Joseph Dion – ‘Metis Light on the Prairies’

Joe Dion (1888-1960 an enfranchised Indian – non-status/treaty Indian – nephew of Big Bear see Dobbin) was a founder, organizer and president of the Metis association in Alberta from 1932 to the spring of 1940 when a provisional Executive Council proclaimed itself leading the association and Malcolm Norris was elected Chairman (according to the Edmonton Bulletin/Journal at the time). From there to 1960 the association was in a state of disarray;   Adrian Hope became president in 1960 and the association became more organized and was finally registered in 1961 according to Lusty (1977).  The Association was known by various names such as the “Half-breed” Association,  The Half-breed Association of Northern Alberta (Dion was mentioned as the Secretary of this association in November 1932), the Metis Brotherhood of Alberta,  and l’Association des d’Alberta by 1935 dropping the reference to the NWT, or the Metis Association of Alberta, 1961; and eventually the Metis National of Alberta Association.

Dion was a teacher at Kehiwin and lived in Gurneyville when the Association was incorporated. On December 28, 1932 in St. Albert after many community meetings organized by Dion and the Department of Lands and Mines through the summer including a general province-wide meeting July 15-16, 1932, Dion was elected president.  The association was not registered but became more formalized as a provincial association (source: Dobbin 1981:63).  He wrote a series of articles in the St. Paul newspaper on the Metis and these became a book “My Tribe, the Crees.” (Calgary: Glenbow Museum, 1996, 1979.)

At the time the  Settlements (Colonies by Orders-in-Council 1938/39) were formed, Dion (appointed a provincial Commissioner of Oaths Feb. 3 1939 by OC 155/39) and Peter Tomkins were civil servants (Supervisors of Colonies around Fishing Lake and Grouard, respectively) under the direct supervision themselves of F. J. Buck and J. Blair (in the Alberta Bureau of Relief and Public Welfare – letterhead reads only Bureau of Public Welfare after Nov. 1939).  They were also on the executive of the association and questions about conflicts of interest were raised particularly by James Brady and Malcolm Norris, fellow executive members.

Besides being a Supervisor in the Fishing Lake area in 1939 Dion applied for land patents he appears to have held since 1929.  (Glenbow Archives, Dion files re: letters of requesting process for patent application to the Alberta Department Lands and Mines – May – October, 1939)]

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