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The rebellions by the Metis, and the Cree, in the North West territories of Canada could have been averted had the grievances that gave rise to the revolts been addressed by the federal government. As was the case throughout North America, however, such grievances were largely ignored until it was too late to avert disaster, with the resulting cultural and physical genocide of native tribes and an enduring legacy of drug and alcohol abuse and broken families all that remains in their wake.
When Louis Riel and Big Bear led their respective peoples in an armed revolt against the continued usurpation of their lands and the government-sanctioned destruction of their ancient cultures, they were illuminating the consequences of government policies grounded in total disregard for the aboriginal origins of the lands they seized. Whether the Metis could have done anything differently is highly questionable, as futile as their military revolt turned out to be, as repeated appeals for respect of their tribal sovereignty and traditional practices were systematically ignored and agreements violated. Could they have appealed one last time to the provincial or federal authorities for redress of the grievances? Conceivably, yes they could have taken that route. Their history of interaction with the British, however, left them no reason to believe such entreaties would prove productive and, from their perspective, time was running out if their nation was to survive.
Clearly, the much more powerful federal government could have, and should have, taken concrete measures to address those grievances. Respect for traditional tribal practices such as freedom to hunt and fish their historic lands and preservation of their language and culture would have gone a long way towards averting the crises of 1885. As occurred throughout the Americas, however, European influences were willfully destructive of native cultures and practices, and the legacy of devastated peoples is what was left behind.
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