Métis in Canada

The Métis in Canada (/meɪˈtiː/; Canadian French: [meˈt͡sɪs]; European French: [meˈtis]; Michif: [mɪˈtʃɪf]) are specific cultural communities who trace their descent to First Nations and European settlers, primarily the French, in the early decades of colonisation. These Métis peoples are recognized as one of Canada's aboriginal peoples under the Constitution Act of 1982, along with First Nations and Inuit peoples. As of 2016, they number over 587,545 individuals.[3] Canadian Métis represent the majority of people that identify as Métis, although there are a number of Métis in the United States.

While the Métis initially developed as the mixed-race descendants of early unions between First Nations and colonial-era European settlers (usually Indigenous women and French settler men), within generations (particularly in central and western Canada), a distinct Métis culture developed. The women in the unions in eastern Canada were usually Wabanaki, Algonquin, and Menominee; and in western Canada they were Saulteaux, Cree, Ojibwe, Nakoda, and Dakota/Lakota, or of mixed descent from these peoples. Their unions with European men engaged in the fur trade in the Old Northwest were often of the type known as Marriage à la façon du pays ("according to the custom of the country").[4]

After New France was ceded to Great Britain's control in 1763, there was an important distinction between French Métis born of francophone voyageur fathers, and the Anglo-Métis (known as "countryborn" or Mixed Bloods, for instance in the 1870 census of Manitoba) descended from English or Scottish fathers. Today these two cultures have essentially coalesced into location-specific Métis traditions. This does not preclude a range of other Métis cultural expressions across North America.[5][6] Such polyethnic people were historically referred to by other terms, many of which are now considered to be offensive, such as Mixed-bloods, Half-breeds, Bois-Brûlés, Bungi, Black Scots, and Jackatars. The contemporary Métis in Canada are a specific Indigenous people; the term does not apply to every person of "mixed" heritage or ancestry.[7]

While people of Métis culture or heritage are found across Canada, the traditional Métis "homeland" (areas where Métis populations and culture developed as a distinct ethnicity historically) includes much of the Canadian Prairies. The most commonly known group are the "Red River Métis", centring on southern and central parts of Manitoba along the Red River of the North.

Closely related are the Métis in the United States, primarily those in border areas such as northern Michigan, the Red River Valley, and eastern Montana. These were areas in which there was considerable Aboriginal and European mixing due to the 19th-century fur trade. But they do not have a federally recognized status in the United States, except as enrolled members of federally recognized tribes.[8] Although Métis existed further west than today's Manitoba, much less is known about the Métis of Northern Canada.

Metis Blue
Metis Red
Total population
587,545 (2016)
1.7% of the Canadian population[1]
(including persons of partial Métis parentage)
Regions with significant populations
Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic), mixed with traditional beliefs[2]
Related ethnic groups

Self-identity and legal status

In 2016, 587,545 people in Canada self-identified as Métis. They represented 35.1% of the total Aboriginal population and 1.5% of the total Canadian population.[9] Most Métis people today are descendants of unions between generations of Métis individuals and live in Canadian society with people of other ethnicities. The exception are the Métis in rural and northern parts, who still live in close proximity to First Nations communities.

Over the past century, countless Métis have assimilated into the general European Canadian populations. Métis heritage (and thereby Aboriginal ancestry) is more common than is generally realized.[10] Geneticists estimate that 50 percent of today's population in Western Canada has some Aboriginal ancestry.[11] Most people with more distant ancestry are not part of the Métis ethnicity or culture.[11]

Unlike among First Nations peoples, there is no distinction between Treaty status and non-Treaty status. The Métis did not sign treaties with Canada, with the exception of an adhesion to Treaty 3 in Northwest Ontario. This adherence was never implemented by the federal government. The legal definition is not yet fully developed. Section Thirty-five of the Constitution Act, 1982 recognizes the rights of Indian, Métis and Inuit people; however, it does not define these groups.[4] In 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada defined a Métis as someone who self-identifies as Métis, has an ancestral connection to the historic Métis community, and is accepted by the modern community with continuity to the historic Métis community.[12]

Historical view of identity

The most well-known and historically documented mixed-ancestry population in Canadian history are the groups who developed during the fur trade in south-eastern Rupert's Land, primarily in the Red River Settlement (now Manitoba) and the Southbranch Settlements (Saskatchewan). In the late nineteenth century, they organized politically (led by men who had European educations) and had confrontations with the Canadian government in an effort to assert their independence.

This was not the only place where métissage (mixing) between European and Indigenous people occurred. It was part of the history of colonization from the earliest days of settlements on the Atlantic Coast throughout the Americas.[13]:2, 5 But the strong sense of ethnic national identity among the mostly French- and Michif-speaking Métis along the Red River, demonstrated during the Riel Rebellions, resulted in wider use of the term "Métis" as the main word used by Canadians for all mixed Euro-Native groups.

Continued organizing and political activity resulted in "the Métis" gaining official recognition from the national government as one of the recognized Aboriginal groups in S.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which states:[14]

35. (1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal People of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

(2) In this Act, "Aboriginal Peoples of Canada" includes the Indian, Inuit, and Métis Peoples of Canada.
— Constitution Act, 1982

Section-35(2) does not define criteria for an individual who is Métis. This has left open the question of whether "Métis" in this context should apply only to the descendants of the Red River Métis or to all mixed-ancestry groups and individuals. Many members of First Nations may have mixed ancestry, but identify primarily by the tribal nation, rather than as Métis. Since passage of the 1982 act, many groups in Canada who are not related to the Red River Métis have adopted the word "Métis" as a descriptor.[13]:7

Lack of a legal definition

It is not clear who has the moral and legal authority to define the word "Métis". There is no comprehensive legal definition of Métis status in Canada; this is in contrast to the Indian Act, which creates an Indian Register for all (Status) First Nations people. Some commentators have argued that one of the rights of an Indigenous people is to define its own identity, precluding the need for a government-sanctioned definition.[13]:9–10 The question is open as to who should receive Aboriginal rights flowing from Métis identity. No federal legislation defines the Métis.

