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La confédération ... à une condition... les Premières Nations

Un autre groupe important pour la colonie est celui des Autochtones. Le recensement de 1870 comptait 560 Autochtones dans la colonie permanente.  Ce même recensement ne comptait pas la multitude d'Autochtones qui vivaient à l'extérieur de la colonie permanente d'Assiniboia, mais qui auraient eu affaire avec celle-ci, soit par la traite de fourrures ou autrement. La colonie existait en paix avec ceux-ci, mais s'inquiétait toujours qu'un groupe vienne perturber la paix. C'était la raison pour la pétition de 1862 demandant que la couronne envoie des soldats protéger la colonie menacée par des Chippewyans qui avaient commis des vols et des destructions près de Grand Forks. C'était aussi l'époque du développement de l'Ouest des États Unis et les campagnes militaires contre les Autochtones. Les Sioux menacés s'aventuraient souvent au nord de la frontière. Puisqu'ils étaient ennemis traditionnels des Chippewyans, la présence des deux groupes près de la colonie y augmentait la tension.
 
Après avoir fondé la colonie d'Assiniboia, Lord Selkirk avait conclut un traité avec les Chippewyans ou Saulteaux et les Cris pour les terres de cette colonie en 1817. Selon ce traité:
for and in consideration of the annual present or quit rent hereinafter mentioned, the said Chiefs have given, granted and confirmed, and do, by these presents, give, grant and confirm unto our Sovereign Lord the King all that tract of land adjacent to Red River and Ossiniboyne River, beginning at the mouth of Red River and extending along same as far as Great Forks at the mouth of Red Lake River, and along Ossiniboyne River, otherwise called Riviere des Champignons, and extending to the the distance of six miles from Fort Douglas on every side, and likewise from Fort Doer, and also from the Great Forks and in other parts extending in breadth to the distance of two English statute miles back from the banks of the said rivers, on each side, together with all the appurtenances whatsoever of the said tract of land, to have and to hold forever the said tract of land and appurtenances to the use of the said Earl of Selkirk, and of the settlers being established thereon, with the consent and permission of our Sovereign Lord the King, or of the said Earl of Selkirk. Provided always, and these presents are under the express condition that the said Earl, his heirs and successors, or their agents, shall annually pay to the Chiefs and warriors and successors, or their agents, shall annually pay to the Chiefs and warriors of the Chippeway or Saulteaux Nation, the present or quit rent consisting of one hundred pounds weight of good and merchantable tobacco, to be delivered on or before the tenth day of October at the forks of Ossiniboyne River and to the Chiefs and warriors of the Killistine or Cree Nation, a like present or quit rent of one hundred pounds of tobacco, to be delivered to them on or before the said, tenth day of October, at Portage de la Prairie, on the banks of Ossiniboyne River.2
 
Jusqu'en 1869, les Autochtones dits "permanents" étaient Cris et Saulteaux, et suivaient le chef Peguis, le dernier survivant des signataires du traité avec Selkirk. En 1857, une lettre qu'il avait écrite à la Aborigines Protection Society de Londres fut présentée au comité parlementaire impérial qui examinait la compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson. 
Many winters ago, in 1812, the lands along the Red River, in the Assiniboin country, on which I and the tribe of Indian of whom I am chief, then lived, were taken possession of without permission of myself or my tribe by a body of white settlers. For the sake of peace I, as the representative of my tribe, allowed them to remain on our lands on their promising that we should be well paid for them by a great chief, who was to follow them. This great chief whom we call the Silver Chief (the Earl of Selkirk), arrived in the spring after the war between the North-west and Hudson's Bay Companies (1817). He told us he wanted our land for some of his countrymen, who were very poor in their own country, and I consented, on the condition, that he paid well for my tribes' lands, he could have from the confluence of the Assiniboin to near Maple-sugar Point, on the Red River (a distance of 20 or 24 miles), following the course of the river, and as far back on each side of the river as a horse could be seen under (easily distinguished). The Silver Chief told us he had little with which to pay us for our lands when he made this arrangement, in consequence of the troubles with the North-west Company. He, however, asked us what we most required for the present, and we told him we would be content till the following year, when he promised again to return, to take only ammunition and tobacco. The Silver Chief never returned, and either his son or the Hudson's Bay Company have ever since paid us annually for our lands only the small quantity of ammunition and tobacco which, in the first instance, we took as preliminary to a final bargain about our lands. 
[...]
 Those who have since held our lands, not only pay us only the same small quantity of ammunition and tobacco, which was first paid lo us as a preliminary to a final bargain, but they now claim all the lands between the Assiniboin and Lake Winipeg, a quantity of land nearly double of what was first asked from us. We hope our Great Mother will not allow us to be treated so unjustly as to allow our lands to be taken from us in this way.3
 
