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In Canada, the Métis, as defined by the Constitution Act 1982, are Aboriginal people. They are descendants of specific mixed First Nations and European ancestry who self-identify as Métis, and are accepted into their current community. 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 term "Métis" does not mean any white person who believes they also have Native ancestry. It refers to specific, intact communities of Aboriginal people and their culture. The majority of Métis people have combined Algonquian and French ancestry.
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.
The Métis peoples history begins in the 17th century with the mixed unions of various French and Algonquian women, including but not limited to Mi'kmaq, Algonquin, Ojibwe, and Cree. These unions began in the east, extending from the Atlantic coast to the Great Lakes. The fur trade was a large reason for the expansion westwards of the French voyageurs and coureurs de bois along with the Hudson's Bay Company employees.
After the fall of New France, many Métis populations continued to establish themselves. As the eighteenth century ended, the fur trade moved Westwards into the Plains. In 1812, Cuthbert Grant led a battle in the Pemmican War and the Métis flag first flew. Many treaties throughout Canada were being negotiated in the nineteenth century, including in Ontario with the Robinson-Huron treaty. In 1870 the Métis at Red River, led by Louis Riel resisted the colonial efforts of Canada, and negotiated entry into Canada as the province of Manitoba with promises to protect their rights. In 1885, the Métis were resisting Canadian colonialism further West with the Northwest Rebellion. The Métis were defeated and Riel was hanged as a traitor to Canada - though his role in History is considered controversial to many still.
Métis in the western provinces faced scrip after 1885, and many were considered 'Road Allowance people'. Racism towards Métis peoples in the west was a large part of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the east, many Métis continued to live their lifestyles and were often considered invisible.
In 1982, Métis were included as Aboriginal people in the Canadian Constitution. They are distinct from First Nations and Inuit peoples. Métis peoples formed a variety of political organizations to promote their interests, including the Métis National Council (MNC), the Canadian Métis Council (CMC), the Métis Federation of Canada (MFC) and the Métis Nation of Canada to name a few.
In 2003, The Powley Case ruled that a family of Métis people in Ontario had the right to hunt Moose as part of their Métis Aboriginal rights. This case was funded by the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO), a provincial affiliate of the MNC. The case established a Métis presence in Ontario, which was long debated by many people. The case also established the Powley test, which helps to define who is Métis, and therefore eligible to rights as an Aboriginal person.
In 2013, the Daniels Decision ruled that Métis people were legally considered 'Indian' under section 95 of the Constitution. This does not mean that Métis peoples are First Nation, but rather that they are a federal responsibility. First Nations are distinct from Métis peoples and they are not synonyms. The case is currently being appealed, and it is yet to be seen what will be the result of this.
- 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.