Metis Leaders—Pembina 1850

Jean Baptiste Wilkie Jean Baptiste Dumont Baptiste Valle Edward Harmon Joseph Laverdure Joseph Nolin Antoine LaBelle Azure Robert Bonhomme Montour Baptiste Lafournaise

In 1850, Major Woods reconnoitered the "North-Western Frontier of the Territory of Minnesota" at the behest of Secretary of War,1 acting as an advance man for the treatymaking expeditions to come. He described his meeting with the Chippewa Métis Indians at Pembina: I urged them to organize themselves into a band, and appoint their chiefs that they might have some order and government amongst themselves with chiefs ...; that as they were, if the United States had any business to transact with them, there was no person to address from whom the wishes of the people could be obtained, &c., &c. They came back the next day in a body, and informed me that they had agreed upon the men I had nominated to them. "Sakikwanel," in English "Green feather," to be principal chief "Majekkwadjiwau," in English "End of the Current," to be 1st 2nd chief "Kakakanawakkagan," in English "Long Legs," to be 2d chief. These are the men they selected, with my assistance, for their chiefs. I did not feel authorized to appoint them, and intended to do it conditionally and submit their credentials to the Governor of Minnesota Territory, and the Superintendent of Indian Affairs therein; but finding that a conditional exercise of authority in the matter would only give rise to further dissentions [sic], I presented these chiefs with appointments, in writing, dating the 24th of August, '49, and gave each of them a medal. Major Woods also organized the French people he identified as half-breeds: On the 24th of August these people had returned from their Spring hunt, and about 200 of the hunters came to see me. They had appointed four men as their speakers. I told them that in virtue of their Indian extraction, those living on our side of the line were regarded as being in possession of the Indians' right upon our soil; that they were on our frontiers treated as component parts of the Indian tribes; that they either came under the Indians’ laws or regulations, or formed such for themselves. I urged them to organize themselves into a band under a council or chiefs, invested
Major Samuel Woods, Pembina Settlement, Executive Document No. 51, House of Representatives, 31st Congress, 1st Session.


with ample authority to act in their name, in all matters which might arise to affect their interests ... The next day they returned in about the same numbers, and presented me with nine names as the committee they had selected for the future government of the half-breed population within our borders. The Metis presented the following names as their elected chiefs and councilors: J.B. Wilkie, Jean B. Dumont, Baptiste Valle, Edward Harmon, Joseph Laverdure, Joseph Nolin, Antoine Azure, Robert Montour, and Baptiste Lafournaise.2 Mr. Wilky [Wilkie], the first on the list, is the president of the committee. He is a French half-breed, of a good character, well disposed toward the United States, and intelligent. The other eight of the council are men the most esteemed in the country, and friendly toward the United States. They say it is their wish to become agriculturalists. ... Their desire for a military post is urged ... As the letter of the Secretary of the Interior to the President, in relation to that frontier, was sent me with my instructions, I ventured to suggest to them that the United States contemplated opening that country for settlement. To do which it would be necessary, first, to extinguish the Indian title. ... The half-breeds are delighted at such a prospect, and would readily acquiesce in reasonable treaty stipulations for the country. The Indians are more phlegmatic of their high appreciation of such a blessing ... The still more distant Indians that have their abode on the Missouri river, ... and Red Lake, ... must be dealt with by expeditions and a vigorous policy.3 The half-breeds are much more numerous than the Indians in this Department. They are mixed bloods of different tribes which have spread themselves from the stony mountains to the Atlantic ocean. We have counted the descendants of thirteen different bands. ... The half-breeds are mild, generous, polished in their manners, and ready to do a kindness; of great uprightness, not over anxious of becoming rich ... They are generally gay and fond of enjoyment; they affect music, there being but a few, comparatively speaking, who do not play the violin. ... We see but slight dissensions in their families, which are for the most part numerous. ... The half-breeds number over five thousand souls. They first established themselves at Pembina, near the mouth of the river of that name, about 1818, when they had with them a resident Canadian priest.

Alexander Ramsey, Letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, October 21, 1850. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1850, pp. 43-64

Major Samuel Woods, Pembina Settlement, pages 28-31, Op. cit.


