Métis

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Métis

Name

The word Métis (pronounced MAY-tee or MEH-tis ) comes from the Latin verb miscere, which means to mix. The French used this name to refer to a group of Canadian mixed-race people. The Métis were also sometimes called half-breeds, mixed-bloods, or Bois Brules , a French term meaning “burnt wood,” referring to skin color.

Location

The Métis originally wandered throughout modern-day Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada and along the North Dakota border in the present-day United States. After 1885 the Métis could be found from Lake Superior to Alberta. Today they are mostly located in western Canada along the Manitoba and North Dakota border, in southeastern Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Two groups of about five thousand people each live in Ontario and Labrador.

Population

In 1821 there were about 500 Métis. Ten years later, in 1831, there were 1,300; in 1843 there were 2,600; in 1870 there were 12,000. No one identified themselves as Métis to U.S. census takers in 1990. In 1991, 135,285 people identified themselves to Canadian census takers as Métis. Canada’s 2001 population count showed 292,305 Métis.

Language family

The Métis speak a unique combination of Native languages and French patois (pronounced PAT-wah; a version of French the English sometimes call “Country French”), with occasional Scottish and Gaelic expressions. Gaelic is a language of Scotland and Ireland.

Origins and group affiliations

The Métis are a group of Native North American people whose origins date back only a few hundred years. They are biracial descendants of Native American women and European settlers. The majority share French and either Cree, Ojibway, or Assiniboin (pronounced uh-SIN-uh-boin ) blood, but some trace their European origins to British, Scottish, Irish, or Scandinavian settlers and their Native origins to Inuit women. There were many such offspring during the early years of the fur trade in Canada and the Great Lakes region.

The history of the Métis began with adventurous French fur traders who ventured into the woods and prairies of western Canada during the 1600s. Finding conditions there harsh and wild, the Frenchmen turned to the Native population for help Far from home and lonely, they chose Native American women as mates. The descendants of these couples, caught between two worlds, formed their own communities and developed their own culture. Once united as the Métis, these people played an important role in the settlement of western Canada and in the formation of the new nation. Today they struggle to assert their rights to land and respect.

History

Birth of a nation

French fur traders known as voyageurs came to Canada in the 1600s and were welcomed by Natives—Cree, Ojibwa, and Assiniboin (see entries). The Natives supplied them with goods and services of all kinds. They acted as guides, interpreters, canoe paddlers, trappers, and hunters. They supplied the voyageurs with buffalo tongue, and clothing. They also provided pemmican, a long-lasting food that kept trappers going through the winter months (see “Food”). The Frenchmen learned much about survival from the Natives. The demand for furs among fashionable Europeans continued throughout the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, bringing more French fur traders, who spent long days and nights in the wilderness trapping fur-bearing animals.

Most of the early traders supplied the Hudson’s Bay Company, n British trading company located on the shores of the Hudson Bay. The Métis people were born of the unions between the French fur-trading men and the Native women who became their mates. Some of their sons grew up to become employees of trading companies, serving as trappers, hunters, guides, paddlers, and interpreters. Other boys became skilled buffalo hunters who supplied the trading posts with pemmican.

By the mid-1700s a large “mixed-blood” population had settled around the Great Lakes. Fairly large communities of log cabins emerged at Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, and other locations. As fur-bearing animals became scarce and settlers moved in from the East, many of these mixed-blood people moved westward to the Great Plains, where the distinctive Métis culture emerged.

Important Dates

1816: Violence erupts during a Métis protest over the Pemmican Proclamation of 1814 and 21 Hudson’s Bay Company employees are killed.

1821: The Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company merge, putting many Métis out of work. The people scatter.

1869: The First Riel Rebellion takes place.

1870: The Manitoba Act allots 1.4 million acres of land to the Métis. Much of it is lost through trickery and misunderstanding.

1885: The Northwest Rebellion takes place.

1983: The Métis National Council is founded.

1989: Alberta passes the Métis Settlement Act, setting aside $310 million over a period of 17 years to support the governing and operation of settlements.

