Métis flag

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Metis Flag
Metis Blue.svg
UseBlue version
Adopted1814
DesignInfinity symbol on a blue background
Metis Red.svg
Variant flag of Metis Flag
UseRed version
Adopted1814
DesignInfinity symbol on a red background

The Métis flag was first used by Métis resistance fighters in Rupert's Land before the 1816 Battle of Seven Oaks. According to only one contemporary account, the flag was a gift from Alexander Macdonell of Greenfield of the North West Company in 1814, but no other surviving accounts confirm this. Both the red and blue versions of the flag have been used to represent the political and military force of the Métis since that time.[1] The Métis flag predates the Flag of Canada by at least 150 years, and is the oldest patriotic flag that is indigenous to Canada.

The blue background flag has been accepted by the Métis National Council as the official flag of the Métis Nation. In 2013, the Métis National Council secured an official mark for the flag to protect it as a symbol of the Métis Nation, and ensure it's collective ownership by citizens of the Métis Nation.[1]

Design and symbolism[edit]

The flag shows a white infinity symbol on a field of either blue or red. There are many interpretations of what the colours and symbol means.

The infinity symbol has two commonly referred to meanings: it represents the faith that the Métis culture shall live on forever, and the mixing of the European immigrants and the First Nations peoples with the two conjoined circles symbolizing the unity of two cultures.[2][3] Another possible interpretation of the infinity symbol is that it relates to traditional Métis dances, such as the quadrille, in which dancers move in a figure-eight pattern (though this might be an adoption of the symbol into traditional dances rather than the pattern in traditional dances being adopted on the flag).[4] There might also be a connection to the ouroboros, an ancient symbol the depicts a serpent or dragon eating its own tail, represented either in a circle or figure eight, symbolizing renewal and rebirth (though there is no evidence to support this idea, and the first Masonic lodge to be established in Manitoba was not established until 1864, there is evidence that suggests Masons were present in Fort Prince of Wales in the early 18th Century[5]).

There is debate about the historical interpretations of the colours of the Métis flags. Some claim that the red background represents the colours of the Hudson’s Bay Company and that the blue background represents the North West Company,[6] (though both the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company flew red flags that were a modification of the Red Ensign). Others argue that the blue flag represents the francophone Métis and the red flag represents the anglophone Métis. Others argue that the blue and white combination are based on both the Flag of Scotland, and are also the traditional colours of Quebec.[7][8] Others have said that the red flag is for Manitoba and the Northwest Territory Métis, and the blue is for the Saskatchewan Métis (despite the first recorded sighting of the red flag in what is now Saskatchewan and the blue flag first being recorded in what is now Manitoba).

Another explanation for the colours of the flags is depending on how the flag is being used. Some argue that the red flag is the Métis Hunting Flag, letting the people around know that they were a hunting party and not at war, and the guide for the day would be the flag-bearer.[9][10] Due to the potential for skirmishes and battles on the bison hunting trips, such as the Battle of Grand Coteau, the red flag could serve as a standard.[11]

Some have also suggested that the flag started out as someone's attempt to design a flag for the Métis, and was putting out feelers to trial a design, which is why there are both red and blue flags with the common feature being the white infinity symbol.[12]

The difficulty in knowing the accurate history of the origin of the flag and potential interpretations of the symbolism is that there are no known records that accurately describe the origin of the flag in a first-hand account nor other written records of its creation.

Alternative Hypothesis on the Colours of the Flag[edit]

Prominent Métis lawyer, historian, and author, Jean Teillet, argues that the story of the origin of the Métis flag is an urban myth. Of the first three historic accounts of the Métis flag, only James Sutherland attributed the flag as a gift from the North West Company, based on rumours that he was told, and she argues that we should exercise caution in taking it as fact. Teillet argues that the Métis had a more active role in the origin of the flag, rather than being passive recipients of the flag or being manipulated by the North West Company.

In 1815, popular fabrics in tradings posts that were available were calico, corduroy, plaid, and stroud. Stroud, a woollen, felt-like, broadcloth commonly used in making coats, was the only suitable material available for making flags. The common colours that were available at the time were green, red, and blue. Telliet asserts that as a matter of practicality, the Métis would have used the material that was available to them for making flags. When they needed to make a new flag, they purchased the material that was available, and if red was not available, they might have chosen to use blue instead. Rather than being a strategic ideological decision to align colours with particular trading companies, her assertion is that the colour was a reaction to what was practical in that time and location.[13][14]

Until somebody shows me evidence of it I will stand firmly on my line, which is don’t repeat that story. Just don’t repeat it and have some faith in your own people that they have the intelligence enough to come up with their own ideas and don’t attribute everything to everybody else.

