Michif is the indigenous’s language of the Métis people of Canada. Michif emerged over two hundred years ago as a mixed language, combining Cree and French, with some additional borrowing from English and First Nation languages such as Ojibwa and Assiniboine. In general, Michif nouns (and their associated grammar) are French, while verbs (and their associated grammar) are Cree.
The Michif language is unusual among contact languages, in that rather than choosing to simplify its grammar, it chose the most complex and demanding elements of the chief languages that went into it. This suggests that, instead of haltingly using words from another’s tongue, the people who devised Michif were fully fluent in both French and Cree.
Many professional linguists contest its existence since it does not fit into their model of how a language, or a mixed language, should look. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we study, describe, and preserve this unique language. Want to Learn More?
Once widely spoken, the language is on the verge of extinction, with only about 1,000 Michif speakers left. Today, Michif is currently being researched and preserved by Métis Nations across the Homeland in a bid to rescue an important part of our heritage. In 1998, the Métis National Council received funding through Heritage Canada to begin work on the preservation of the Michif language.
To date, some regions such as Ile a la Crosse, Saskatchewan, and the Manitoba Métis Federation, through the Métis Resource Centre in Winnipeg, have produced Michif Dictionaries.