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Metis Historians Respond to Jean Teillet’s Views on the Metis Flag

This week BC Metis Federation is pleased to share a formal response by well known and respected Metis historians George and Terry Goulet in response to a recent Windspeaker article about the Metis flag.

Many Metis people were shocked to read well known Metis lawyer Jean Teillet’s interview suggesting that many of the stories about the creation of the Metis flag are wrong.

“Until somebody shows me evidence of it I will stand firmly on my line, which is don’t repeat that story. Just don’t repeat it and have some faith in your own people that they have the intelligence enough to come up with their own ideas…” — Jean Teillet

Let’s hope as a lawyer Jean Teillet reads the factual and academic resources that are publicly available and pointed out by George and Terry Goulet.

To review the July 29th article by Jean Teillet click here

To read the response by Metis historians George and Terry Goulet click here

4 Responses to Metis Historians Respond to Jean Teillet’s Views on the Metis Flag

  1. Gayle August 18, 2020 at 11:23 am #

    Why are you making people Download a pdf instead of Simply providing this in line on your website?

    • Keith Henry August 18, 2020 at 4:27 pm #

      Thanks Gayle,

      Not sure what you mean. BC Metis Federation was asked to share the PDF and we have.

      Thank you

      Keith Henry
      President

    • Derrick August 19, 2020 at 12:22 am #

      THE MÉTIS INFINITY FLAG-By George and Terry Goulet,Prominent Métis Historians & Elders, and John McDougall-Goulet Métis Researcher,August 14. 2020