Battle of Seven Oaks

Until 1780 the Hudson’s Bay Company enjoyed complete control of trade in Canada. The company depended on the food supplies and know-how of the Métis for its survival. Then the rival North West Company established a trading post of its own west of Lake Superior. The North West Company saw in the Métis people an excellent source of supplies and labor and lured them into their employ. With this new competition, the Hudson’s Bay Company began to suffer heavy losses of money and supplies.

In 1811 the Hudson’s Bay traders established a post at the point where the Red and Assiniboin rivers joined (near present-day Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) called the Red River Settlement. It lay directly on the preferred trading route of the North West Company. The Hudson’s Bay Company encouraged the Métis population to move to this settlement. The nomadic (wandering) Métis obliged by forming a community there, but to the dismay of the Hudson’s Bay Company they continued to work for both trading companies.

Because they wanted sole rights to the pemmican supplied by the Métis, the Hudson’s Bay Company passed the Pemmican Proclamation of 1814. Under this law, the Métis were prohibited from trading pemmican with anyone but the Hudson’s Bay Company. Since their economy depended heavily on the sale of pemmican and two good customers were better than one, the Métis chose to ignore the law.

The situation erupted in violence in 1816, and 21 traders at the Hudson’s Bay Company headquarters at Red River Settlement were killed, including the author of the Pemmican Proclamation. This episode was known as the Battle of Seven Oaks.

Years of changes and rebellion

Five years later the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company merged and life changed forever for the Métis. Many were forced to find other ways of supporting themselves as excess trading posts were abandoned. Some Métis retained their strips of land along the Red River and farmed, forming the nucleus of what would later become the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Others moved to the plains and became wandering, year-round buffalo hunters. Still others adopted a combined lifestyle—during the winter months they established temporary settlements in the plains, returning to their more permanent Red River community the rest of the year.

In 1867 the Canadian colonies united and formed the newly independent Dominion of Canada. Two years later the Hudson’s Bay Company sold its land holdings to the new government. The Canadian government encouraged white Protestants to settle the new territory and sent surveyors to the Red River Settlement to map out square plots of land to sell to pioneering colonists. They did not consult with or notify the Métis, who discovered their land was being sold by reading the newspaper. The surveyors completely disregarded the French-style settlement patterns of the Métis, whereby farms were built on long strips of land on the riverbanks. As Protestant settlers poured into their territory, the Métis saw clearly what the new English-speaking government had in store for them. More settlers would come, take over Métis lands, drive away the buffalo, and Catholicism and the French language would be scorned.

Furious, the Métis formed a resistance movement and asked the young and well-educated Louis Riel (1844–1885) to head it up. Riel and his supporters—who included a gang of rough-and-tumble buffalo hunters and several sympathetic Catholic priests, created an independent government at the Red River Settlement. They then bloodlessly took over a government fort near Winnipeg and sent a list of demands to Canada’s prime minister. The stipulations included land rights, freedom of language and religion, representation in the Canadian government, and assurance that the Métis would be consulted on decisions about the Red River country. These actions became known as the First Riel Rebellion.

While Riel and his new provisional (temporary) government negotiated with the central government, a local militia formed to oppose his rule in Red River. Learning of the plans to overthrow the new government, the Métis fought the militia and forced them to surrender. One member of the militia, however, planned another attack, and the Métis arrested him, tried him, and sentenced him to death. His execution turned public opinion in Canada against Riel and his new government.

Although the National Committee of the Métis of the Red River only lasted a year, it had one success—or so they thought at the time: it negotiated the Manitoba Act of 1870 with the Canadian government. The Manitoba Act set aside 1.4 million acres of land for the Métis. The government promised to control the flood of white Protestant settlers and to protect the French language and Catholic faith. The Red River Settlement became the center of what would now be called Manitoba. But the government did not keep its end of the agreement. It would not pardon Riel for his part in the execution of the militia member and sent in troops to control the Métis. Louis Riel fled Manitoba for the United States.