Alberta is the only province to have defined the term in law under the Métis Settlements Act (MSA), which defines a Métis as "a person of Aboriginal ancestry who identifies with Métis history and culture". This was done in the context of creating a test for legal eligibility for membership in one of Alberta's eight Métis settlements. The MSA, together with requirements at the community level (Elder & community acceptance) create the legal requirements for residency on the Métis Settlements. In Alberta law, belonging to a "Métis Association" (Métis National Council or any of its affiliates, Métis Federation of Canada, Congress of Aboriginal People) does not grant one rights granted to members of the Alberta Métis Settlements. The MSA test excludes those people who are Status Indians (that is, a member of a First Nation), an exclusion which was upheld by the Supreme Court in Alberta v. Cunningham (2011).[13]:10–11

The number of people self-identifying as Métis has risen sharply since the late 20th century: between 1996 and 2006, the population of Canadians who self-identify as Métis nearly doubled, to approximately 390,000.[13]:2 Until R v. Powley (2003), there was no legal definition of Métis other than the legal requirements found in the Métis Settlements Act of 1990.

The Powley case involved a claim by Steven Powley and his son Rodney, two members of the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Métis community who were asserting Métis hunting rights. The Supreme Court of Canada outlined three broad factors to identify Métis who have Hunting Rights as Aboriginal peoples:[15]

  • self-identification as a Métis individual;
  • ancestral connection to an historic Métis community; and
  • acceptance by a Métis community.

All three factors must be present for an individual to qualify under the SCC legal definition of Métis. In addition, the court stated that

[t]he term Métis in s. 35 does not encompass all individuals with mixed Indian and European heritage; rather, it refers to distinctive peoples who, in addition to their mixed ancestry, developed their own customs, ways of life, and recognizable group identity separate from their Indian or Inuit and European forebears.[13]:9 The court was explicit that its ten-point test is not a comprehensive definition of Métis.

Questions remain as to whether Métis have treaty rights; this is an explosive issue in the Canadian Aboriginal community today. It has been stated that "only First Nations could legitimately sign treaties with the government so, by definition, Métis have no Treaty rights."[16] One treaty names Métis in the title: the Halfbreed (Métis in the French version) Adhesion to Treaty 3. Another, the Robinson Superior Treaty of 1850, listed 84 persons classified as "half-breeds" in the Treaty, so included them and their descendants.[17] Hundreds, if not thousands, of Métis were initially included in a number of other treaties, and then excluded under later amendments to the Indian Act.[16]

Definitions used by Métis representative organizations

Two main advocacy groups claim to speak for the Métis in Canada: the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) and the Métis National Council.(MNC). Each uses different approaches to define Métis individuals. The CAP, which has nine regional affiliates, represents all Aboriginal people who are not part of the reserve system, including Métis and non-Status Indians. It does not define Métis and uses a broad conception based on self-identification.

The Métis National Council broke away from the Native Council of Canada, CAP's predecessor, in 1983. Its political leadership of the time stated that the NCC's "pan-Aboriginal approach to issues did not allow the Métis Nation to effectively represent itself".[13]:11 The MNC views the Métis as a single nation with a common history and culture centred on the fur trade of "west-central North America" in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This position has been subject to much debate and controversy.[18][19] In 2003 MNC had five provincial affiliates:

  • Métis Nation of Ontario Secretariat,
  • Manitoba Métis Federation Incorporated,
  • Métis Nation of Saskatchewan Association,
  • Métis Nation of Alberta Association, and the
  • Métis Nation of British Columbia.

The Metis Nation of Alberta Association adopted the following "Definition of Métis":

Métis means a person who self-identifies as a Métis, is distinct from other aboriginal peoples, is of historic Métis Nation ancestry, and is accepted by the Métis Nation.[20]

Several local, independent Métis organizations have been founded in Canada. In Northern Canada neither the CAP nor the MNC have affiliates; here local Métis organizations deal directly with the federal government and are part of the Aboriginal land claims process. Three of the comprehensive settlements (modern treaties) in force in the Northwest Territories include benefits for Métis people who can prove local Aboriginal ancestry prior to 1921 (Treaty 11).[13]:13

The federal government recognizes the Métis National Council as the representative Métis group.[21] In December 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau made a commitment to the leaders of the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the Métis National Council to have annual meetings. He also committed to two other initiatives aimed at heeding the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which examined abuses at Indian Residential Schools.,[21]

Indigenous Affairs Canada, the relevant federal ministry, deals with the MNC. On April 13, 2017 the two parties signed the Canada-Métis Nation Accord, with the goal of working with the Métis Nation, as represented by the Métis National Council, on a Nation to Nation basis.[22]