Jean Teillet, Windspeaker.com[13], Battlefords News-Optimist[14]

History[edit]

Originally, the flags that would have been flown in Rupert's Land and across the North-Western Territory were of the Hudson's Bay Company flag and North West Company flag, respectively, and the Union Jack.

Métis oral tradition tells that the Métis developed the infinity flag for themselves, and called the flag Li Paviiyoon di Michif in the Michif language.[15] Some people tell a story that Alexander Macdonell of Greenfield gifted the Métis employed by the North West Company a flag in 1814, helping to create the Métis Nation,[15] but there are no records that directly confirm this version of events.

The flag was first reported by James Sutherland in 1815 as red with an infinity symbol, and that it was being flown by Cuthbert Grant at Qu'Appelle. In his account, Sutherland reported a rumour that he had heard about the origin of the flag as a gift from the North West Company given in early 1815, but provided no evidence to confirm this origin story for the flag nor stated that it was a gift from Alexander Macdonell of Greenfield. The events reported in this account happened prior to Sutherland's arrival at Qu'Appelle on December 8, 1815, so were conveyed to him by Hudson's Bay Company Officer John Richards McKay and his party, who had arrived there in early October 1815 and had witnessed the events described.

... Alexander McDonell partner of the N.W.Co. arrived with a great parade of 40 or 50 Canadians, Freemen & Half-Breeds forming two distinct companies. McDonell led one of these consisting of Canadians with the Colours flying the other Company were Half Breeds headed by Cuthbert Grant a Half Breed who has been regularly educated at Canada and has acted for several years as Clerk & still continue to act as such, to the N.W.Co. This Tribe had another Flag hoisted of what nation I know not it is red with a figure of 8 placed horizontally on the middle and it is said to be a present from the N.W.Co. along with some Swords and a few pairs of Pistols to these deluded young men the Half Breeds as a recompence for their exertions against the Colony Spring 1815 and as an incentive to encourage them to further mischief this ensuing season ... [sic]

James Sutherland, Selkirk Papers, Narrative of James Sutherland, P.A.C., MG19E1, vol. 5, pp. 1946-47.[16]

Likewise, Peter Fidler also reported a red Métis flag with an infinity symbol around March 12, 1816 on the Qu'Appelle River, and said that it had been see the previous fall, which corroborated Sutherland's account of John McDonald's visit to Qu'Appelle.[17] He reported a rumour that he had heard that the North West Company was trying to direct the Métis to action against the Hudson's Bay Company and the newly established Red River Colony (the support was not unanimous among the Métis), but he did not attribute the flag to being a gift to the Métis.

About the 12th of March, the Canadian Northern Express arrived at River Qu'Appelle, accompanied by Mr. Jn. McDonald a partner of the N.W.Co. of the Swan River Department,— The Canadian and half-Breeds were liberally supplied with rum & was kept in a state of intoxication for two days. — The day after the N.W.Co. Express arrived their flag was hoisted on the flag-staff, & a flag of the half-Breeds on the new Bastion. — The flag of the half-Breeds is about 4½ feet square, red & in the middle is a large figure of Eight horizontally of a different colour. This flag was first displayed to the view of HBCo people last fall on the arrival of Mr. Alexr McDonell from the Forks, followed by the halfbreeds & freemen; at the same time the N.W.Co. flag was hoisted & followed by McDonell and all the Canadian Servants on their arrival at River qu'appelle house. The day after it was hoisted Polly, an old servant of the N.W.Co. & their Batteau builders came over to Mr. Sutherland on a visit in a private manner, who asked him the meaning of the half-Breeds flag being hoisted, a thing he had never before seen, he very emphatically replied that "before he left the River he would know it" — he was shortly after acquainted in a private manner that the half-Breeds had been directed by the N.W.Co. all to assemble at that place early in May, & that it was the intention of the N.W.Co. not only to root up the Colony but to seize all the Pemmican &c. belonging to the HBCo. — In consequence of hearing these alarming accounts Mr. Sutherland sent down an Express to the Colony sometime afterwards for a re-inforcement of armed men to assist in protecting the HBCo. property, on their passage down the River when the Ice permitted the Navigation; & Mr. Pambrun & 10 men was sent up from the Forks, & 6 from Brandon House for that purpose. — Reports were also current that the Servants of the HBCo. should all be driven from the Red River. — Mr. Cuthbert Grant, a Clerk to the N.W.Co. at River Qu'Appelle, a half-Breed is appointed to act as Commander-in-Chief over all the half-Breeds. [sic]

Peter Fidler, Selkirk Papers, Narrative of Peter Fidler, P.A.C., MG19E1, vol. 6, pp. 2515.[18]

