FAVEL, GILBERT (Gilbert Pelletier), Métis trader and accused prisoner; b. 12 July 1864 at Moose Jaw (Sask.), son of Benjamin Pelletier, a Métis, and Marie, a Cree woman; m. a Métisse; d. in or after 1902.
For reasons that are not clear, between the ages of 12 and 16 Gilbert Pelletier lived with the family of Charles Favel in the Touchwood Hills region of what is now Saskatchewan, and from them he adopted the name Favel. He is listed on treaty documents as a member of Paskwāw*’s band, which was included in the Muscowpetung agency of the Department of Indian Affairs. Eventually he became involved in petty trading. In 1886 and 1887 he apparently relinquished his treaty rights and band membership and, for $160, signed over his power of attorney to a merchant at Indian Head. The merchant was thus enabled to obtain scrip worth $240, redeemable in land to which Favel was entitled as a Métis.
Favel would likely have remained in obscurity had he not been arrested at Fort Qu’Appelle in the summer of 1900 for his part in the alleged cover-up of a murder. In the early hours of 27 June 1900 Wah-pin-gen had died while camped at Lebret. His body was immediately removed to the Pasqua Reserve’s burial-grounds by his widow and Favel. His death was attributed to haemorrhaging of the lungs, which did not seem improbable since he suffered from tuberculosis. Several weeks later the matter was reported to the North-West Mounted Police when rumours of foul play surfaced. The body was exhumed on 30 July and the coroner found that death was caused by a gunshot wound to the leg. Further investigation by the police revealed that Favel, who had been furnishing whisky to the camp at Lebret and may have wished to hide this fact, had helped bandage the bleeding man but discouraged anyone from seeking medical assistance. He had also insisted that the widow conceal the true cause of death with a fabricated story. More questioning of witnesses identified Oke-mah-we-cappo, who had resented Wah-pin-gen’s interference in a domestic dispute, as the leading suspect. He was captured in Great Falls, Mont., but escaped before he could be extradited.
Meanwhile, on 2 August Favel was brought before a coroner’s jury at Fort Qu’Appelle. It recommended that he be held as an accessory after the fact in the murder and be charged with illegally supplying intoxicants to the Indians. With the imminent recapture of Oke-mah-we-cappo expected, Favel was incarcerated at Regina to await trial. J. A. Mitchell, Indian agent at Muscowpetung, urged his superiors to act with dispatch because the native people were “inclined to think that because the matter is the murder of one Indian by another, the authorities will not perhaps put forth the same efforts to secure the punishment of the murderer that would be exerted were the victim a white man.”
Efforts to capture Oke-mah-we-cappo failed, and a year and a half went by while Favel remained in prison without a formal arraignment. His circumstances were finally brought to public attention in January 1902, when John K. Welsh of Indian Head wrote to the Regina Standard protesting the appalling conditions in the jail and pointing out the unfairness of Favel’s detention. Robert Milliken, a Methodist minister in Regina, joined in, charging that “if this man were well-to-do, with plenty of friends and influence he would not lie in jail for nineteen months without some kind of trial.” Finally, on 13 Feb. 1902, Favel was arraigned, and in May he was tried, after more delays caused by a smallpox outbreak in the Fort Qu’Appelle region and difficulties in bringing witnesses to Regina.
In court, the crown prosecutor sought to prove that a murder had indeed been committed, that Favel had contributed by preventing medical attendance on the victim, and that he had subsequently concealed the cause of death by spreading a false report. Favel replied that he had merely complied with the wishes of the man’s widow. His lawyer argued that the prosecution had failed to demonstrate that a murder had been committed or that Favel would have had any motive for assisting the suspect to escape. The jury acquitted Favel and he retired from public view as rapidly, it seems, as he had entered it. The record of his experiences with the governmental and judicial machinery of the North-West Territories underlines its shortcomings, particularly with regard to people of native origin.
NA, RG 10, 3996, file 201848; RG 15, 509, file 143889; 1346; RG 18, 2476. Saskatchewan Arch. Board (Regina), Acc. R83-262 (Supreme Court suits), 1902, R. v. Gilbert Favel. Regina Leader, 1 Aug. 1900, 17 Jan. 1901, 22 May 1902. Regina Standard, 15 Jan., 1, 12, 26 Feb., 5, 12 March, 21 May 1902.