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In North America, the Métis, as defined by the Métis National Council, are descendants of mixed Native American and European ancestry who self-identify as Métis, and are accepted into their current community as descendants of the Red River, Manitoba settlement. The Métis people are the modern descendants of Indigenous women in Canada and the colonial-era French, Scottish and English trappers and fur traders they married. The descendants of these unions formed communities that to this day have a unique and specific culture. The majority of Métis people have combined Algonquian and French ancestry. In Canada the Métis of the Red River area are recognized as a First Nation.
The word "Métis" (from Old French mestis, from Late Latin mixtīcius) came into usage to indicate these particular communities of mixed-race people and their unique culture. The word is a cognate of Spanish mestizo and Portuguese mestiço, which have the same meaning but refer to descendants with Indigenous and European ancestry in colonies associated with the Iberian peninsula. The English word mestee is a corruption of the Middle French mestis (the letters 's' both pronounced at the start of the Middle French period, and both silent at the end of the Middle French period).
The designation mestee was formerly widely used in the United States for mixed-race individuals, but after the Civil War, the term gradually fell into disuse when the millions of slaves were made freedmen. As whites worked to re-establish white supremacy, they passed laws after the turn of the 20th century to enforce the "one-drop rule", under which anyone with any known Sub-Saharan African ancestry was legally "Black". American Indian scholar Jack D. Forbes has attempted to revive "mestee" as a term for the old mixed-race groups.
The term is also used outside of North America, mostly in countries that were historically part of the French Empire and had French as an official language, such as Vietnam. As in North America, the term indicates a person of mixed non-European and European ancestry. Anglophones generally restrict the use of the word "Métis" to peoples of North America, with "Eurasian" preferred for people of mixed Asian and European ancestry.
Métis people in Canada
The specific meaning of métis in Canada varies depending on context. The Canadian Encyclopedia indicates that there is no complete consensus as on the definition of métis in Canada. It uses the following definition:
It is important to define specific meanings for the term as used in this discussion, while cautioning that writers past and present have not achieved consensus on the matter. Written with a small m, métis is an old French word meaning "mixed", and it is used here in a general sense for people of dual Indian-White ancestry. Capitalized, Métis is often used but not universally accepted as a generic term for all persons of this biracial descent. It may variously refer to a distinctive socio cultural heritage, a means of ethnic self-identification, and sometimes a political and legal category, more or less narrowly defined.
- Métis people (Canada)
- Métis people (United States)
- Kahnawake surnames
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- Forbes, Jack (1993). Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples. ISBN 978-0-252-06321-3.
- Jennifer S.H. Brown. "Métis". The Canadian Encyclopedia. online version. Historica Foundation. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
- Barkwell, Lawrence J.; Dorion, Leah; Hourie, Audreen (2006). "Métis legacy Michif culture, heritage, and folkways". Métis legacy series 2. Saskatoon: Gabriel Dumont Institute. ISBN 0-920915-80-9. Missing or empty
- Barkwell, Lawrence J.; Dorion, Leah; Prefontaine, Darren (2001). Métis Legacy: A Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications Inc. and Saskatoon: Gabriel Dumont Institute. ISBN 1-894717-03-1.
- The Rupertsland Institute (Alberta) - A service dedicated to the research and development, education, and training and employment of Metis individuals. It is affiliated with the Metis Nations of Alberta. Along with providing financial aid, the Rupertsland Institute helps Metis individuals acquire essential skills for employment.