In response to the Powley ruling, Métis organizations are issuing Métis Nation citizenship cards to their members. Several organizations are registered with the Canadian government to provide Métis cards.[23] The criteria to receive a card and the rights associated with the card vary with each organization. For example, for membership in the Métis Nation of Alberta Association (MNAA), an applicant must provide a documented genealogy and family tree dating to the mid 1800s, proving descent from one or more members of historic Métis groups.[24] The Canadian Métis Council will accept persons of mixed blood (European/Aboriginal blood (Indian ancestry)) that is distinct from Indian and Inuit, and who have genealogical ties to Aboriginal ancestry.[25]

The Métis Nation of Ontario requires that successful applicants for what it calls "citizenship", must "see themselves and identify themselves as distinctly Métis. This requires that individuals make a positive choice to be culturally and identifiable Métis".[26] They note that "an individual is not Métis simply because he or she has some Aboriginal ancestry, but does not have Indian or Inuit status".[26] It also requires proof of Métis ancestry: "This requires a genealogical connection to a 'Métis ancestor' – not an Indian or aboriginal ancestor".[26]

Cultural definitions

Cultural definitions of Métis identity inform legal and political ones.

The 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples stated:

Many Canadians have mixed Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal ancestry, but that does not make them Métis or even Aboriginal ... What distinguishes Métis people from everyone else is that they associate themselves with a culture that is distinctly Métis.[13]:12

Traditional markers of Métis culture include use of creole Aboriginal-European languages, such as Michif (French-Cree-Dene) and Bungi (Cree-Ojibwa-English); distinctive clothing, such as the arrow sash (ceinture flêchée); and a rich repertoire of fiddle music, jigs and square dances, and practising a traditional economy based on hunting, trapping, and gathering. But, there is increasing recognition that not all Métis hunted, or wore the sash, or spoke a creole language.[13]:14–15


Mixed blood Fur trader 1870
Métis fur trader, c. 1870
The Trapper's Bride
The Trapper's Bride
by Alfred Jacob Miller, 1837


During the height of the North American fur trade in New France from 1650 onward, many French and British fur traders married First Nations and Inuit women, mainly Cree, Ojibwa, or Saulteaux located in the Great Lakes area and later into the north west. The majority of these fur traders were French and Scottish; the French majority were Catholic.[11] These marriages are commonly referred to as marriage à la façon du pays or marriage according to the "custom of the country."[27] Their children often grew up primarily in their mothers' cultures, but were often also introduced to Catholicism. In many cases, as the fur traders lived with the native women at the location of their tribes, the children grew up in primarily First Nations societies.

But, as more Métis lived in communities with a fur-trapping tradition, they created a new, distinct Aboriginal people in North America. First Nations women were the link between cultures; they provided companionship for the fur traders, introductions to their people and culture, and also aided in their survival. First Nations women were able to translate the native languages, sewed new clothing for their husbands and children, and generally were involved in resolving any cultural issues that arose. The First Peoples had survived in the west for thousands of years, so the fur traders benefited greatly from their First Nations wives' knowledge of the land and its resources. Métis people were thought of as the familial bond between the Europeans and First Nations and Inuit peoples of North America. As adults, the men often worked as fur-trade company interpreters, as well as fur trappers in their turn.[11] Many of the first generations of Métis lived within the First Nations societies of their wives and children, but also started to marry Métis women.

According to historian Jacob A. Schooley, the Métis developed over at least two generations and within different economic classes. In the first stage, "servant" (employee) traders of the fur trade companies, known as wintering partners, would stay for the season with First Nations bands, and make a "country marriage" with a high-status native woman. This woman and her children would move to live in the vicinity of a trading fort or post, becoming "House Indians" (as they were called by the company men). House Indians eventually formed distinct bands. Children raised within these "House Indian" bands often became employees of the companies. (Foster cites the legendary York boat captain Paulet Paul as an example). Eventually this second-generation group ended employment with the company and became commonly known as "freemen" traders and trappers. They lived with their families raising children in a distinct culture, accustomed to the fur-trade life, that valued free trading and the buffalo hunt in particular. He considered that the third generation, who were sometimes Métis on both sides, were the first true Métis. He suggests that in the Red River region, many "House Indians" (and some non-"House" First Nations) were assimilated into Métis culture due to the Catholic church's strong presence in that region. In the Fort Edmonton region however, many House Indians never adopted a Métis identity but continued to identify primarily as Cree, Saulteaux, Ojibwa, and Chipweyan descendants up until the early 20th century.[28][29]

The Métis played a vital role in the success of the western fur trade. They were skilled hunters and trappers, and were raised to appreciate both Aboriginal and European cultures.[30] Métis understanding of both societies and customs helped bridge cultural gaps, resulting in better trading relationships.[30] The Hudson's Bay Company discouraged unions between their fur traders and First Nations and Inuit women, while the North West Company (the English-speaking Quebec-based fur trading company) supported such marriages. Trappers typically took First Nations women as wives, too, and operated outside company structures.[31] The Métis peoples were respected as valuable employees of both fur trade companies, due to their skills as voyageurs, buffalo hunters, and interpreters, and their knowledge of the lands.

19th century

Wpdms ruperts land
Rupert's Land, showing location of York Factory

By the early 1800s European immigrants, mainly Scottish farmers, along with Métis families from the Great Lakes region moved to the Red River Valley in present-day Manitoba.[32][33] The Hudson's Bay Company, which now administered a monopoly over the territory then called Rupert's Land, assigned plots of land to European settlers.[34] 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.[11] The buffalo were declining in number, and the Métis and First Nations had to go farther and further west to hunt them.[35] Profits from the fur trade were declining because of a reduction in European demand due to changing tastes, as well as the need for the Hudson's Bay Company to extend its reach farther from its main posts to get furs.

