Métis people (United States)

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This article is about Indigenous Americans of mixed race in the United States. For these people in general, see Métis. For the people in Canada, see Métis (Canada).
Paul Kane's oil painting "Half-Breeds Running Buffalo", depicting a Métis buffalo hunt on the prairies of Dakota in June 1846.
Paul Kane's oil painting "Half-Breeds Running Buffalo", depicting a Métis buffalo hunt on the prairies of Dakota in June 1846.
Regions with significant populations
Related ethnic groups

Métis people are an indigenous people of mixed Native American/First Nations and European ancestry. Some Métis also have African or/and Asian or/and Pacific Islander ancestry.

Contemporarily, "Métis" is used to describe any person of mixed Aboriginal North or South American and non-Aboriginal ancestry. Originally, however, the term referred to a specific community of Métis people of mixed Cree or Anishinaabe and Scottish or French ancestry in upper North America, especially the Michif-speaking peoples of the Red River region in what is today modern Manitoba, North Dakota, and Minnesota.[1] The Red River peoples are part of the same ethnic group as many of the Canadian Métis peoples. There is also a broader but limited use of the term to describe any people who descend from the united culture created by the intermarriage of various French and British fur traders and various Algonquian, Cree and other Native American groups intermarrying during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. This use would exclude from Métis people-hood those whose ancestries became mixed between these different ethnic groups in other settings or more recently than about 1870.

Métis (/mˈt/; Canadian French: [meˈtsɪs]; Michif: [mɪˈtʃɪf]) is the French term for "Mixed-blood," and is equivalent to the Spanish term mestizo.


Exploration, settlement, and exploitation of resources by historical French and British fur trading interests across North America gave rise to historical Métis communities through the relationships of male Europeans in the fur trade and Native American women.

Métis people continue to live throughout the United States. Their sense of community identity varies. A strong Prairie Métis identity exists in the "homeland" once known as Rupert's Land, which extends south from Canada into North Dakota, especially the land west of the Red River of the North. The historic Prairie Métis homeland also includes parts of Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Many Métis families continue to show up in the U.S. Census in the historical Métis settlements areas along the Detroit & St. Clair Rivers, Mackinac Island, and Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan, as well as Green Bay in Wisconsin. Métis settlements existed all along the Allegheny and Ohio rivers and their tributaries as evidenced by the French names of the many towns and villages in these areas.

Many, if not most of the descendants of the Métis ceased to exist as a distinct people with the arrival of the English speaking settlers. Initially, the light-haired Métis and, later, with the arrival of the many immigrants from southern Europe, the dark-haired Métis intermarried with these new arrivals. Today, unaware of their heritage, descendants of the Métis in the areas of western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois assume they are descended from the more recent immigrants from Europe when, in fact, their European heritage can be traced back hundreds of years.


During the early days of territorial Michigan the Métis and allied Frenchmen were able to dominate elections. It was largely with Métis support that Gabriel Richard was elected as delegate to Congress. After Michigan was given statehood many of the Métis migrated to the Red River region of modern Manitoba. Others identified with Chippewa groups, while many others were subsumed in a "French" identity. By the late 1830s only in the area of Sault Ste. Marie was there widespread recognition of continuing Métis presence.[2]

Another major Métis settlement was La Baye, located at the present site of Green Bay, Wisconsin, which was virtually all Métis in 1816.[3]

Between 1795 and 1815 a system of Métis settlements and trading posts was established throughout Michigan, Wisconsin and to a lesser extent in Illinois and Indiana. As late as 1829 the Métis were dominant in the economy of Wisconsin and influential in Northern Michigan.[4]

In Montana a large group of Métis from Pembina region hunted there in the 1860s, eventually forming an agricultural settlement in the Judith Basin by 1880. This settlement eventually fractured with most Métis leaving or adopting a "white" or "Indian" identity.[5]

Current population[edit]

Today, in North America, millions of people could, and many thousands do, claim Métis heritage, as they are the product of European and Native American ancestors.[6] Many people of mixed heritage are not aware of the Métis Identity movement within the USA.

Estimated population[edit]

An estimated 10,000 self-identified Métis live in North Dakota (mostly in Pembina County, although their cultural status is less distinct than their brethren in Manitoba, Canada). In addition, many members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians (a federally recognized Tribe) consider themselves Métis. In the Northeast, the Métis Eastern Tribal Indian Society, often referred to as the Métis of Maine, seeks to teach and carry on the North Eastern Woodland Native American heritage to its “mixed blood” (Native and usually European) members of the band. At its Cultural Center located in Dayton, Maine, Métis band elders teach traditional Eastern Woodland Native spiritual and social culture in the Medicine Wheel way, which teaches harmony and respect between the cultures. Membership in this band does not preclude tribal membership in other bands.


The United States Métis Nation, Inc. aims "to provide charitable services in support of U.S. Métis Indians–our heritage, culture, and way of life. Métis Nation, Inc. is a "non–federally recognized" tribe.[7] The United Métis Tribe claims to be "a sovereign Nation as defined by the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights."[8]

There are also many local Métis organizations in various states, such as the Métis of Maine. Another example is the Tecumseh Band Métis of Southern Michigan Native American Association, headquartered in Michigan Center, Michigan. Another is the Métis Nation of Indiana.[9] These tend to be small groups that at present are mainly working to raise awareness that the Métis actually exist in the mid-West.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peterson, Jacqueline; Brown, Jennifer S. H. (2001). The new peoples: being and becoming métis in North America. Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-87351-408-8. 
  2. ^ Wallace Gesner, "Habitants, Half-Breeds and Homeless Children: Transformations in Metis and Yankee-Yorker Relations in Early Michigan," in Michigan Historical Review Vol. 24, issue 1 (Jan. 1998) p. 23-47
  3. ^ Kerry A. Trask, "Settlement in a Half-Savage Land: Life and Loss in the Métis Community of La Baye," Michigan Historical Review Vol. 15, no. 1 (Spring 1989) p. 1
  4. ^ peterson and Brown, The New Peopls, p. 44-45
  5. ^ http://www.montana.edu/wwwhi/2010/MATheses/TravisArnette.pdf
  6. ^ Sokolow, Jayme A. (2003). The great encounter: native peoples and European settlers in the Americas. New York: M. E. Sharpe. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-7656-0982-3. 
  7. ^ About the United States Metis Indian Tribe
  8. ^ http://unitedmetis.org/leaves/index.php/umt-overview
  9. ^ Métis Nation of Indiana

Further reading[edit]

  • Barkwell, Lawrence J., Leah Dorion, and Audreen Hourie. Metis legacy Michif culture, heritage, and folkways. Metis legacy series, v. 2. Saskatoon, SK: Gabriel Dumont Institute, 2006.
  • Barkwell, Lawrence J., Leah Dorion and Darren Prefontaine. Metis Legacy: A Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. Winnipeg, MB: Pemmican Publications and Saskatoon: Gabriel Dumont Institute, 2001.
  • Foster, Harroun Marther. We Know Who We Are: Métis Identity in a Montana Community. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006.
  • Peterson, Jacqueline and Jennifer S. H. Brown, ed. The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Metis in North American. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2001.
  • St-Onge, Nicole, Carolyn Podruchny, and Brenda Macdougall (eds.), Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012.

External links[edit]