On June 1, 1816, Peter Fidler recorded in his Brandon House Journal that the Métis, under the leadership of Cuthbert Grant, were flying the blue flag with an infinity symbol when they attacked the Hudson's Bay Company's Brandon House, mere weeks before the Battle of Seven Oaks that happened on June 19, 1816. The reason for the change in the colour of the flag is not known, and Fidler did not provide information about the origin of the flag. In his narrative of the events to Lord Selkirk, Fidler did not report the changed colour, only stating that the flag was present.[19]

Saturday, at ½ past noon about 48 Half Breed, Canadians, Freemen & Indians came all riding on horseback, with their Flag flying blue about 4 feet square & a figure of 8 horizontally in the middle one Beating an Indian Drum, and many of them singing Indian Songs, they all rode directly to the usual croſing place over the river where they all stopped about two minutes, and instead of going to Bank & riding acroſ the River, they all turned suddenly around and rode full speed into our yard — some of them tyed their horses, others loose fixed their flag at our Door, which they soon afterwards hoisted over our East Gate next to the Canadian House. Cuthbert Grant then came up to me in the yard & demanded of me to deliver to him all the keys of our Stores, Warehouses, &. I of course would not deliver them up — They then rushed into the House and broke open the Warehouse Door first, plundered the Warehouse of every article it contained, tore up part of the Cellar floor, & cut out the Parchment windows without saying for what this was done for or by whose Authority. [sic]

Peter Fidler, Brandon House post journal.[20]

Other Flags Used by the Métis[edit]

Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia[edit]

The provisional government, the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, established by the Métis under Louis Riel on December 8, 1869, flew a flag. There are numerous descriptions of the flag that was flown by the provisional government:

  • A fleur-de-lis and shamrock on a white background[21][22][23][24][25][26][4]
  • A golden fleur-de-lis on a white background[27][4]
  • A golden fleur-de-lis with a black border on a white background[28][4]
  • A fleur-de-lis, shamrock, and small bison on the fly on a white background[29][4]
  • Three fleur-de-lis across the top and a shamrock in the centre of the bottom edge on a white background [30][4]
  • A fleur-de-lis and a shamrock with a large bison on the lower part on a white background[12][4]
  • A fleur-de-lis with a small bison in one corner on a white background[31][4]
  • A blue fleur-de-lis with a green harp and shamrock on a white background with a gold border[32][4]
  • Three crosses: a large scarlet-coloured cross in the centre, flanked by two smaller cold crosses; on a white background with a gold border[33][4]
  • Fleur-de-lis and shamrocks arranged around a bison on a white background.[34][4]

Provisional Government of Saskatchewan[edit]

