Replicas of Treaty medals taken after 1885 Metis resistance given to Beardy’s Okemasis chiefs
- Jeanelle Mandes | September 02, 2020
Replicas of Treaty medals that were wrongfully taken from the chiefs of Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation (BOCN) were recently handed over at a repatriation ceremony August 28 at Titanic, Sask., which was Chief Beardy’s original campsite and the place where he signed Treaty 6. General Frederick Middleton confiscated the original Treaty medals at the end of the Riel Resistance in 1885.
“I am honoured to accept these medals on behalf of the past leadership who have done a tremendous job on our nation,” said BOCN Chief Edwin Ananas. “It wasn’t done overnight and I commend each and every one of those chiefs who took part in this. It’s very humbling.”
BOCN knowledge keeper Angus Esperance did a lot of leg work on obtaining the replica Treaty medals.
“We’re here for our grandchildren…so they don’t have to go through the process again like what we (did) chasing our medals,” said Esperance. “It was a long battle. A long struggle but we never gave up.”
Esperance and the late Andy Michael, a BOCN band member, worked to get the Treaty medals back.
Three Treaty medals that belonged to Chief Beardy, Chief Cutnose and Chief One Arrow were gifted at the ceremony. All three chiefs received these medals when they entered into Treaty 6 with the Crown in 1876.
Treaty Commissioner Mary Culbertson said Lieutenant Governor Alexander Morris questioned the involvement of the bands in the Riel Resistance.
“They said they did not stand against the Queen. Chief Okemasis said he wanted to make a living for his wife and his children. Chief Beardy said he told his men to sit still and they did not stand against the Queen. But Middleton did not believe them and said, ‘give me your medals, you don’t deserve them.’
“They were thinking of their people so they had to give up their medals. I know it’s a long time coming to get to this day but Angus (Esperance) was the vehicle that got us there.”
Culbertson and Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty presented the Treaty medal replicas to Chief Ananas.
Mirasty said members of the community have shown “extraordinary resilience in the face of hardship.”
“Thank you for honouring our history and your ancestors and for contributing to your community and beyond,” he said.
After the Treaty medals were confiscated, the bands led by the three chiefs were labeled ‘rebellion bands,’ which led to a discontinuation of annuity payments until 1889. After a long battle, the BOCN filed a specific claim in 2001. In 2015, the Government of Canada was required to pay $4.5 million dollars to BOCN for withholding the annuity payments.
See Photo Gallery for Treaty Medallion ceremony here: