What is a Metis?

For me being a proud METIS it is not just about land,hunting and fishing rights it is a state of being….it is a great culture and heritage that must be PRESERVED,SHARED,CELEBRATED and most of all KEEP ALIVE for future generations to cherish. It is our duty to help keep our unique heritage alive and well, love having Metis Local Musicians and Artists at our events as we are all FAMILY AND SHARE A COMMON BOND that should never be broken, we are much stronger together than alone

The Métis

(Canadian English: [meɪtiː] Canadian French: [meˈtsɪs] Michif: [mɪˈtʃɪf] ) are an indigenous First People of Canada who trace their descent to mixed European and First Nations parentage. The term was historically a catch-all describing the offspring of any such union, but within generations the culture syncretised into what is today a distinct aboriginal group, with formal recognition equal to that of the Inuit and First Nations. Mothers were often Cree, Ojibway, Algonquin, Saulteaux, Menominee, Mi’kmaq or Maliseet. At one time there was an important distinction between French Métisborn of francophone voyageur fathers, and the Anglo Métis or Countryborn descended from Scottish fathers. Today these two cultures have essentially coalesced into one Métis tradition Other former names — many of which are now considered to be offensive — include Bois-Brûlés, Mixed-bloods, Half-breeds, Bungi, Black Scots and Jackatars.

The Métis homeland includes regions in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario, as well as the Northwest Territories. The Métis homeland also includes parts of the northern United States (specifically Montana, North Dakota, and northwest Minnesota).

During the height of the North American fur trade in the 18th and 19th centuries, many British, Scottish and French-Canadian fur traders married First Nations and Inuit women, mainly First Nations Cree, Ojibwa, or Saulteaux. The majority of these fur traders were French and Catholic.

Therefore, their children, the Métis, were exposed to both the Catholic and indigenous belief systems, thus creating a new distinct aboriginal people in North America in the years prior to the colonization of Canada and the United States of America as we know it today. First Nations women were the link between cultures, they not only provided companionship for the fur traders, but also aided in their survival. First Nations women were able to translate the language, sew new clothing for their husbands, and generally were involved in resolving any cultural issues that arose. The First Peoples had survived in the harsh west for thousands of years, so the fur traders benefited greatly from their First Nations wives’ knowledge of the land and its resources.

The Métis played a vital role in the success of the western fur trade. Not only were the Métis skilled hunters, but they were also raised to appreciate both Aboriginal and European cultures. Métis understanding of both societies and customs helped bridge cultural gaps, resulting in better trading relationships. The Hudson’s Bay Company discouraged unions between their fur traders and First Nations and Inuit woman, while the North West Company (the French fur trading company) supported such marriages. The Métis were valuable employees of both fur trade companies, due to the their skills as voyageurs, buffalo hunters, interpreters and knowledge of the lands.

In 1812, many immigrants (mainly Scottish farmers) moved to the Red River Valley, in present day Manitoba. The Hudson’s Bay Company, who nominally owned the land called Rupert’s Land at the time, assigned the land to the settlers. The allocation of Red River land caused conflict with those already living in the area as well as with the North West Company, whose trade routes had been cut in half. Many Métis were working as fur traders with both the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Others were working as free traders, or buffalo hunters supplying pemmican to the fur trade. The buffalo were declining in number, and the Métis and First Nations had to go further and further west to hunt them. As well, profits from the fur trade were declining because the Hudson’s Bay Company had to extend its reach further and further away from its main posts to get furs.

Métis drivers with Red River ox carts. c.1860

The Government of Canada exerted its power over the people living in Rupert’s Land after its acquisition in the mid-19th century from the Hudson’s Bay Company for the railroad. The Métis and the Anglo-Métis (commonly known as Countryborn, children of First Nations women and Orcadian, Scottish or English men) joined forces to stand up for their rights and to protect their age-old way of life against an aggressive and distant Anglo-Saxon government and its local colonizing agents. During this time the Canadian government pressured the Aboriginals to sign treaties (known as the “Numbered treaties”) which turned over rights to almost the entire western plains to the Government of Canada. In return for signing over their lands, the Canadian government promised food, education, medical help, and other kinds of support Emerging as a Métis leader was the educated Louis Riel, who denounced the government in a speech delivered in late August 1869 from the steps of Saint-Boniface Cathedral. The Métis became more fearful when the Canadian government appointed the notoriously anti-French William McDougall as the Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories on September 28, 1869, in anticipation of a formal transfer to take effect in December What followed was the Red River Rebellion of 1869 and consequently the exile of Louis Riel to the United States.

Copy of Warrant To Apprehend Riel and Lépine, issued in Winnipeg.

In March 1885, the Métis heard that a contingent of 500 North-West Mounted Police was heading west They organized a newly formed coalition called The Métis provisional government with Pierre Parenteau as President and Gabriel Dumont as adjutant-general to action. With the help of First Nations Chiefs Poundmaker and Big Bear they facilitated the return of Louis Riel to the coalition he founded in 1869. This led to a series of unsuccessful conflicts collectively known as the “Riel Rebellions” or the North West Rebellion. Gabriel Dumont fled to the United States with Louis Riel, Poundmaker and Big Bear surrendering to the Government. Big Bear and Poundmaker each received a three-year sentence. On July 6, 1885, Riel was charged with high treason and was sentenced to hang. Riel’s appeals went on briefly, but, as mandated by the government of the time, the execution was conducted on November 16, 1885.