The Northwest Rebellion of 1885

As the Métis expected, their lands were taken over and the government refused to recognize their land claims. In 1885 Riel returned to lead the Northwest Rebellion of 1885. Fired up by pride and a desire to form a new French Catholic nation in western Canada, a Métis army began to fight on March 26, 1885. The government sent thousands of troops to subdue the Métis and defeated them in the Battle of Batoche on May 12, 1885. Riel voluntarily surrendered to the authorities three days later.

Riel’s trial for treason (betraying his country) became a political issue between French-speaking people in Quebec, who favored him, and the English-speaking people of Ontario, the seat of the government, that opposed him. Historians say Riel could have pleaded insanity and probably have gone free. He had spent some time in a mental institution, believed he was on a mission from God, and was known to behave and speak oddly at times. But Riel refused to plead, saying: “What belongs to us ought to be ours.” He was found guilty of treason and hanged on November 16, 1885. The hanging caused something of a sensation worldwide. A Philadelphia newspaper predicted: “The ghost of Louis Riel will haunt Canadian statesmen for many a day.” (More than a century later, in 1992, the Canadian House of Commons approved a motion recognizing Louis Riel’s “unique and historic role as a founder of Manitoba.”)

The scrip program

The constant battling over the land along the Red River finally forced the Canadian government to step in. In 1885 they appointed a commission to oversee land distribution to the Métis. This was to be accomplished through a system known as the scrip program. A scrip was a government certificate that could be exchanged for money or land. Some who did purchase land with scrip found the land was far from their existing community, no good for farming, and too small to hunt game. Some Métis took money instead of land. While some spent it and became poverty-stricken and landless, others used the money to move to the United States, Saskatchewan, and Alberta to start new lives.

The scrip program caused long-term problems between the Métis and other Native groups in Canada. While the Métis received only land or money, full-blooded Natives were offered treaties that granted land and brought them under the protection of the government. They were able to remain united and receive benefits such as schooling and health care. The scrip program proved nearly fatal to Métis society, and the mistrust created between people who got scrip and people who got treaty settlements still exists today.

Modern times

Ever since the scrip program, Métis history has been marked by bleakness and filled with tales of land grabs and the government’s complete disregard for the band’s unique society. In the 1930s several Métis leaders emerged, and the Métis Association of Alberta was formed. Political pressure on the Alberta government led to the passage of the Métis Betterment Act in 1938, which set aside lands for Métis settlements. Restoration of land has been slow in coming, however, and the only Canadian lands held in common by Métis people in the early twenty-first century are eight settlements in Alberta.

In the 1960s, when the rights of minorities became a worldwide issue, the Métis people forcibly reasserted the claims made by Métis leader Louis Riel in the 1880s and continue to do so. In an effort to rekindle cultural pride, the Métis uphold Riel as a hero. To them, Riel is a symbol of the independent minds of indigenous peoples who seek control over their own communities.

Religion

The first Catholic missionaries arrived in Métis lands in 1818 and were quickly followed by Anglicans and Presbyterians. Catholic missionaries enjoyed success among French speakers, while the Anglicans were more successful among English-speaking Métis. Part of the Métis heritage was European, so the Christian religions were in many cases brought to the Americas by the original trappers and traders. The large population of French trappers brought Catholicism to many Métis settlements in the early days. As Europeans married Native women, Christian religions gained some Native elements. Organized religion served as a source of support and unity for the Métis and strengthened their sense of community.

Language

Language has been a dividing factor throughout the history of the Métis. Some Métis speak Cree, others Assiniboin, and still others Ojibway (see entries), or any of several other languages, blended with French to create new local languages. The languages spoken by the Métis are a combination of Native tongues and French patois, with occasional Scotch and Gaelic expressions thrown in.

Because of the unusual nature of the languages, the Cree of the area created a new name for the Métis: O-tee-paym-soo-wuk, meaning “their-own-boss.” Métis scholar Marcel Giraud wrote in his 1945 book The Métis in the Canadian West that “the language … normally alternated between the Native American dialects [varieties] habitually used in the families, and the French of Quebec, modified by expressions from the Native American tongues … and modulated by singsong intonations that recalled the accents of the Natives and even today remain very characteristic.” Currently Métis language classes are offered and books and dictionaries on the different dialects are available.

