Culture, Heritage & Language
National Definition of Métis
"Métis" means a person who self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from other Aboriginal peoples, is of Historic Métis Nation ancestry, and is accepted by the Métis Nation.
"Historic Métis Nation" means the Aboriginal people then known as Métis or Half-breeds who resided in the Historic Métis Nation Homeland.
"Historic Métis Nation Homeland" means the area of land in west central North America used and occupied as the traditional territory of the Métis or Half-breeds as they were then known.
Métis Nation" means the Aboriginal people descended from the Historic Métis Nation which is now comprised of all Métis Nation citizens and is one of the "aboriginal peoples of Canada" within the meaning of s.35 of the Canadian Constitution;
"Distinct from other Aboriginal peoples" means distinct for cultural and nationhood purposes. Constitution Act 1982.
Métis Culture, Heritage and Language
The Métis language is called “Michif”, after themselves. Their long tradition has been adapting aspects of First Nations and European culture to better suit their needs and language is no exception.
The distinct red Voyageur sash pattern is easily recognized as Métis. It has been a symbol of the Métis since the time of the fur traders. Today, sashes are worn as a symbol of pride and celebration but during the fur trade, a sash was daily wear for the Métis, men often wore their sashes worn folded in half and tied around the waist creating a pocket for tobacco, medicines and fire starters. The sash had many practical uses. Not only would it keep capotes closed, it was also used as a wash cloth and towel, thread for sewing, a rope, a belt or as markers left on buffalo during a hunt. They were also used as back support while carrying furs. The sash has been worn since the late 1700s. Traditionally Métis sashes were handmade by finger weaving. Each sash would have between 32 and 42 strands and would take 70 to 300 hours to complete, depending on the pattern and experience of the weaver. This method was adapted from the First Nations practice of finger braiding with nettle fiber, buffalo hair and hemp, the French Canadian practice of making braided woolen garters and the Norwegian finger weaving styles. You could tell which area or family Métis were from based on the pattern of their sash. Due to the time and skill required for handmade sashes, not everyone had access to them. To solve this L ‘Assumption Quebec started to mass produce the Voyageur sashes we recognize today. As early as 1800, they began making sashes on looms. This made sashes affordable and accessible for everyone. Sashes where then sold in varying qualities and price ranges. The most expensive sashes where made of thin wool strands dipped in wax. Dipping the fibers in wax made a water proof sash that could be used to carry small amounts of water or as a cup on the trail.
Meaning of its colors:
- Red - Is for the blood of the Métis that was shed
- Blue - Is for the depth of spirit
- Green - Is for the fertility of our Nation
- White - Is for our connection to God and the creator
- Yellow - Is for the prospect of prosperity
- Black - Is for the dark period of the suppression and the disposession of land
The fiddle was the main musical instrument of the Métis people. As they were not able to purchase these instruments they were handmade from maple wood and birch. Fiddling is a barless structure, using only a small part of the bow, which creates a bounce to the tune and is typically a Métis style of music.
Traditional dance of the Métis is the Red River Jig, which is a special piece of fiddle music played and danced in two sections.
The Métis combined the reels and waltz from their European ancestry with the dances of the Plaines Indians creating dances unique to themselves and were believed to be some of the most difficult dances of any Aboriginal people.
Beading is one of the Aboriginal communities' most distinctive and important art forms. For centuries, First Nations women created beautiful intricate designs using porcupine quills and moose or caribou hair tufting to decorate clothing and other objects.
When European traders arrived, and the Métis population grew, European glass beads became available. Métis women were the first to intro- duce this new medium by applying the small brightly coloured beads to their moccasins, jackets, bags & leggings.
The Métis were famous for their floral beadwork, and were often called the ‘Flower Beadwork People’.
The symmetric floral beadwork, often set against a black or dark blue background, was inspired by European floral designs.
Métis Nation Flag
This flag, in blue or red, is a symbol of the Métis. The two circles coming together represent the European and Native parents forming a new group. It is also a mathematical symbol for infinity, which means the Métis will continue forever.
- The Métis Nation is the second largest of the three main groups of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. (Stats Canada 2016)
- The Métis developed their own language of Michif. A unique mix of French and Plains Cree languages, it is still spoken by many Métis today.