Most references to the Métis in the 19th century applied to the Plains Métis, but more particularly the Red River Métis.[28] But, the Plains Métis tended to identify by occupational categories: buffalo hunters, pemmican and fur traders, and "tripmen" in the York boat fur brigades among the men;[28] the moccasin sewers and cooks were among the women. The largest community in the Assiniboine-Red River district had a different lifestyle and culture from those Métis located in the Saskatchewan, Alberta, Athabasca, and Peace river valleys to the west.[28]

Métis and Red River carts
Métis drivers with Red River carts, c. 1860

In 1869, two years after Canadian Confederacy, the Government of Canada exerted its power over the people living in Rupert's Land after it acquired the land in the mid-19th century from the Hudson's Bay Company.[36] The Métis and the Anglo-Métis (commonly known as Countryborn, children of First Nations women and Orcadian, other Scottish or English men),[37] joined forces to stand up for their rights. They wanted to protect their traditional ways of life against an aggressive and distant Anglo-Canadian government and its local colonizing agents.[34] An 1870 census of Manitoba classified the population as follows: 11,963 total people. Of this number 558 were defined as Indians (First Nations). There were 5,757 Métis and 4,083 English-speaking Mixed Bloods. The remaining 1,565 people were of predominately European, Canadian or American background.[38]

During this time the Canadian government signed treaties (known as the "Numbered Treaties") with various First Nations. These Nations ceded property rights to almost the entire western plains to the Government of Canada. In return for their ceding traditional lands, the Canadian government promised food, education, medical help, etc.[39] While the Métis generally did not sign any treaty as a group, they were sometimes included, even listed as "half-breeds" in some records.

In the late 19th century, following the British North America Act (1867), Louis Riel, a Métis who was formally educated, became a leader of the Métis in the Red River area. He denounced the Canadian government surveys on Métis lands [40] in a speech delivered in late August 1869 from the steps of Saint Boniface Cathedral.[11] 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 of lands to take effect in December.[11] On November 2, 1869 Louis Riel and 120 men seized Upper Fort Garry, the administrative headquarters of the Hudson's Bay Company. This was the first overt act of Métis resistance.[40] On March 4, 1870 the Provisional Government, led by Louis Riel, executed Thomas Scott after Scott was convicted of insubordination and treason.[41] The elected Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia [42] subsequently sent three delegates to Ottawa to negotiate with the Canadian government. This resulted in the Manitoba Act and that province's entry into the Canadian Confederation. Due to the execution of Scott, Riel was charged with murder and fled to the United States in exile.[34]

Warrant To Apprehend
Copy of the "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.[43] They organized and formed the Provisional Government of Saskatchewan, with Pierre Parenteau as President and Gabriel Dumont as adjutant-general. Riel took charge of a few hundred armed men. They suffered defeat by Canadian armed forces in a conflict known as the North West Rebellion, which occurred in northern Saskatchewan from March 26 to May 12, 1885.[34] Gabriel Dumont fled to the United States, while Riel, Poundmaker, and Big Bear surrendered. Big Bear and Poundmaker each were convicted and received a three-year sentence. On July 6, 1885, Riel was convicted of high treason and was sentenced to hang. Riel appealed but he was executed on November 16, 1885.[34]

Land ownership

Issues of land ownership became a central theme, as the Métis sold most of the 600,000 acres they received in the first settlement.[44][45]

During the 1930s, political activism arose in Métis communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan over land rights, and some filed land claims for the return of certain lands.[46] Five men, sometimes dubbed "The Famous Five", (James P. Brady, Malcolm Norris, Peter Tomkins Jr., Joe Dion, Felix Callihoo) were instrumental in having the Alberta government form the 1934 "Ewing Commission", headed by Albert Ewing, to deal with land claims.[47] The Alberta government passed the Métis Population Betterment Act in 1938.[47] The act provided funding and land to the Métis. (The provincial government later rescinded portions of the land in certain areas.)[47]

The Métis settlements of Alberta – a distinct Métis identity

Federation of Metis Settlements (Metisland) Flag

The Métis settlements in Alberta are the only recognized land base of Métis in Canada. They are represented and governed collectively by a unique Métis government known as the Métis Settlements General Council (MSGC),[48] also known as the "All-Council". The MSGC is the provincial, national, and international representative of the Federated Métis Settlements. It holds fee simple land title via Letters Patents to 1.25 million acres of land, making the MSGC the largest land holder in the province, other than the Crown in the Right of Alberta. The MSGC is the only recognized Métis Governerment in Canada with prescribed land, power, and jurisdiction via the Métis Settlements Act. (This legislation followed legal suits filed by the Métis Settlements against the Crown in the 1970’s).

The Métis Settlements consist of predominantly Indigenous Métis populations native to Northern Alberta – unique from those of the Red River, the Great Lakes, and other migrant Métis from further east. However, following the Riel and Dumont resistances some Red-River Métis fled westward, where they married into the contemporary Métis settlement populations during the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century. Historically referred to as the "Nomadic Half-breeds", the Métis of Northern Alberta have a unique history. Their fight for land is still evident today with the eight contemporary Métis settlements.