In 1851, two years after Major Woods had done the groundwork, Governor Alexander Ramsey of Minnesota Territory went to Pembina to make a treaty with the Pembina and Red Lake Chippewa. He was accompanied by an escort of dragoons from Fort Snelling, commanded by Second Lieutenant James L. Corley of the Sixth United States Infantry, and "equipped in excellent style for active service." 4 The expedition's guide was Pierre Bottineau, who sometimes wore a White man's hat and sometimes a half-breed's chapeau. The 1851 Treaty Session began September 15 at Norman Kittson's fur trade post at Pembina. According to Willoughby M. Babcock, who recorded the proceedings, "some two hundred and fifty members of the Pembina and Red Lake bands of Chippewa" were present. There may have been a few Ahnishinahbæótjibway who were present as third-party observers; however the Chippewa Métis and French Métis were the Indian principals of the treaty. Babcock wrote that, "in addition there were several hundred half-breeds--the actual occupants of the land in question, who were not slow to press their claims for compensation should the government agree to purchase it," as well as other Indians. Although Woods had informed the half-breeds, two years earlier, that they were to be treated as Indians, at that point the "United States barred them from 'participation in the treaty council', so during the negotiations they stood around the negotiating table."5 When Governor Alexander Ramsey went to Pembina in 1851 to sign a treaty (never ratified) with the Ojibwa and Metis of Red Lake and Pembina he used James Tanner and Joseph Nolin as interpreters. J. Wesley Bond documented this meeting: On Sunday the 14th… John Black held a service at Kittson’s house. The Rev. Mr Tanner also officiated, sang and prayed in English; and this afternoon, he preached in the open air, to the assembled Indians in the Chippewa language. Some of them paid close attention, sitting in a circle upon the ground; while others were listless and wandering, and others stood looking on from a distance, with the dragoons and HalfBreeds. Mr. Tanner uses the Chippewa testament and hymns, which were translated by his father, who was for many years a prisoner among them, and wrote a book thereon. Mr. Tanner is about thirty-five years of age, and a very superior man for his class; he was born on the east side of the Red River, opposite this place; was educated at Mackinaw, and has acted as a missionary among the Indians at Red Lake, for the last five years. He removed to this place a week ago, and intends farming, teaching school, Sic for a livelihood after the conclusion of the treaty. His wife is a Half Breed, and they reside at present, in a lodge in the yard at this place. He is a fluent and earnest speaker, and discourses with great fervor and much eloquence to his Red brethren, and is calculated to do good, if any can be done among them; he has been with them on their buffalo-hunts to the Missouri plains,
Willoughby M. Babcock, With Ramsey to Pembina, a Treaty-Making Trip in 1851, in Minnesota History, March, 1962. 5 Ibid, pages 7-8.


armed like the rest; and has hunted buffalo and made pemmican all the week, and preached the gospel to them on Sundays…6 Monday, 15th.— At noon the Indians met, and the treaty commenced in front of the governor’s house; his excellency, with Dr. Foster as his secretary, and others were sitting at a table at the front door; the principal chiefs, braves and head men of the Red Lake and Pembina bands of Chippewas were sitting in low seats in front, while around behind them in a semi-circle stood a numerous crown of Half-Breeds and Indians…The governor opened the council by an address of some length, which was interpreted by the Rev. Mr. Tanner and James7 Nolin, to them; as also their replies made in return. An old Indian named Clear Weather, replied twice to the governor’s remarks…8 Metis chiefs and councilors: Jean Baptiste Wilkie.9 (1803-1886) Jean Baptiste Wilkie was a great Chippewa-Metis warrior, buffalo hunter and Chief of the Metis at Pembina, North Dakota. He was one of the Metis hunters who fed the Scots Selkirk Settlers during their first six years in the country.10 In the mid-1820s he was operating a large horse ranch beside the Red River in what is now St. Vital. Because of HBC prohibitions on Metis free-trade Wilkie permanently moved his operations south of the border in the 1840s. His family then appears in the 1850 Pembina Census. On the Chippewa side of his family he was a descendant of Mezhekamkijkok. Jean Baptiste and his family were on the Pembina Annuity Roll for Little Shell’s Band in 1867 and in 1868 appear on the Annuity Roll for Way-ke-ge-ke-zhick’s Band. Under the Red Lake and Pembina Treaty (1872) he was issued Half Breed scrip #172. His family appears in an early Red River Census. Known as the chief of the Half Breeds in the Pembina/St. Joseph area, Jean Baptiste married Amable Elise (Isabella) Azure (b. 1808). His wife’s uncle, Antoine Azure was also a Metis leader. Wilkie’s father Alexander was from Scotland and his mother’s name was Mezhekamkijkok. Jean-Baptiste’s wife, Amable Azure (b.1808) was the daughter of Pierre Azure (b. 1788) and Marguerite Assiniboine.11 Amable died in 1888 and is buried at Olga North Dakota. Two of their sons-in-law, Gabriel Dumont and Patrice Fleury, were leaders of the 1885 Metis Resistance.
6 7