The provisional government established by Louis Riel at Batoche on March 19, 1885. A flag of the provisional government is not known, but a Métis Battle Standard was used at the Battle of Batoche. The flag was described as being a blue background, with a wolf's head and hand (palm outward) in the middle, and a banner with the Michif words "maisons ... autels ... Surtout Liberté" (literally translated, this means "Our Homes, the Altar, Above All Liberty").[35][4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Métis Nation Flag". Métis National Council. 21 December 2018. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  2. ^ Gaudry, Adam (Spring 2018). "Communing with the Dead: The "New Métis," Métis Identity Appropriation, and the Displacement of Living Métis Culture". American Indian Quarterly. 42 (2): 162–190. doi:10.5250/amerindiquar.42.2.0162. JSTOR 10.5250/amerindiquar.42.2.0162.
  3. ^ "The Métis flag". Gabriel Dumont Institute(Métis Culture & Heritage Resource Centre). Archived from the original on 2013-07-24.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Racette, Calvin (1987). Flags of the Métis (PDF). Gabriel Dumont Institute. ISBN 0-920915-18-3.
  5. ^ Young, Hugh (29 September 2005). "Canada and Canadian Freemasonry" (PDF). p. 13. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  6. ^ "The Métis Flag". Louis Riel Institute. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  7. ^ Barkwell, Lawrence J. "The Metis Infinity Flag". Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  8. ^ "The Metis Flag". Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. 22 May 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  9. ^ Gardiner, Jessee (March–April 2004). "Colour Adds a Whole New Meaning: The Métis Sash". New Breed Magazine. Vol. 33 no. 2. p. 20. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  10. ^ ᐊᔨᓯᔨᓂᐘᐠ — ayisiyiniwak: A Community Guide — kâ-isi-pîkiskwâtoyahk (PDF) (2 ed.). City of Saskatoon. September 2019. p. 59.
  11. ^ "The Sash". Manitoba Metis Federation. Manitoba Metis Federation Inc. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  12. ^ a b Hamilton, Gwain (6 November 1965). "What's One More New Flag? Manitoba has had 14 of them". Winnipeg Free Press.
  13. ^ a b Narine, Shari (29 July 2020). "One Flag, Two Flags, Red Flag, Blue: Métis flag not a gift from Northwest Company, says historian". Windspeaker.com. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  14. ^ a b Narine, Shari (29 July 2020). "One Flag, Two Flags, Red Flag, Blue: Métis flag not a gift from Northwest Company, says historian". Battlefords News-Optimist. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  15. ^ a b Fauchon, Joseph Jean (2007). The Métis Alphabet Book Study Prints (in English and Michif). Translated by Fleury, Norman. Illustrated by Mauvieux, Sheldon. Saskatoon, SK: Gabriel Dumont Institute.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  16. ^ Sutherland, James. "Report or a narrative of outrages committed against The Hudson's Bay Company's Servants by the North West Company at Qu'Appelle House during winter 1815–1816.". Selkirk collection, Vol. 5 (MG19-E1, microfilm reel C-2). Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk. pp. 1946–47. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  17. ^ Sutherland, James. "Report or a narrative of outrages committed against The Hudson's Bay Company's Servants by the North West Company at Qu'Appelle House during winter 1815–1816.". Selkirk collection, Vol. 5 (MG19-E1, microfilm reel C-2). Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk. pp. 1950–51. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  18. ^ Fidler, Peter. "A Narrative of the re-establishment, progress and total destruction of the Colony in Red River 1816, with a concise account of the conduct and proceedings of the N.W.Co. in their effecting it, by P. Fidler". Selkirk collection, Vol. 6 (MG19-E1, microfilm reel C-3). Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk. pp. 2515–16. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  19. ^ Fidler, Peter. "A Narrative of the re-establishment, progress and total destruction of the Colony in Red River 1816, with a concise account of the conduct and proceedings of the N.W.Co. in their effecting it, by P. Fidler". Selkirk collection, Vol. 6 (MG19-E1, microfilm reel C-3). Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk. p. 2521. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  20. ^ Fidler, Peter (1 June 1816). Brandon House post journal (photograph). Hudson's Bay Company Archives. p. 36. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  21. ^ Begg, Alexander. "The Red River Troubles". The Globe (Letter to the Editor).
  22. ^ Morice, Adrien Gabriel (1935). A Critical History of the Red River Insurrection, after official documents and non-Catholic sources. Winnipeg: Canadian Publishers. pp. 193, 195.
  23. ^ Healy, William J. (1923). Women of Red River; being a book written from the recollections of women surviving from the Red River era (PDF). Winnipeg: Russell, Lang & Co. Ltd. p. 229. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  24. ^ McCourt, Edward (1967). Remember Butler: The Story of Sir William Butler. McClelland and Stewart Limited. p. 49.
  25. ^ Hayes-McCoy, Gerard Anthony (1979). A History of Irish Flags from Earliest Times. Ireland: Academy Press. p. 187. ISBN 9780816184002.
  26. ^ Gunn, Donald; Tuttle, Charles Richard (1880). History of Manitoba. Ottawa: MacLean, Roger & Co. pp. 371, 378. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  27. ^ Howard, Joseph Kinsey (1952). Strange empire: Louis Riel and the Métis people. Toronto: J. Lewis & Samuel. p. 169. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  28. ^ Friesen, John W.; Lusty, Terry (1980). The Metis of Canada: An Annotated Bibliography. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Press. ISBN 0774402156.
  29. ^ Rasky, Frank (1967). The Taming of the Canadian West. Toronto ON: McClelland and Stewart Limited. p. 205.
  30. ^ Woodington, Henry (1913). Diary of a prisoner in Red River Rebellion. Niagara, ON: Niagara Historical Society.
  31. ^ Charette, Guillaume; De Tremaudan, Auguste-Henri. "La Nation Métisse". Un Nation, un Leader de la naissance au gibet (in French). Saint-Boniface MB: Société historique de Saint-Boniface et le Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface.
  32. ^ Charlebois, Peter (1975). The Life of Louis Riel. New Canada Publications. p. 42. ISBN 0919600360.
  33. ^ Kreutzweiser, Erwin Elgin (1936). The Red River insurrection: Its causes and events. Gardenvale, QC: Garden City Press. p. 50.
  34. ^ Osler, Edmund Boyd (1961). The Man Who Had to Hang Louis Riel. Longmans Green. p. 69.
  35. ^ "Batoche 125th Anniversary Commemorative Program". Métis Nation of Ontario Veterans Council. Back to Batoche. July 18, 2010. Retrieved 1 August 2020.