty. In a betrayal of the express words and commitments in the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty #3, Canada then implemented a policy where the Halfbreed families who made up the “Half-breeds of Rainy River and Rainy Lake” had to become “Indians” to benefit from Treaty #3 or they would be simply treated as “white” and receive no benefits from the adhesion.
Today, many of the Métis descendants, as beneficiaries of the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty #3, are a part of the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community, along with the descendants of other Métis who lived in the region historically or who now live in the region from other parts of the historic Métis Nation.
In 2017, the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community signed an agreement with Canada to begin negotiations with a view to finding a “shared solution” to resolving the historic grievance of the Métis descendants of the “Half-breeds of Rainy River and Rainy Lake.” As a part of these discussions, the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community has been clear that it does not seek the return of any reserve lands in Treaty #3 from First Nations. Nor does it seek to merge or become a part of existing Indian Act Band in Treaty #3.
The Métis descendants of the Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty #3 seek to benefit from their treaty—as Métis—as was promised to them by Canada in 1875. Nothing more. Nothing less
“Our unique history and existence as a Métis community in Northwestern Ontario with Treaty rights and broken Crown promises must be told. 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. We call upon all Ontarians to learn more about the history of Treaties in Ontario and the unique place of the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community in the Treaty-making process in Ontario. Through education, we hope Métis community and citizens will ultimately see justice in relation to our unique Métis Treaty with the Crown.”
– Theresa Stenlund, Regional Councilor for the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community (NWOMC).
- This informative booklet contains information on the history and context of the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community and their history
- The MNO-Canada Agreement on Advancing Reconciliation with the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community is available here
- The rights and claims of the Northwestern Ontario Métis Community are summarized in this short video
Senior Consultant, Media Profile