Métis Words

Because many Métis are part French, some of their words, especially the nouns, sound similar to French words when they are pronounced, but they are usually spelled differently. Most verbs reflect the people’s Cree heritage. The language they speak is called Michif.

  • lawm … “man”
  • lo … “water”
  • meechishouw …“eat”
  • nakamouw … “sing”
  • portipik … “porcupine”
  • salay …“sun”
  • sh’yaen … “dog”
  • shipwaytay … “leave”
  • wawpouw … “see”
  • yeeboo …“owl”
  • zhwal …“horse”

Government

From 1670 to 1857 the Hudson’s Bay Company had complete authority over western and northern Canada, and its only interest was in trading furs and making money. Nearly all Métis people were employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which appointed a governor and a governing council to oversee the Red River settlement (population ten thousand in 1867). Although this was not a democratic way of doing things, the Red River community generally supported it. The exception to this style of government were buffalo hunters, who had their own leaders.

In 1868 the territory was handed over to the Canadian government. The Métis worried that their entire way of life might soon vanish under the influence of an indifferent, faraway, English-speaking governing body. Because of this, Louis Riel organized a resistance movement. For one year Riel oversaw the only legal government the Métis Nation has ever had.

The Métis still have no legal rights as a nation and no legal form of self-government except in Alberta. In the 1960s the Métis organized themselves into groups such as the Manitoba Métis Federation, the Métis Association of Saskatchewan, and the Canadian Métis Society. But the Métis have difficulty getting the Canadian government to hear their issues. Many Métis organizations allied themselves with the broader Native American organization known as the Native Council, which speaks to the government on behalf of the Métis and other Native American groups.

Dissatisfied with efforts of the Native Council on their behalf, in 1983 the Métis formed an organization that would address their claims on their terms. The Métis National Council petitions the government for land claims under the Manitoba Act of 1870, for inclusion of Métis texts and courses in Canadian schools, and for self-government. In 1985 the Canadian government set aside all discussion on Métis claims, deciding that a definition of Métis must be agreed upon first. After four centuries, that definition is still under debate, and unfortunately this hinders Métis unification and their attempts to negotiate with the government as a sovereign people.

By the early twenty-first century Alberta was the only Canadian province to heed Métis claims. In 1989 the Alberta-Métis Settlement Accord went into effect. The following year, Alberta amended its constitution and passed several additional acts that promised the Métis $10 million a year. These Settlement Acts provided Canada’s only Métis land base and legislated form of Métis government. The acts received royal approval in 1998, and in 2003 the Métis received $5.2 million to fund the General Council and individual settlements. These acts are the first efforts to give Métis the land and autonomy (self-government) they have been seeking for over a century.

Economy

The Métis began as either suppliers or employees for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Suppliers hunted buffalo, which provided food, shelter, and clothing for the Métis people and was also used to make the pemmican they sold to the company. Historians say that without a dependable supply of meat for pemmican, there would have been no food to keep the trappers alive in winter, and the fur trade would have failed. The Métis conducted communal buffalo hunts. Large parties would set out on the hunt in their two-wheeled Red River carts pulled by horse or oxen.

Employees worked as fur trappers, as supervisors at the trading posts, as pilots or as crew members of the boats that carried furs up and down the Canadian waterways, as interpreters, or as guides.

When the Hudson’s Bay Company left in 1868, Europeans attempted to convert the Métis at Red River Settlement to farming, but this did not suit the nomadic lifestyle of many. The work was not as reliable as the buffalo hunt. Soon the buffalo disappeared, so some people turned to farming. Others continued to trap, but that industry declined after 1945.

Living conditions for the Métis after the buffalo were gone became miserable. In an effort to escape poverty and discrimination, many enlisted in the armed forces during World War I (1914–18), World War II (1939–45), and the Korean War (1950–53).