Il annonçait donc qu'il faudrait conclure un deuxième traité avant d'occuper cette terre. Le Nor'Wester rapporta qu'un concile de chefs, tenu en septembre 1863, conclut que les terres avaient été cédées, mais seulement pour vingt ans4.
 
Au mois d'octobre suivant, le chef Peguis ajouta qu'au moment des pourparlers en 1817, Selkirk annonça qu'il ne pourrait conclure le traité, parce qu'il n'avait pas les moyens de payer les chefs. Selkirk leur offrit de la poudre à fusil et du tabac, en prévision de l'accord qu'ils feraient l'année suivante. Convainquant les chefs de signer, il ne revint pas terminer l'accord. Peguis dit:
We did not see why he pressed us to sign; but I now think, it was in order to have us in his power, should he not do what he promised. He did not tell us what was in the paper, and I regret to say we did not even ask him what was in it. That was our ignorance. It was a great mistake, as after events showed Lord Selkirk never came back, and never completed the arrangements about the lands. Our lands have not been bought from us--we have not received payment for them. We got something from time to time--small supplies-- but less and less, as time rolled along, until we got nothing.5
 
Selon lui, les Autochtones n'avaient donc pas cédé à Selkirk ou à la Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson leur souveraineté sur les terres de l'Assiniboia. Cette lettre annonçait d'autres problèmes qui surgiraient pour les nouveaux arrivants. 
 
Le Nor'Wester mentionna en 1868 que la Aborigines Protection Society d'Angleterre avait écrit au gouvernement impérial réclamant que la question des droits aborigènes soit définitivement réglée dans le Territoire du Nord-Ouest. En 1869, le Nor'Wester, afin de calmer les inquiétudes des futurs émigrants, déclara:
 
...while the Indians are willing to come to an arrangement with the settlers and have made tacit arrangements, still the Indian title is not extinct, neither will it be until the government arrange with them by treaty. There will never be any difficulty in treating with them for their rights, and if all treaty stipulations are properly carried out upon the part of the government, there will never be any trouble with them6.
 
Mais lorsqu'il se présente des conflits d'intérêts au sujet des terres prises par les émigrants, le Nor'Wester montre ses couleurs:
The Indians in the neighborhood of Portage La Prairie are attempting to interfere with the settlers by forbidding any further encroachments upon what they claim as their own soil. It undoubtedly belongs to some of the tribes, but we doubt very much if the Ojibeways, who are strutting about up there just at present, have any more right in that particular region than the white man himself. One of the very first acts of the Dominion Government should be to treat with them and the Crees and get them set off on reserves7.
 
Les Autochtones de Peguis ,établis dans la colonie, ne s'opposeront pas à la confédération, tout en faisant savoir au gouvernement canadien qu'il faudrait traiter de la questions des droits aborigènes avant de pouvoir ouvrit le territoire du Nord-Ouest à la colonisation. Les Autochtones plus éloignés de la colonie de la Rivière Rouge, tels que ceux près de Portage La Prairie, utiliseront plus de muscle afin de convaincre le gouvernement de l'importance de cette question.
 

  Recensement de 1870, cité dans Pannekoek, 1991,  p. 18
  Dans  Oliver, E.H., The Canadian North-West: Its Early Development and Legislative Records, Minutes of the Councils of the Red River Colony and the Northern Department of Rupert's Land, Vol. 2, Ottawa, 1915, p. 1288-1289
  Lettre de Peguis, imprimé dans Great Britain (1857) Report from the Select Committee on the Hudson's Bay Company; Together with the Proceedings of the Committee, Minutes of Evidence, Appendix and Index (Londres; Parliament) p. 445-446  https://archive.org/details/cu31924032193975
  Nor'Wester, 10 septembre 1863, p. 2
  Nor'Wester, 14 octobre 1863, p. 3
  Nor'Wester, 26 février 1869, p. 2
  Nor'Wester, 5 juin 1869, p. 2
 

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