      Recently there has been an attack concerning the history relating to the Métis Infinity Flag. This stems from a recent interview published in the Windspeaker Newspaper on July 29, 2020.This interview challenges long-held historical facts without specifying any significant new research required to ensure that the statements made were correct and did not spread misinformation.The assertions made by one person only in that interview dispute that in 1815 the North West Company (whose employees were known as Nor’Westers) gifted the Infinity Flag to the Métis. It stated that there was no evidence to support this claim, and that one should stop saying that Alexander Greenfield Macdonell (also known as Alexander Macdonell of Greenfield) presented the flag to the Métis. This lone individual asserted that the Métis themselves went to an unnamed, un-located store and picked blue fabric because they “probably” didn’t have red for another flag. Credible sources, if any, should have been referenced to substantiate the revisionist assertions and suppositions made in the interview to long-held historical facts.None were provided.Based on that interview, a so-called “Alternative Hypothesis”, was posted on a Métis Flag site that provided one person’s conjectural story of circumstances surrounding the flag. However, a hypothesis is an assumption, not proof. It is simply speculation and provides no evidence to substantiate an individual’s story. A hypothesis does not provide the necessary information for factual history that can only be acquired through extensive research.It is by researching journals, diaries, correspondence, government filings, archives, books, government reports, and other source material that one acquires factual historical information. The following will include the reference sources that provide verification of these long held historical facts.Here are the facts that provide the truth to prove the history of the Métis People being named a “New Nation” and that the Métis Infinity Flag was gifted to them by the North West Company through its partner Alexander Greenfield Macdonell.Original source material indicates that the Métis flag had the Infinity Sign (a horizontal white figure eight)placed in the middle ofit and was first seen in 1815. This was the year in which the North West Company’s Alexander Greenfield Macdonell gifted it to the Métis. The prominent leader of the Metis, Cuthbert Grant, received this flag on their behalf.It had a red field with a white figure eight within it. The esteemed and well-educated Lawrence Barkwell wrote about the Métis flag. Barkwell, who died in 2019was a prolific author, who wrote about the Métis and Métis Matters. For many years he was Coordinator for Metis History and Cultural Research at the Louis Riel Institute. In his 2008 article “Métis Infinity Flag”. Barkwell provided sources and quotes from writings of two historic contemporaries, James Sutherland and Peter Fidler. Both made references to Alexander Macdonell and to the Metis Infinity Flag. Barkwell stated:“According to Metis history, North West Company partners at the Qu’Appelle Valley gave the red infinity flag to them in thespring of 1815.”In the Selkirk Papers a contemporary observer, James Sutherland of the Hudson’s Bay Company, is quoted as writing in the spring of 1815concerning the Métis flag:“It is red with a figure of 8 placed horizontally in the middle of it and it is said to be a present from the N.W. Co. to …the Half Breeds as a recompense for their exertions against the [Red River] colony”An example of the recent misinformation referred to above is the misinterpretation of the words “it is said” in the above quote to mean “it was rumoured” when obviously in the context of this quote “it is said” meant “it was commonly reported”.
      2The following, based on two different applicable 1815 sections of the Selkirk Papers (available at the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Library and Archives Canada and at some universities) are quotes from the 2005Final Report to Justice Canada For Historical Profile of the Lake of the Woods Area’s Mixed European-Indian or Mixed European–Inuit Ancestry Community:“A petition addressed to the Governor of Canada from “the Free half-breeds of Red River,” expressing concern about the loss of their lands, was ghost written by Nor’Westers for circulation in the capital. Finally, the mixed European-Indian ancestry insurgents were presented with a distinctive flag at Fort William by the partners at the 1815 annual meeting. This emblem of nationhood–a white infinity sign, first on a red, and later a blue field–was repeatedly displayed throughout the conflict with the Selkirk interest and was flown in triumph over captured Hudson’s Bay Company standards. ““Within a generation of the North West Company’s 1784 establishment, their mixed European-Indian ancestry children and retainers had proclaimed themselves a “New Nation” under Cuthbert Grant’s leadership…. A flag with an infinity sign emblazoned upon its field was presented to the insurgents at this time by the North West Company partners at Fort William.”The 2015 Final Synthesis Report to the Mattawa Nipissing Métis Historical Research Project provides the following concerning the gifting of the Métis Infinity flag:“…. the insurgents [the Métis] were presented with a distinctive flag at Fort William by the partners at the 1815 annual meeting. This emblem of nationhood was repeatedly displayed throughout the conflict with the Selkirk interest as the Half‐breeds celebrated their success.““Political advocacy was complemented by military aid and logistical support once the call to arms had been issued. Reinforcements from numerous North West Company installations from as far away as Lake Superior were sent to the combat zone. John Duncan Campbell, for instance, the partner in charge of Cumberland House in 1816, dispatched an armed party of nine men from his post to strengthen the largely“Countrymen” force concentrated at Fort Qu’Appelle under the command of Alexander Macdonell(Greenfield) and Cuthbert Grant. Before leaving, he instructed his men to neutralize enemy leaders should an engagement occur. “In their book, From New Peoples to New Nations: Aspects of Métis History….,the well-known professors Gerhard J. Ens and Joe Sawchuk, wrote that: ‘ …. the flag was designed and given to the Métis by the North West Company to try to instil patriotic fervor”.The Fall 2010 issue of the Métis Voyageur Newspaper, published by the Métis Nation of Ontario, stated on its front page that:“It was at Old Fort William in 1816 that the Métis…. were presented with their flag by Alexander Macdonell of the North West Company. The infinity symbol emblazoned on the flag symbolized the eternal joining of First Nations’ and European culture”.Alexander Greenfield Macdonell, a Scotsman and partner in the North West Company, was sympathetic to the Métis. He was married ála façon du pays(i.e. in accordance with the custom of the country) to a Métis woman Josephte/Suzette Laurin (also known as Laurent), and had a number of Métis children.Macdonell was the first person to specifically refer to the Métis as a “new nation”.The book,The Red River Colony: A Chronicle of the Beginnings of Manitoba by Louis Aubrey Wood, quotesa letter of March 13, 1816 in which Macdonell wrote to his North West Company partner, Duncan Cameron:“…. The new nation under their leaders are coming forward to clear their native soil of intruders.”The Métis soon embraced thefigure eight infinity flag as a symbolof their own identity. A variation of this flag had a blue, rather than a red, field. While no definite proof has been found to account for the different colored flags, it appears it may be because the use of a blue background may reflect the appearance of the blue and white Scottish flag. This is an important consideration as the use of flags plays an important role in Scottish culture since each clan has their own flag.Some people believe that on approaching a fur-trading post Métis voyageurs could tell whether French or English was spoken at it -a blue North West Company flag indicated French, a red Hudson Bay Company flag English.The nurturing of this distinct Indigenous people, of mixed European and Indian blood, in this geographical area occurred during the latter part of the 1700s and into the early part of the 1800s.The descendants of the offspring of this Indigenous new nation consider themselves to be members of the Métis Nation of today.Among other
      3matters, itis the factual truth that is contained in this article on the Métis Infinity Flag that provided the Métis with the courage and resiliency to preserve and promote their culture and heritage over the years.Reference Material-Battle of Seven Oaks, There by Lawrence Barkwell, p, 9.Publisher Louis Riel Institute, December 2013.-Final Report to Justice Canada -Final Report For Historical Profile of the Lake of the Woods Area’s Mixed European-Indian or Mixed European–Inuit Ancestry Community,2005, pp. 31-33and, 55.-Final Synthesis Report: Mattawa Nipissing Métis Historical Research Project, May 5, 2015,p.57.-From New Peoples to New Nations: Aspects of Métis History….,by Gerhard J. Ens and Joe Sawchuk, p.40.-Métis Infinity Flag by Lawrence Barkwell, Publisher Louis Riel Institute, 2008.-MétisVoyageur Newspaper, Fall 2010 published by the MétisNation of Ontario, p.1.-Narrative of transactions in the Red River country, from the commencement of the operations of the Earl of Selkirk till the summer of the Year 1816, A, by Alexander Greenfield Macdonell, London, 1819, passim.-Red River Colony: A Chronicle of the Beginnings of Manitoba, The by Louis Aubrey Wood, Glasgow, Brook & Company, Toronto 1915, pp. 85-86.-Selkirk Papers:“Colin Robertson’s Diary, 1814-1817, “-Entries of September 13, 1815 and October 4, 1815, (pp. 210;228(Hudson Bay Company Archives E/10/1).-Selkirk Papers: “Narrative of James Sutherland”, pp. 1946-47,[(G19E1, vol. 5.)-Selkirk Papers: “Papers Relating to the Red River Settlement” –Brandon House Journal 1815-1816, pp.172-73 (Library and Archives Canada MG 19-E1).-Selkirk Papers: “Papers Relating to the Red River Settlement” -Entry of 14 September 1815, P.172 (Library and Archives Canada MG 19-E1).

  2. Anne Anderson August 20, 2020 at 7:59 am #

    The proof is here in Lord Selkirk papers — Image 906 & 907 (pages 1946 and 1947) —

    James Sutherland narrative of the events during the pemmican wars

    http://heritage.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.lac_reel_c2/906?r=0&s=1

    which states
    “This Tribe had another Flag hoisted of what nation I
    know not it is red with a figure of 8 placed horiz-
    -ontally in the middle of it & is said to be a pres-
    -ent from the N.W.Co along with some swords and
    a few pairs of Pilstols to these deluded young men
    the Half Breeds as recompence for their exertions
    against the Colony Spring 1815 and as an incentive
    to encourage them to further mischief this ensuing
    season. “

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