The great central plains area of Canada, where many Métis live, is a vast place of farmlands and ranches with a widely scattered population. Since the 1950s Métis families tended to settle in the prairie towns that sprang up, places where jobs in construction and low-paying service industries are available. In the early twenty-first century many depend on such wage labor and government welfare payments to survive. There are still people, however, who live in isolated areas and maintain a version of the hunting-gathering lifestyle.

Daily life

Families

Métis families usually lived in nuclear families, with parents and children forming a household. Many families spent their days on the move, especially during buffalo hunts. Because of this, a married couple usually did not live near other family members.

Education

When the missionaries settled among the Métis in the early 1800s, many people had their first chance for a formal education. Mission schools for both boys and girls emphasized religious instruction and taught them European culture and ideas. For example, young Métis girls learned to bead and embroider in the European style, causing an evolution in Métis clothing and decorative style that still exists. By the mid-1800s the Red River settlement where many Métis lived was a sophisticated and wealthy community. Some parents sent their boys off to be educated in Montreal, Quebec, but an advanced education for girls was not considered important by the Métis or any society of the time.

In the early twenty-first century children attend public schools in the communities that have grown up since the 1950s.

Buildings

The Métis often built homesteads on long strips of land, preferably near a water source. The breadth of their land was measured by sight, with a plot “extending back from the river as far as one might distinguish a horse from a man … this was taken to be about four miles,” explained Fraser Symington in The Canadian Indian. They made simple log structures and stretched buffalo hide taut over them; this covering offered protection from the elements while allowing sunlight to stream through. Descriptions of typical Métis home interiors illustrate the people’s preference for simplicity.

Furnishings often served more than one use. Fewer pieces of furniture made it easier to host large gatherings, an important advantage because Métis homes were the usual setting for fiddling and dancing parties.

Large groups of buffalo hunters established temporary winter encampments so that families could more easily follow the roaming beasts. These people were known as hiverants and lived in houses similar to those described above but simpler. As settlers streamed into their lands in the nineteenth century, some Métis chose to live permanently at their winter homes, and those structures became more sophisticated. By this time Catholicism had become firmly rooted in Métis society, and the people often erected a large structure to house the local church and priest.

Transportation

The supply and demand of pemmican in the Western Canadian fur trade was so crucial that the Métis created a new vehicle to transport large loads more easily. The ox-driven Red River carts enabled the Métis to travel thousands of miles over land and through marsh; they floated on logs across rivers and functioned as sleighs in the winter. Most importantly, they carried tons of pemmican to the trading posts. As a matter of family pride, the Métis lavishly decorated their Red River carts.

Food

Twice a year, once in the spring and again on a smaller scale in the winter, entire Métis communities would set off to hunt buffalo. The great buffalo hunt was a cornerstone of Métis existence.

When the men came back from a successful hunt, Métis women prepared pemmican. They began by skinning and cutting the meat into thin strips, then hung them out to dry. Once the meat dried, the women pounded it, mixed it with berries and fat, and stored it in a huge sack made of buffalo hide. In this way they produced a highly nutritional, nonperishable food that was edible for years.

In modern times many Métis meals include fish and game they have caught themselves, just as they have always done.

Cornstarch Blancmange (Cornstarch Pudding)

The Louis Riel Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has many Métis recipes on its Web site. One recipe is for cooking muskrat. They suggest removing the ribs, the head, and the white gland (sacs) from the muskrat’s back legs, then boiling the muskrat in water until it is cooked. Afterwards it can be browned in lard in a frying pan. Since not everyone has muskrats handy, the pudding recipe that follows is a simpler way to taste authentic Métis food.

  • 3 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix cornstarch, sugar and salt with 1/2 cold milk. Scald remaining milk in a double boiler. Add cornstarch mixture gradually to scalded milk, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened and smooth. Cover and cook 25 mins., stirring occasionally. Cool and add vanilla. Serve hot or cold. If you would like you can use brown sugar to make it taste like caramel or you can use coco[a] to make chocolate pudding.

“Recipes.” Louis Riel Institute. (accessed on August 4, 2007).