J. Wesley Bond, Minnesota and It’s Resources. New York: Redfield, 1854: 280. Ramsey’s report says Joseph Nolin. 8 Op. cit. 281 9 The Plains Cree called Wilkie and the Metis “Nakawiniuk”. 10 The Selkirk Settlers wintered at Pembina because of its proximity to the buffalo herds. 11 Amable’s grandparents were Joseph Azure, born 1767 in Quebec and Lizette Ma-na-e-cha (Ojibwe). He died suddenly on January 29, 1832 at St. Boniface. This family appears in the Red River Census between 1832 and 1840. In 1804 Joseph was working as a guide for the NWC; he accompanied Francois Antoine Larocque on an expedition to the source of the Missouri River.


Jean Baptiste “Sha-how-tow”Dumont. (1805-1884) Jean Baptiste Dumont was the son of Jean Baptiste Dumont Sr. and his Sarcee wife Josephte. His brother Isidore “Ecapow” Dumont was also a Metis leader and buffalo hunter. Jean Baptiste and his brother Isidore lead the peace negotiations with the Dakota held at Devil’s Lake in 1862. Isidore was the father of Gabriel Dumont. Jean Baptiste Jr. married Marguerite Lafromboise, the daughter of Joseph Laframboise and his Assiniboine wife Josephte. He died at St. Laurent, Saskatchewan. Baptiste Valle (Valier). (b. 1810) Baptiste Valier, his wife Marie and their children Marie, Louise, Baptiste, Leagas, Alexis, Mary, Antoine and Abraham are shown as family #117 on the 1850 Pembina Census. Listed as a hunter, he was age 40, his wife 31 and their oldest child was 13. The family took treaty annuity payments in chief Little Shell’s group in 1866 as family # 3/19 and took annuity payments in Chief Way-ke-ge-ke-zhick’s band in 1868 as family # 233. Baptiste received Metis scrip # 213 under the 1864 Old Crossing Chippewa Treaty. Edward Harmon. Edward Harman, Metis, alias Edward Addotte, of the Pembina Ojibwa Band applied Lake Superior scrip and received May 10, 1865 La Pointe 1854 scrip # 120 for 80 acres. Edward Addote Harmon received scrip #365 under the 1864 Old Crossing Chippewa Treaty. The records show that Edward was a Metis hunt leader. In 1863 he is leading a Metis camp and gives information to Captain James Fisk who is leading a party of immigrants to the Montana gold fields. Edward is believed to be the son of Daniel Williams Harmon (1778-1845) and Lisette Duval, the daughter of a Voyageur and a Snare Indian woman. Daniel was fluent in the Cree language and served in the North West Company. He worked at Fort Pelly and then in 1805 was transferred to South Branch House (near Batoche, Sask.), where he stayed until 1807. It was there that he married according to the custom of the country. In 1806 he went to Cumberland House (Sask.) and later to Sturgeon Lake in the Nipigon department, and then on to the Athabasca department – Harmon arrived at Fort Chipewyan (Alta) on 7 Sept. 1808. They later moved to Fort Dunvegan, in the Peace River country, remaining there until 1810. They then crossed the Rocky Mountains to New Caledonia (B.C.). For the next nine years Harmon remained in this country, serving mainly at Fort St James on Stuart Lake, with periods at Fort Fraser. It was a life of varied activity. Upon amalgamation in 1821 he retired as an HBC Chief Trader. Joseph Laverdure. (1814 - 1888)


