Tomkins Jr. was born on January 1, 1899 at Poundmakers Reserve.
He was the son of Peter Tomkins Sr. and Marie Essawakapiw. Tomkins
Sr. worked as a Cut Liner on the telegraph lines near Duck Lake.
Pete Sr. he also helped built the first hospital in Grouard, Alberta.
Jr. followed closely in his fathers' footsteps; he was always good
at lobbying and got doctors to come to the community of Grouard.
He took action on health care issues and helped many people in the
community. Pete Jr. received a formal education in Winnipeg and
lived with his fathers' sister. While in Winnipeg he experienced
discrimination because he spoke only Cree. Pete went through a challenging
educational process and later moved back to Grouard and opened a
blacksmith shop. He married Isabella Andrews a Metis woman originally
from the Grouard area.
the 1930's, Joe Dion, a teacher, often met with Pete Tomkins Jr.
to discuss the conditions of the Metis people of Alberta. Tomkins
was a good organizer, diplomat and negotiator who also played a
key role in the establishment of the early Alberta Metis political
organization. At that time he formed what was to become a long lasting
friendship with activists, Malcolm Norris and Jim Brady.
Brady, and Norris were the main negotiators with the Province of
Alberta during the Ewing Commission, in 1935, which studied the
"Alberta Halfbreed Problem". The leaders all believed the Metis
had inherent rights to land, education, resources and healthcare.
However, the provincial government viewed the assistance to the
Metis as a welfare scheme, not a right. After the recommendations
of the Ewing Commission were presented to the Alberta legislature,
Pete Tomkins Jr., because of his diplomacy, was selected to assist
in drafting the "Metis Betterment Act" which was passed in 1938.
was made supervisor of the Metis settlements before WWII. Unfortunately,
his role in Settlement administration was cut short and a new non-Metis
supervisor was hired to replace Tomkins. After the war it was very
difficult to get Metis people organized especially since government
was now overseeing the management and daily affairs of the Metis
settlements with very little input by the Metis people themselves.
Tomkins drifted away from Metis politics especially since all five
of his sons entered into the Army, which had a significant impact
on the family.
the original Metis Association leaders in the 1930's Tomkins was
one of the only ones left in Alberta as Jim Brady and Malcolm Norris
both enlisted in the military during WWII. After his great disappointment
with the Metis settlements and the stagnation of the Metis Association
he turned his socialist efforts into organizing the Fish Marketing,
Fur Marketing, and Cooperative Movements in Northern Alberta and
Saskatchewan. In order to obtain justice for Aboriginal people he
felt it was necessary to break the exploitation of the HBC monopoly.
In 1950, Jim Brady and Malcom Norris arranged for Tomkins to come
to Saskatchewan as a special field officer for the CCF government.
His work involved setting up cooperatives and government stores
in Northern communites such as La Ronge and Cumberland House. While
in the province he also worked with the CBC providing Cree radio
programs in Northern Saskatchewan.
Tomkins Jr. was part of a close-knit family and they remember him
as a great man, a revolutionary with out a revolution. In minutes
of the Metis Association meeting in 1940 Joe Dion comments about
Tomkins and other Metis leaders. Dion states that; "Pete, as we
like to call him, has been a pillar of strength; his untiring efforts
on behalf of his brother Metis have borne fruit and will ever be
remembered. We have made numerous friends, and I hope that some
day when a complete history of the Metis struggle is finally written
and introduced to the public, the names of these men will live through
the ages to come, a fitting tribute for the part they have played
in helping to better conditions amongst my poor Metis people." One
of the major misfortunes is that Pete Tomkins never took residency
on the Metis Settlements in which he worked so hard to form. He
is remembered for his organizing abilities and his dedication to
improving the quality of life for both Indian and Metis people.
Tomkins suffered three strokes and passed away in 1970.