Following the formal establishment of the Métis settlements, then called Half-Breed Colonies, in the 1930s by a distinct Métis political organization, the Métis populations in Northern Alberta were the only Métis to secure communal Métis lands. During renewed Indigenous activism during the 1960s into the 1970s, political organizations were formed or revived among the Métis. In Alberta, the Métis settlements united as: The "Alberta Federation of Métis Settlement Associations" in the mid-1970s. Today, the Federation is represented by the Métis Settlements General Council.[49]

During the constitutional talks of 1982, the Métis were recognized as one of the three Aboriginal peoples of Canada, in part by the Federation of Métis Settlements. In 1990, the Alberta government, following years of conferences and negotiations between the Federation of Métis Settlements (FMS) and the Crown in the Right of Alberta, restored land titles to the northern Métis communities through the "Métis Settlement Act", replacing the Métis Betterment Act.[47] Originally the first Métis settlements in Alberta were called colonies and consisted of:

  • Buffalo Lake (Caslan) or Beaver River
  • Cold Lake
  • East Prairie (south of Lesser Slave Lake)
  • Elizabeth (east of Elk Point)
  • Fishing Lake (Packechawanis)
  • Gift Lake (Ma-cha-cho-wi-se) or Utikuma Lake
  • Goodfish Lake
  • Kikino
  • Kings Land
  • Marlboro
  • Paddle Prairie (or Keg River)
  • Peavine (Big Prairie, north of High Prairie)
  • Touchwood
  • Wolf Lake (north of Bonnyville)

In the 1960s, the settlements of Marlboro, Touchwood, Cold Lake, and Wolf Lake were dissolved by Order-in-Council by the Alberta Government. The remaining Métis Settlers were forced to move into one of the eight remaining Métis Settlements – leaving the eight contemporary Métis Settlements.

The position of Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians was created in 1985 as a portfolio in the Canadian Cabinet.[50] The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is officially responsible only for Status Indians and largely with those living on Indian reserves. The new position was created in order provide a liaison between the federal government and Métis and non-status Aboriginal peoples, urban Aboriginals, and their representatives.[50]


The Provisional Government of Saskatchewan was the name given by Louis Riel to the independent state he declared during the North-West Rebellion (Resistance) of 1885 in what is today the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. The governing council was named the Exovedate, Latin for "of the flock".[51] The council debated issues ranging from military policy to local bylaws and theological issues. It met at Batoche, Saskatchewan, and exercised real authority only over the Southbranch Settlement. The provisional government collapsed that year after the Battle of Batoche.

Councillors of the Métis Provisional Government, 1870. Louis Riel sits in the centre.

The Métis National Council was formed in 1983, following the recognition of the Métis as an Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, in Section Thirty-five of the Constitution Act, 1982. The MNC was a member of the World Council of Indigenous (WCIP). In 1997 the Métis National Council was granted NGO Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The MNC's first ambassador to this group was Clement Chartier. MNC is a founding member of the American Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP).[52]

The Métis National Council is composed of five provincial Métis organizations,[53] namely,

The Métis people hold province-wide ballot box elections for political positions in these associations, held at regular intervals, for regional and provincial leadership. Métis citizens and their communities are represented and participate in these Métis governance structures by way of elected Locals or Community Councils, as well as provincial assemblies held annually.[54]

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) and its nine regional affiliates represent all Aboriginal people who are not part of the reserve system, including Métis and non-Status Indians.

Due to political differences to the MNBC, a separate Métis organization in British Columbia was formed in June 2011; it is called the British Columbia Métis Federation (BCMF).[55] They have no affiliation with the Métis National Council and have not been officially recognized by the government.

The Canadian Métis Council–Intertribal is based in New Brunswick and is not affiliated with the Métis National Council.[56]

The Ontario Métis Aboriginal Association–Woodland Métis is based in Ontario and is not affiliated with the Métis National Council. Its representatives think the MNC is too focused on the Métis of the prairies.[57] The Woodland Métis are also not affiliated with the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) and MNO President Tony Belcourt said in 2005 that he did not know who OMAA members are, but that they are not Métis.[58] In a Supreme Court of Canada appeal (Document C28533, page 17), the federal government states that "membership in OMAA and/or MNO does not establish membership in the specific local aboriginal community for the purposes of establishing a s. 35 [Indigenous and treaty] right. Neither OMAA nor the MNO constitute the sort of discrete, historic and site-specific community contemplated by Van der Peet capable of holding a constitutionally protected aboriginal right".[59]

The Nation Métis Québec is not affiliated with the Métis National Council.[60]

None of these claim to represent all Métis. Other Métis registry groups also focus on recognition and protection of their culture and heritage. They reflect their communities' particular extensive kinship ties and culture that resulted from settlement in historic villages along the fur trade.



A majority of the Métis once spoke, and many still speak, either Métis French or an Indigenous language such as Mi'kmaq, Cree, Anishinaabemowin, Denésoliné, etc. A few in some regions spoke a mixed language called Michif which is composed of Plains Cree verbs and French nouns. Michif, Mechif or Métchif is a phonetic spelling of the Métis pronunciation of Métif, a variant of Métis.[61] The Métis today predominantly speak Canadian English, with Canadian French a strong second language, as well as numerous Aboriginal tongues.[62] Métis French is best preserved in Canada.