Clothing and adornment

The Métis are so famous for their embroidery and beading skills that the Sioux and Cree (see entries) called them the flower beadwork people. They created elaborate decorations for their homes, Red River carts, moccasins, and leggings. Young girls learned European decorative styles in the mission schools, resulting in fashions that combined European tailoring with Native fringe and decoration. The Métis also liked European hats. While women favored a scarf or shawl draped about the head, men wore top hats adorned with ribbons, fur caps made from a variety of pelts, broad-brimmed felt hats, or round, flat hats called tams.

The most distinctive accessory was a sash called l’Assomption, borrowed from the French voyageurs of the sixteenth century. Made of brightly colored wool, this ten-foot (three-meter) length of fabric wrapped around the waist. It served to keep a man’ coat closed, but had many other uses. In addition to working as washcloth, towel, saddle blanket, rope, or tourniquet to bind up wounds, it often held a hunting knife, a money bag, and a fire bag. The fringes on the sash could even be pulled off and used as sewing thread while traveling. Even now some Métis wear this sash to display pride in their heritage.

Healing practices

Métis healing practices used elements of both European and Native traditions. This generally meant the people were healthier than the Native or European peoples in western Canada at the time. Still, they suffered diseases along with the rest of the population. Despite the Hudson’s Bay Company’s vaccination efforts tuberculosis, measles, smallpox, and influenza had a terrible effect on the Métis in the nineteenth century.

Customs

Courtship, love, and marriage

In the early days marriages were arranged by the family, and a person usually wed someone outside the community. Married life could be very lonely for wives, who were often left behind when their mates were off working for long periods. Couples maintained a far-flung social network, though, connected by letter writing, message and gift exchanges, and gossip.

The Métis tended to be a romantic people, believing in passionate love and sometimes engaging in stormy, passionate affairs that led to violence or abandonment of a spouse.

Celebrating the great buffalo hunt

The majority of Métis customs related to the great buffalo hunt, though the people often celebrated in a European rather than Native style. Their social gatherings tended to be casual and spontaneous instead of formal. The Métis were famous for their parties; upon returning from the spring hunt, they hosted a homecoming gala consisting of a feast and dancing. They danced a unique pattern of up to thirty different steps called a Red River jig. This was performed to the accompaniment of a fiddle, another custom adopted from their European ancestors.

Along with eating and dancing, the Métis enjoyed card playing, drinking, and smoking. In fact, tobacco smoking was so popular among the Métis that when they canoed long distances, they would measure the journey by the number of pipes they smoked along the way. In the early twenty-first century the descendants of many of these Métis travelers are trappers in the northern regions of Canada, and they still measure their traplines in “pipes.”

The boatman culture

Métis rivermen, while carrying furs up and down Canadian waterways, developed a culture of their own with singing as its core. They composed work songs, drinking songs, and love songs. When a fleet of boats approached a settlement, the boatmen put on their most festive clothing—including the l’Assomption sash (see “Clothing and adornment”), colorful leggings, and feather-trimmed hats.

Sundays and feast days

Reflecting the influence of the Catholic church on Métis society, the people were strict observers of the Sabbath (the holy day). While they did worship, they also spent most Sundays socializing, gambling, and dancing. The Métis observed French religious holidays, such as St. Jean Baptiste Day on June 24, featuring organized sporting events and a feast. This observance is still held today, although it is primarily a day dedicated to celebrating French-Canadian pride.

Current tribal issues

Because they have roots in two continents and because the exact mix of nationalities or ethnicities that makes up the Métis race has never been agreed upon, the people have always had a difficult time getting recognition as a Native group in Canada. They had some success in 1982, when the Constitution Act divided Canada’s Native peoples into three groups: the Indian, the Inuit, and the Métis, with rights accorded to all three groups. But the government does not treat the Métis as it does other aboriginal (native) peoples. The Métis continue to struggle with issues of group identity. These questions are often asked: Who is a Métis? Would, in fact, anyone with mixed blood qualify as Métis, or do only the descendants of the particular groups of people qualify?

