The Government and Politics of the Alberta Métis Settlements
Contains Bibliography, Index
James S. Frideres is Associate Dean (Research) of the Faculty of Social
Sciences at the University of Calgary and co-author of Prairie Builders.
In Alberta, there are eight Métis colonies (land areas reserved for the
occupation and use of Métis) comprising more than 1.25 million acres.
On these eight colonies live about three thousand people. Pockington
tells the story of how these colonies were established as well as how
they operate in the provincial political arena.
He begins by providing a brief historical overview of the Métis and
the creation of these colonies. The major part of the book focuses on
the results of a survey Pockington carried out with the colonies’
residents as his subjects. He provides both demographic data and
attitudinal data he collected from both the Métis leaders and the
government officials who control the colonies. Much of the information
presented constitutes simple descriptive data that provides an overview
of the behavior and aspirations of the Métis who reside on the
colonies. The author also sifts through a considerable number of
provincial government documents that deal with the Métis. He presents
lucid synopses of these works, highlighting the core issues for each
document. He then relates how these policy documents have directed the
actions of government officials and Métis leaders over time.
That said, there are some serious problems with the book. First, much
of the data presented is dated. The survey data were collected in
1984-85, as the book’s last chapter notes, and a snumber of changes
have happened since then. Second, Pockington’s superficial analysis of
the data reveals only a minimal understanding of the social and
political processes taking place on and off the colonies. This problem
is likely rooted in the author’s inability to fully appreciate
methodological issues. For example, he arranges to employ a systematic
random sample, but then discounts it as “not scientific.” Other
annoying, though less important, aspects of the book include the
frequent use of acronyms; the reader is continually referring to earlier
chapters to find out an acronym’s meaning.
The above reservations should not, however, be construed as a rejection
of the text. Many aspects of the book are innovative and informative.
For the interested lay reader who wants to know something about the
Métis, this book is a must; on the other hand, it is a highly
specialized book that may not appeal to many readers. Nevertheless, it
will become, in some respects, a basic reader for those who are
interested in Native-white relations in Canada.