Michif is most used in the United States, notably in the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation of North Dakota. There Michif is the official language of the Métis who reside on this Chippewa (Ojibwe) reservation.[63] After years of decline in use of these languages, the provincial Métis councils are encouraging their revival, teaching in schools and use in communities. The encouragement and use of Métis French and Michif is growing due to outreach after at least a generation of decline.[64]

The 19th-century community of Anglo-Métis, more commonly known as Countryborn, were children of people in the Rupert's Land fur trade; they were typically of Orcadian, other Scottish, or English paternal descent and Aboriginal maternal descent.[64] Their first languages would have been Aboriginal (Cree language, Saulteaux language, Assiniboine language, etc.) and English. The Gaelic and Scots spoken by Orcadians and other Scots became part of the creole language referred to as "Bungee".[65]


The Métis flag is one of the oldest patriotic flags originating in Canada.[66] The Métis have two flags. Both flags use the same design of a central infinity symbol, but are different colours. The red flag was the first flag used. It is currently the oldest flag made in Canada that is still in use. The first red flag was given to Cuthbert Grant in 1815 by the North-West Company. The red flag was also used at the Battle of Seven Oaks, "La Grenouillère" in 1816. Contrary to popular beliefs the red and blue are not cultural or linguistique identifiers and do not represent the companies.[66]

Distinction of lowercase m versus uppercase M

The term Métis was originally used simply to refer to mixed-race children of the union of Frenchmen (Europeans) and Native women. The first records of "Métis" were made by 1600 on the East Coast of Canada (Acadia), where French exploration and settlement started.

As French Canadians followed the fur trade to the west, they made more unions with different First Nations women, including the Cree. Descendants of English or Scottish and natives were historically called "half-breeds" or "country born". They sometimes adopted a more agrarian culture of subsistence farming and tended to be reared in Protestant denominations.[67] The term eventually evolved to refer to all 'half-breeds' or persons of mixed First Nations-European ancestry, whether descended from the historic Red River Métis or not.

Lowercase 'm' métis refers to those who are of mixed native and other ancestry, recognizing the many people of varied racial ancestry. Capital 'M' Métis refers to a particular sociocultural heritage and an ethnic self-identification that is based on more than racial classification.[68] Some argue that people who identify as métis should not be included in the definition of 'Métis'. Others view this distinction as recent, artificial, and offensive, criticized for creating from what are newly imagined and neatly defined ethnological boundaries, justification to exclude "other Métis".

Some Métis have proposed that only the descendants of the Red River Métis should be constitutionally recognized, as they had developed the most distinct culture as a people in historic times.[69] Such a limitation would result in excluding some of the Maritime, Quebec, and Ontario Métis, classifying them simply by the lowercase m métis status. In a recent decision (Daniels v Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development) 2016 SCC 12), the Supreme Court of Canada has rejected such homogenizing and essentializing definition of Métis identity based on a narrow nationalistic interpretation of Métis identity, recognizing the diversity of Métis communities across Canada, including the existence of Métis communities in Nova Scotia at para 17:[70]

[17] There is no consensus on who is considered Métis or a non-status Indian, nor need there be. Cultural and ethnic labels do not lend themselves to neat boundaries. ‘Métis’ can refer to the historic Métis community in Manitoba’s Red River Settlement or it can be used as a general term for anyone with mixed European and Aboriginal heritage. Some mixed-ancestry communities identify as Métis, others as Indian:

There is no one exclusive Métis People in Canada, anymore than there is no one exclusive Indian people in Canada. The Métis of eastern Canada and northern Canada are as distinct from Red River Métis as any two peoples can be ... As early as 1650, a distinct Métis community developed in LeHeve [sic], Nova Scotia, separate from Acadians and Micmac Indians. All Métis are aboriginal people. All have Indian ancestry.:12


According to the 2016 Canada Census, a total of 587,545 individuals identified as Métis.[3]

See also

Western Métis



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  • Barkwell, Lawrence J., Leah Dorion and Darren Préfontaine. Métis Legacy: A Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications Inc. and Saskatoon: Gabriel Dumont Institute, 2001. ISBN 1-894717-03-1.
  • Barkwell, Lawrence J., Leah Dorion, and Audreen Hourie. Métis legacy Michif culture, heritage, and folkways. Métis legacy series, v. 2. Saskatoon: Gabriel Dumont Institute, 2006. ISBN 0-920915-80-9.
  • Barkwell, Lawrence J. Women of the Métis Nation. Winnipeg: Louis Riel Institute, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9809912-5-3.
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  • Dumont, Gabriel. GABRIEL DUMONT SPEAKS. Talonbooks, 2009. ISBN 978-0-88922-625-8.

Further reading

External links


A 19th century community of the Métis people of Canada, the Anglo-Métis, more commonly known as Countryborn, were children of fur traders; they typically had Scots (Orcadian, mainland Scottish), or English fathers and Aboriginal mothers. Their first languages were generally those of their mothers: Cree, Saulteaux, Assiniboine, etc. and English. Some of their fathers spoke Gaelic or Scots, leading to the development of the creole language known as "Bungee".

Bungi Creole

Bungi (also Bungee, Bungie, Bungay, or the Red River Dialect) is a creole language of Scottish English, the Orcadian dialect of Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Cree, and Ojibwe. It is spoken by the Red River Métis in present-day Manitoba, Canada.

Bungi has been categorized as a post-creole, with the distinctive features of the language gradually abandoned by successive generations of speakers in favour of standard Canadian English. Today, the creole mostly survives in the speech of a few elders, and the use of non-standard pronunciations and terminology by a wider population.

Daniels v Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Daniels v Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development) 2016 SCC 12 is a case of the Supreme Court of Canada, ruling that Métis and non-status Indians are "Indians" for the purpose of s 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

The position of Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians was created in 1985 as a portfolio in the Canadian Cabinet. As of September 4, 2012, the part of the Office of the Federal Interlocutor (OFI) that deals with Métis and Non-Status Indians has joined the department's Policy and Strategic Direction branch in order to streamline program management and business processes to deliver efficient, effective and accountable programs.