Joseph was the son of Alexis Laverdure and Angelique Montour. He married Therese Villebrun, the daughter of Jean Baptiste Villebrun dit Plouffe and Josephte Godon. The family is shown as #51 on the Pembina Census of 1850 Joseph Nolin. (1804 - 1872) Joseph Nolin was the son of Jean Baptiste Nolin and Marie Angelique Couvret. His father was a famous fur trader out of Sault Ste. Marie and his two sisters, Marguerite and Angelique became the first Metis women schoolteachers in Manitoba. Joseph married Louise Frederic, the daughter of Jinier Frederic and his wife Louise before 1834. They had ten children. The family is shown as #119 on the Pembina Census of 1850. He is 46 years, his wife Louise is 38, their children Jean B. (16), Josette (12), Joseph (11), Mary (6), Francois (5), Marguerite (2) and 75 year old Louise also living with them. Antoine “Labelle” Azure. (b. 1794) Antoine Azure was the son of Joseph Azure and Lizette Ma-na-e-cha. The family is shown as #102, on the 1850 Pembina Census. Antoine is shown as age 56, his wife Charlotte is 58, children Moyese (14) and Mary Ann (13). Antoine married Charlotte Pelletier, the daughter of Antoine Pelletier and Marguerite Saulteause circa 1818. His niece, Amable Azure (daughter of his brother Pierre and sister-in-law Marguerite Assiniboine) was married to Hunt leader Jean Baptiste Wilkie. Antoine received Metis scrip # 445B under the 1864 Old Crossing Chippewa Treaty. Robert “Bonhomme” Montour. (1787-1857) Robert was born at Red River. He married Josette Spence circa 1818. The family is shown on the Pembina Census of 1850 as family #64. Thirty–five years earlier, Robert Montour and Cuthbert Grant produced the first treaty ever signed by the Metis. The first treaty which asserted the rights of the Metis as a free Aboriginal people was negotiated by Cuthbert Grant, Bostonais Pangman, William Shaw and Bonhomme Montour with the settlers at Red River on June 25th, 1815. This was the culmination of the friction between the Metis and the Selkirk Settlers created by the Pemmican Proclamations during the previous year. Metis Treaty Terms 1. All settlers to retire immediately from this river, and no appearance of a colony to remain. 2. Peace and amity to subsist between all parties, traders, Indians, and freemen, in future, throughout these two rivers, and on no account any person to be molested in his lawful pursuits.


3. The honourable Hudson’s Bay Company will, as customary enter this river, if they think proper, from three to four of their former trading boats, and from four to five men per boat as usual. 4. Whatever former disturbance has taken place between both parties, that is to say, the honourable Hudson’s Bay Company and the Half Breeds of the Indian Territory, to be totally forgot and not recalled by either party. 5. Every person retiring peaceably from this river immediately shall not be molested in their passage out. 6. No person passing the summer for the Hudson’s Bay Company, shall remain in the buildings of the company but shall retire to some other spot, where they will establish for the purpose of trade. Cuthbert Grant, Bostonais Pangman, Wm. Shaw, Bonhomme Montour, The Four chiefs of the Half Breeds James Sutherland, James White (On behalf of the colonists of Red River) Red River Indian Territory, Forks, Red River, 25 June, 1815 Baptiste Lafournaise. (b. 1815) Jean Baptiste was born at Red River circa 1815, the son of Joseph Lafournaise and Susanne Leclair. He married Marguerite Gosselin, the daughter of Michel Gosselin and Marguerite Assiniboine Duroleaux. Baptiste as a voyageur for the NWC stationed at Fort des Prairies (Edmonton). He then became a “freeman hunter for the HBC in the same area. They moved to Red River in 1831. His son Gabriel was a sub-leader for the 49th Rangers, the Metis Scouts of the 1873-74 Boundary Commission. Subsequent Scrip Applications. Most of the men above applied for Chippewa Half-Breed Scrip under the Treaty with the Chippewa of Superior and the Mississippi concluded at LaPointe Wisconsin on September 30, 1854. There was great scandal over the issue of this scrip and it was cancelled and a Congressional Commission of Inquiry was set up in 1871, it then reported out in 1872.


Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute


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