The Métis’ uncertain status has led to problems with the government over land use and development. For example, government-sponsored water projects have resulted in the flooding and destruction of Métis trapping territories. The Métis complain that they are not consulted about such projects, nor are they compensated for their losses. These problems have led to mayhem and arrests.

In 1996 the Labrador Métis staged a peaceful demonstration to protest the government issuing a sports fishing lodge license on the sacred Eagle River; they claimed the river and its salmon would be damaged. Forty-seven Métis were arrested in the demonstration. One Labrador Métis stated: “My family can’t even fish for some food for the table [because of government regulations] while foreigners and rich political types fly in to the Eagle River for their leisurely weekend fly fishing.”

In 2007 the Métis of Alberta were again fighting for their rights. Alberta had been the first province to recognize the Métis and grant them rights. A court case in 2004 led to the passage of the Interim Métis Harvesting Agreement. This legislation, establishing Métis harvesting rights, was agreed on by both the Alberta government and the Métis National Council. A change in Alberta government, however, led to the termination of this policy, reversing years of forward-thinking policies affecting the Métis.

Notable people

Gabriel Dumont (c. 1837–1906) was a Métis buffalo hunter and military leader, the son of a Frenchman and a woman of the Sarcee tribe. He fired his first shot in a battle against the Sioux when he was 12, and by the time he was 25, he had been elected chief of the buffalo hunt, in charge of about three hundred Métis followers. Buffalo hunts were highly organized affairs and required firm, intelligent leadership. Dumont excelled at the task. It was Dumont who traveled to Montana to ask Louis Riel to head the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, and Dumont served as Riel’s second-in-command. He survived the battle, fled to Montana, and later traveled with William “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s Wild West Show, billed as the “Hero of the Halfbreed Rebellion.”

Tantoo Cardinal (1950–) is an actress who has appeared in plays, television programs, and films, including the American movies Dances with Wolves and Legends of the Fall and the Canadian picture Black Robe. She was born in Anzac, Alberta, to a Cree mother and a white father. Her feelings of responsibility to the Native American world, coupled with her realization that through acting she could best reach people, induced Cardinal to become a professional actress. Cardinal was awarded the Eagle Spirit Award in 1990.

Asfar, Dan, and Tim Chodan. Gabriel Dumont: War Leader Of The Métis. Edmonton, Canada: Folklore Publishing, 2004.

Brown, Brian M., “Riel, Dumont, and the 1885 Rebellion.” Account of the Métis side of the 1885 Rebellion. 1997.

Foster, Martha Harroun. We Know Who We Are: Métis Identity in a Montana Community. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006.

Friesen, John W., and Virginia Lyons Friesen. We Are Included!: The Métis People of Canada Realize Riel’s Vision. Calgary, Alberta: Detselig Enterprises, 2004.

Giraud, Marcel, Jacqueline Peterson, and Robert K. Thomas. New Peoples: Being & Becoming Métis in North America. Minneapolis: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2001.

Lischke, Ute, and David T. Mcnab. The Long Journey of a Forgotten People: Métis Identities and Family Histories. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007.

Murphy, Lucy Eldersveld. A Gathering of Rivers: Indians, Métis, and Mining in the Western Great Lakes, 1737-1832. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004.

“Aboriginal Peoples: The Métis.” Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. (accessed on August 4, 2007).

Labrador Métis Nation. (accessed August 4, 2007).

Louis Riel Institute. (accessed on August 4, 2007).

“The Métis: History of the Metis People.“Turtle Island Productions. (accessed on August 4, 2007).

Métis Nation of Ontario. (accessed August 4, 2007).

“Michif Language.“Michif & Métis Cultural Site. (accessed on August 4, 2007).

“Native Languages of the Americas: Michif (Mitchif, Metis Creole, French Cree).“Native Languages of the Americas: Preserving and Promoting Indigenous American Indian Languages. (accessed on August 4, 2007).

Gordon L. Pullar, Director, Department of Alaska Native and Rural Development College of Rural and Community Development, UAF, Anchorage, Alaska

Laurie Edwards

Brian Wescott (Athabaskan/Yup’ik)

Laurie Edwards

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