As the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs is officially responsible only for Status Indians and largely with those living on Indian reserves, the position was originally created in order to provide a liaison between the federal government and Métis and non-status Aboriginal peoples, urban Aboriginal people and their representatives. The Minister and the Division of the Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians provided facilitation between these groups and a variety of government departments, not just the Department of Indigenous Affairs.Past federal interlocutors include:

Bernard Valcourt (2013-2015)

John Duncan (2010-2013)

Chuck Strahl (2006-2010)

Andy Scott (2004-2006)

Denis Coderre (2003-2004)

Ralph Goodale (1997-2003)

Anne McLellan (1994-1997)

Jim Edwards (1993)

Green Lake, Saskatchewan

Green Lake is a northern village in Saskatchewan, Canada. Its residents are predominantly Métis people. Green Lake is located northeast of Meadow Lake, and northwest of Big River. It lies in the southern boreal forest, and takes its name from nearby Green Lake. Fishing, tourism, and farming, are the major industries.

Kelly Lake, British Columbia

This article is for the community in the Peace River District of British Columbia. For the lake near Clinton, British Columbia, see Downing Provincial Park.Kelly Lake is community in the Peace River Country of northeastern British Columbia, Canada, located just west of the border with the province of Alberta.

Manitoba House

Manitoba House is the name of a Hudson's Bay Company fur trading post as well as a separate settlement adjacent to the post. The site is in the present-day Rural Municipality of Alonsa.


The Métis () are members of ethnic groups native to Canada and parts of the United States that trace their descent to both indigenous North Americans and European settlers. Originally the term applied to French-speaking mixed-race families, especially in the Red River area of what became Manitoba, Canada; in the late 19th century in Canada, those of mixed English descent were classified separately as Mixed Bloods.Since the late 20th century, the Métis in Canada have been recognized as a distinct aboriginal people under the Constitution Act of 1982; they number 451,795 as of 2011. Smaller communities self-identifying as Métis exist in the U.S.

Métis French

Métis French (French: français métis), along with Michif and Bungi, is one of the traditional languages of the Métis people, and the French-dialect source of Michif.

Métis flag

The Métis flag was first used by Métis resistance fighters in Canada before the 1816 Battle of Seven Oaks, having been received as a gift from Alexander MacDonell of Greenfield of the North West Company in 1814, and has been used to represent the political and military force of the Métis from as early as 1816.The flag shows a white infinity symbol on a field of either blue or red. The infinity symbol has two meanings: it represents the faith that the Métis culture shall live on forever, and the mixing of the European immigrants (primarily French) and the First Nations peoples. As such, it can also be perceived as two conjoined circles, standing for the unity of two cultures.The flag can still be viewed in traditional Métis territories in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and extended into Northern Ontario. The blue background flag has been accepted by the Métis National Council as the official flag of the Métis Nation. The red flag now stands as the provincial ensign for the Métis Nation of Alberta.

National Committee of the Métis

The National Committee of the Métis was brought together and made a committee on October 16, 1869. John Bruce was elected as president and Louis Riel as secretary. The committee was formed with the support of Father Ritchot. Ritchot hoped to minimize the independent actions of the federal authorities involving the management of the territory of the Red River Colony. The committee ordered that Governor William McDougall was not allowed entry.


NunatuKavut is an unrecognized Inuit territory in Labrador. The NunatuKavut people (also called Inuit-Metis or Labrador Metis) are the direct descendants of the Inuit that lived south of the Churchill or Grand River prior to European contact, with European influence from Basque and French whalers.Nunatuĸavut or NunatuKavut [ˈnuːnətuːhəvuːt] means "Our ancient land" in the ancestral Inuttut dialect of the NunatuKavummuit people. The Nunatuĸavut region encompasses Southern Labrador, from the Grand River south to Lodge Bay and west to the extent of the official border between Quebec and Labrador. However, the land use area is much more extensive.

NunatuKavut people

The NunatuKavummiut (also called the people of NunatuKavut, Labrador Metis or Inuit-metis) are an Aboriginal people of Canada. They live in central to southern Labrador, and are of mixed Inuit and European heritage. They are unrelated to the Red River Metis of Western Canada, but may still be considered "Metis" in the widest sense of that word, being of mixed heritage.

Nunatuĸavut or NunatuKavut means "Our ancient land" in the ancestral Inuttut dialect of the NunatuKavummuit. The Inuit region encompasses Southern Labrador, from the Grand River (Newfoundland name: Churchill River), South to Lodge Bay and West to the extent of the official border between Quebec and Labrador. However, the land use area is much more extensive.

R v Powley

R. v. Powley 2003 SCC 43, commonly called the Powley ruling, is a Supreme Court of Canada case defining Métis Aboriginal rights under section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Red River Rebellion

The Red River Rebellion (or the Red River Resistance, Red River uprising, or First Riel Rebellion) was the sequence of events that led up to the 1869 establishment of a provisional government by the Métis leader Louis Riel and his followers at the Red River Colony, in what is now the Canadian province of Manitoba. For a period it had been a territory called Rupert's Land under control of the Hudson's Bay Company.

