History & Culture

The Métis evolved in the historic 18th and 19th centuries. They were born of a mixture of French and Scottish fur traders with Cree, Ojibwa, Saulteaux and Assiniboine women, but developed as people distinct from either Indian or European. They developed a distinct language, a unique economy, a diverse lifestyle, and enduring philosophies.

In 1869 the political economy of the Métis was destroyed. The Manitoba Act (1870) and the Dominion Lands Act (1879) recognized Métis claims to Aboriginal title, but the federal government moved to unilaterally extinguish these claims through individual land and grants scrip. The Métis became Canada’s “forgotten people” because they were denied the recognition of their collective rights, even though it is estimated there are between 300,000 and 800,000 Métis people throughout Canada, and the Métis account for more than 20% of the Aboriginal population.

The Métis have never received the benefits governments grant to Status Indians and Inuit. In its final report the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples states “it is unjust and unreasonable to withhold from Métis people the services and opportunities available to other Aboriginal Peoples”. The Métis were finally recognized as one of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples in the Canadian Constitution of 1982.

Art

The study of Métis art is complicated because their art style influenced Indian artisans all over North America. The Métis put their stamp on the art of practically every tribal group of the Northern Plains and the Northwest Territories.

Michif Language

Michif is the indigenous’s language of the Métis people of Canada.

Music

Traditional musical instruments of the Métis include the fiddle, the concertina, the harmonica, the hand drum, the mouth harp, and finger instruments such as bones or spoons.

Dance

The Métis combined the reels and waltzes from their European ancestry (Irish, Scotch, and French) with the dances of the Plains Indians creating dances unique to themselves.