These moves followed the turmoil at Red River in 1869-70. “…They sought a new life in a region unencumbered by settlers. They were a politically conscious group, most of whom had witnessed infringements on their rights by newcomers in Montana. They relocated to traditional lands further west to avoid discrimination, maintain their identity and culture, and diversify their economic activities.” (Italic mine. The Free People – Li Gens Libres Diane Payment, 2009. p. 28)
I am interested in tying the experience of the broader Metis community illustrated above to the journey of the St. Denis from Saskatchewan to Montana. Specifically, how did these folks view themselves? Why did they seem to deliberately avoid involving themselves in the “political turmoil” that seemed to imbue the actions of the Metis in the area? The record shows they were comparatively much poorer than their neighbours; and I know they surrendered their many children (including the new-born Marie-Louis St. Denis) to the US authorities. Explore this alarming and heart wrenching move. If they had any of the ‘folk’ sentiments of their community, the loss of their children to the settler/Christian education system must have been a desperate move to keep their children alive, even if it meant loosing their culture. Here might be a chance to show how the loss of their family’s future reveals the depth of their Metis identity. Tragedy and mourning are occasions that shape exact clarity and truth. They must have suffered the whole way south. Did they decide to give up their children before they left? Along the way? At the last minute? Where did they go after their children were gone? Did they have any contact with them? They must have felt depths of failure and disorientation, in fact loosing their place in any future their way of life might have amid the Settler Society that was encroaching its way Westward. Never mind forever loosing your flesh and blood. How horrible.