The Resistance was the first crisis the new federal government faced following Canadian Confederation in 1867. The Canadian government had bought Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1869 and appointed an English-speaking governor, William McDougall. He was opposed by the French-speaking, mostly Métis inhabitants of the settlement. Before the land was officially transferred to Canada, McDougall sent out surveyors to plot the land according to the square township system used in Ontario. The Métis, led by Riel, prevented McDougall from entering the territory. McDougall declared that the Hudson's Bay Company was no longer in control of the territory and that Canada had asked for the transfer of sovereignty to be postponed. The Métis created a provisional government, to which they invited an equal number of Anglophone representatives. Riel negotiated directly with the Canadian government to establish Manitoba as a province.

Meanwhile, Riel's men arrested members of a pro-Canadian faction who had resisted the provisional government. They included an Orangeman named Thomas Scott. Riel's government tried and convicted Scott, and executed him for threatening to murder Louis Riel. Canada and the Assiniboia provisional government soon negotiated an agreement. In 1870, the national legislature passed the Manitoba Act, allowing the Red River Colony to enter Confederation as the province of Manitoba. The Act also incorporated some of Riel's demands, such as the provision of separate French schools for Métis children and protection for the practice of Catholicism.

After reaching an agreement, Canada sent a military expedition to Manitoba to enforce federal authority. Now known as the Wolseley Expedition (or Red River Expedition), it consisted of Canadian militia and British regular soldiers led by Colonel Garnet Wolseley. Outrage grew in Ontario over Scott's execution, and many eastern folks demanded that Wolseley's expedition arrest Riel for murder and suppress what they considered to be rebellion. Riel peacefully withdrew from Fort Garry the day the troops arrived. Warned by many that the soldiers would harm him, and denied amnesty for his political leadership of the rebellion, Riel fled to the United States. The arrival of troops marked the end of the Rebellion.

Red River cart

The Red River cart is a large two-wheeled cart made entirely of non-metallic materials. Often drawn by oxen, though also by horses or mules, these carts were used throughout most of the 19th century in the fur trade and in westward expansion in Canada and the United States, in the area of the Red River and on the plains west of the Red River Colony. The cart is a simple conveyance developed by Métis for use in their settlement on the Red River in what later became Manitoba. With carts, the Metis were not restricted to river travel to hunt bison. The Red River cart was largely responsible for commercializing the buffalo hunt.

Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement

The Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement, signed in September 1993 by Pauline Browes, then Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Chiefs of the Sahtu First Nations, and the Presidents of the Métis Councils marking the resolution of the Sahtu Dene and Metis claims to the Sahtu area in Canada's Northwest Territories. The land claims agreement came into effect on June 23, 1994. This agreement is a treaty which is protected by Section 35 of the Constitution of Canada.

The agreement includes recognizing Sahtu Dene and Metis ownership of 41,437 km² of land in the Mackenzie River Valley. This includes subsurface or mineral rights to 1,813 km² of land.

The Government of Canada agreed to negotiate self-government agreements on a community by community basis with the five Sahtu communities of Colville Lake, Fort Good Hope, Tulita, Deline, and Norman Wells.

The Sahtu Dene and Metis received a tax-free payment of $75 million (1990 dollars) over a 15-year period. They receive a share of annual resource revenues from development in the Mackenzie Valley as per the agreement, including a share in Norman Wells oil and gas royalties. The Sahtu Dene Council must be consulted before lands are opened up for oil or gas exploration, development or production takes place; and before any mineral exploration requiring a land use permit or water licence takes place.

Negotiated terms regarding the 1944 oil production under the Norman Wells Proven Area Agreement are found in Chapter 9.

The Sahtu Dene and Metis maintain exclusive right to trap and the right to hunt and fish throughout in a 280,238 square kilometre area which includes Great Bear Lake.

Southbranch Settlement

Southbranch Settlement was the name ascribed to a series of French Métis settlements on the Canadian prairies in the 19th Century, in what is today the province of Saskatchewan. Métis settlers began making homes here in the 1860s and 1870s, many of them fleeing economic and social dislocation from Red River, Manitoba. The settlements became the centre of Métis resistance during the North-West Rebellion when in March 1885, Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont, Honoré Jackson, and others set up the Provisional Government of Saskatchewan with their headquarters at Batoche.

St. Laurent, Manitoba

St. Laurent (French St-Laurent) is an unincorporated community in Manitoba, located on the eastern shore of Lake Manitoba and serviced by Manitoba Highway 6. It lies within the boundaries of the Rural Municipality of St. Laurent and is 95 km (59 mi) from Winnipeg.

Originally called Fond du Lac, this Métis community was established in 1824 on the shores of Lake Manitoba. Many Métis moved there after it was found that Pembina was actually in the United States. By 1850, twelve families were established at St. Laurent, including the Lamberts, Chartrands, Lavallees, Pangmans and Ducharmes. More Métis moved there after the Resistance of 1869-70. St. Laurent was originally a fishing, trapping and trading community with small-scale farming. The Métis traded up to the Camperville area on Lake Winnipegosis and would go as far the Summerberry Marsh near The Pas to catch muskrats in the spring. A Roman Catholic mission was established here in 1862. The community was renamed by Father Camper after St. Lawrence, a Christian martyr.As described in the mid-1980s, the community of around 1.000 people lacked a single townsite, and was instead more like an Old World chain village, as the land was originally divided by the French river lot system (a number of long, narrow farm fields along a central road on the lakeshore), rather than the geometrical patterns of the Dominion Land Survey in much of the rest of Manitoba. The land is primarily glacial till with limited potential for agriculture, though farming does occur in the community. The climate is continental with extreme variation between seasons.

Metis Flag Métis people

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