MīMīY (Gabriel Coté, Mee-may, Pigeon), chief of a band of Saulteaux; b. probably near Swan Lake (Man.); d. 12 Dec. 1884 on the Cote Reserve (Sask.).
Gabriel Coté, son of a French-speaking mixed-blood father and a Saulteaux mother, was a hunter of note who by 1850 had gathered around him a small group of English-speaking mixed-bloods and Saulteaux Indians. Coté and his band lived near the Swan River and traded at the Hudson’s Bay Company post of Fort Pelly on the upper Assiniboine River. Although principally woodland hunters, by the late 1860s Coté and his followers had begun to spend a part of every year on the plains.
Coté was recognized by the HBC as the principal chief of the Swan River area, and was reported as such to the government officials, Alexander Morris, David Laird*, and William Joseph Christie*, who came to Fort Qu’Appelle to make treaty with the Indians of the area in September 1874. The commissioners subsequently regarded Coté as the principal leader of all the Saulteaux; however, neither the Quill Lakes nor the Qu’Appelle River Saulteaux recognized him as their spokesman or leader, a point they made clear at the council. In fact, these groups distrusted Coté because of his relationship with the HBC and his willingness to cooperate with government officials. At the opening of the treaty negotiations the Qu’Appelle River Saulteaux allegedly threatened Coté’s life and then confined him to his tent in order to make the government aware of their dissatisfaction over the sale in 1870 of Rupert’s Land by the HBC to the Canadian government. They saw this land as belonging to the Indians, and one of their chiefs, Paskwāw, demanded that the money paid to the HBC by the Canadian government be turned over to the Indians. The treaty commissioners explained that the Canadian government recognized the right of the Indians to the land and wanted to make a treaty that would deal justly with their claims. However, the commissioners further explained that the HBC also possessed rights to the land and that the government had to deal as justly with the company as it did with the Indians. The Saulteaux apparently found this answer satisfactory, and Coté was permitted to sign Treaty no.4, but only on behalf of his own band.
Coté returned to the Swan River area and selected a site 20 miles below Fort Pelly for his reserve. The site did not please some of the woodland hunters and about one-third of the band joined the Saulteaux living on the Shoal River. With the remainder of the band (some 270), Coté stayed on the reserve he had chosen and farmed there until his death in 1884.
Gabriel Coté owes the regard accorded him by whites largely to his ability to work well with them. His relationship with the HBC explains why the treaty commissioners mistakenly regarded him as the principal Saulteaux chief, and his willingness to cooperate with both company and government officials brought the distrust of other Saulteaux leaders. Oral tradition among some Saulteaux bands to this day names Coté a “company chief,” or one who owed his position to the HBC. His readiness to accept a new way of life led those who wanted to retain the old ways to reject his leadership.
PAC, RG 10, B3, 3614, file 4063; 3625, file 5489; 3642, file 7581; 3654, file 8904; 3716, file 22541. Can., Parl., Sessional papers, 1883, IV, no.5. Morris, Treaties of Canada with the Indians. A. J. Ray, Indians in the fur trade: their role as trappers, hunters, and middlemen in the lands southwest of Hudson Bay, 1660–1870 (Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1974).