Canadian History/The People of the Lands/Metis

The Métis people are a group of indigenous peoples, and the results of marriages with members of the Saulteaux, Cree, Menominee, Ojibway, Algonquin, and Inuit, to Europeans (mainly French). The Métis are also known as Bois Brûlé, mixed-bloods or half-bloods, or Anglo-Métis. They are one of the three Aboriginal groups in Canada that are officially recognized as a Native group. The Métis live in Central Canada and the Northern United States of America. The word Métis means "mixed race" in French.



In the 17th and 18th centuries there were two groups of Métis - one English speaking and one French speaking. Both originated during the fur trade of the 17th and 18th centuries. The English and Scottish traders and trappers of the Hudson’s Bay Company and Northwest Company often married women of indigenous nations, especially the Cree and Ojibwa. The Métis lived near Hudson Bay trading posts, often working there. At first the Métis people were not respected very well and often had to take low paying jobs with the Hudson Bay Company. These people lived originally in the Canadian Shield, a large region of central and eastern Canada that is drained by rivers flowing into Hudson Bay. French fur traders also married the native peoples in the prairies as well, making the origin for the French speaking Métis population. The French-speaking Métis populations developed in two main areas—the Old Northwest (which is now the American Midwest) and Canada. In the Old Northwest, they were the principal entrepreneurs in the fur trade. Some of the fur trade posts they established became great cities, such as Detroit and Chicago. In the early 19th century, the French-speaking Métis in the Old Northwest either moved out or were absorbed into the culture of the American farmers who moved into the area. In Canada the French-speaking Métis lived in the prairies and in southern regions of the Canadian Shield, where they overlapped somewhat with the English-speaking Métis. Métis identity as a separate nation began to take shape during conflicts with the Red River colony, a farming community established on the Red River south of Lake Winnipeg in 1812. By this time the hunting of buffalo was a major part of the Métis economy, and the Métis feared that new settlers to their land would result in them not being able to hunt the buffalo. Action was taken by certain individuals to ensure that the Métis people would have a voice on the red river region and economy. The Métis also had a large part to play in the Red River Rebellion. At the end of the rebellion, the Manitoba act was created giving the Métis freedom to live in their lands.



Other treaties also led to Métis freely living in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, Ontario, and the North West Territories, North Dakota, North West Minnesota and Montana. The Métis largely canoed to get around in their territory through river and lakes systems.

Food and hunting


The Métis lived primarily off of buffalo that lived in the prairies and also other deer and wildlife that they could trap or shoot. They also fished in the rivers and lakes, and picked berries and other vegetation. The Métis usually hunted bison with bows and arrows or they stampeded down cliffs on them. Their main food was pronghom antelope, moose, elk, mule deer, prairie bush rabbits and wild birds. They usually fished salmon, trout and pickeriel. Usually Métis women gathered berries too, and they were added to special meals.



The Métis got their religion from the settlers that came to their land. The English speaking Métis primarily followed Protestant Christianity, and the French speaking Métis primarily followed catholic Christianity. Since the Métis people were made from European settlers, they don’t really have native religion like some of the other first nation peoples.



There is a large amount of controversy over the definition of a Métis, and who qualifies and should be recognized as a Métis. The only three factors used to legally identify a Métis are: · self-identification; · ancestral connection to a historic Métis community; · community acceptance.

When the term was first created, ‘Métis’ referred to descendants of a marriage between one partner of Cree descent and another of French. Most often, it also referred to the descendants of the French Catholic Red River Métis. However, over time, the term Métis has come to refer also to those of other European and Native descent as well.

It has been debated whether the term 'Métis' should refer to people of only Cree and French descent, or of all descendants of Native and European marriage. As a compromise, 'métis', with a lower case 'm', is used to describe those of European and Native blood, while 'Métis' is used to describe those of French and Cree descent.