October 3rd, 2023, marked the 150th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 3 in Canada, also known as the North-West Angle Treaty, since it was signed at the Northwest Angle of Lake of the Woods in 1873. Treaty 3 is an agreement between the Anishinaabe Peoples and the Crown. It recognized the rights of Indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands, to continue traditional practices (such as hunting, fishing, gathering), and to receive annual payments from the government in exchange to share the land and its resources. The treaty covers approximately 55,000 square miles, spanning from northwestern Ontario, along the international border, to southeastern Manitoba.
Although the Métis were not originally included in the treaty negotiations, they sought recognition and inclusion after its signing. In 1875, Nicolas Chatelain, acting on behalf of the Métis of Rainy River and Rainy Lake collective, signed an adhesion to Treaty 3 with the Canadian government. This adhesion (known as the “Halfbreed Adhesion to Treaty 3”) was an agreement that the Métis would receive recognition, protection, and access to the lands and resources outlined in the treaty. Unfortunately, the federal government did not uphold these treaty promises.
My ancestors played an integral part in the negotiations and signing of Treaty 3 and the adhesion. Treaty 3 is not just a part of Canadian history. It is part of my family’s story.
The photograph was taken during the Treaty 3 negotiations at the Northwest Angle in 1873. The man with the white beard and hat sitting on the right side of the table is George McPherson Sr. (my 3rd great-grandfather). The man with the dark beard and light-colored hat standing directly behind him is George McPherson Jr. (my 2nd great-grandfather).
The following video highlights the historic Métis community of Rainy River and Lake of the Woods and their role in the negotiations and implementation of the adhesion to Treaty 3. The participation of my cousins, who are enrolled members of the Métis Nation of Ontario, in the video underscores the ongoing impact of our family’s heritage within the contemporary Métis community. By sharing their insights, they not only contribute to the preservation of historical knowledge but also help in maintaining the cultural vibrancy and diversity of the Métis identity.
Throughout my residency, I’ve come to understand the significance of my family’s heritage. It’s not only rooted in the historical context of the Métis community’s contributions to Treaty 3 but also holds contemporary relevance. Métis rights and their inclusion in treaty-related conversations continues to be an important aspect of reconciliation efforts, emphasizing the need to address past and present-day injustices.
1 David T. McNab, “The Administration of Treaty 3: the Location of the Boundaries of Treaty 3 Indian Reserves in Ontario, 1873-1915,” in As Long as the Sun Shines and Water Flows: A Reader in Canadian Native Studies, eds. Ian A.L. Getty and Antoine S. Lussier (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2021), 145-157.
2 David T. McNab, “Free and Full Possession of Their Lands: the Metis and the Treaty-Making Process in Ontario,” in Circles of Time: Aboriginal Land Rights and Resistance in Ontario (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1999), 21-44.