Culture, Heritage & Language

Métis Nation British Columbia

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“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.

Contact

Mailing Address

Unit #107 – 5668 192nd Street
Surrey, BC
V3S 2V7

Phone

Toll free: 1-800-940-1150
Phone: 604-557-5851
Main Fax: 778-571-9402 / Finance Fax: 778-571-9403

Office Hours

Monday-Friday: 8:30am-4:30pm

What is a 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 of 1982.

Political Evolution of the Métis Nation

Métis Culture, Heritage and Language

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.

LearnMichif.com (online audio source)

Michif Dictionary (online audio source)

The Sash

A picture of a red Metis scarf.

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 worn for the Métis.  Men often wore their sashes folded in half and tied around the waist creating a pocket for tobacco, medicines, and fire starters. The sash had many practical uses; often worn as a belt for tying a Capote closed, or used as a washcloth and towel, or thread for sewing.  The sash was also commonly used as a rope or as back support while carrying furs.

The sash has been worn since the late 1700s. Traditionally, Métis sashes were handmade and 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 fibre, buffalo hair and hemp, the French Canadian practice of making braided woollen garters and the Norwegian finger weaving styles. You could often identify a Métis family or their origin 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 to everyone. Sashes were then sold in varying qualities and price ranges. The most expensive sashes were made of thin wool strands dipped in wax. Dipping the fibres in wax made a waterproof sash that could be used as a cup on the trail or to carry small amounts of water in.

Meaning of its colours:

  • 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 our creator
  • Yellow – is for prosperity
  • Black – is for the dark period of the suppression and the dispossession of Métis people

Métis Music

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

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 introduce 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.

Beadwork by: Kim Hodgson

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.

Quick Facts:

  • The Métis Nation is the second-largest growing population of the three Aboriginal peoples in Canada. (Stats Canada 2016 Consensus)
  • 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.

Fun Facts: Did You Know?

About Métis History

Métis have been documented in BC as early as 1793, when Sir Alexander Mackenzie’s Expedition traversed the Rockies and established a signpost marking at North Bentinck Arm [near Bella Coola, BC] on July 22 nd , 1793. Learn more about our history.

Resources

Harvester Survey

Important feedback needed for Harvesting data for Métis in British Columbia. All harvesting card holders need to complete their harvest Survey.  The survey will open on Jan 1, 2019 and close on June 30, 2019.

Take the Survey HERE.

 

Métis Nation Archival Records of Canada

 

Explore some of the rich history of the Métis Nation by visiting Hiding in Plain Sight: Discovering the Métis Nation in the Archival Records of Library and Archives Canada. The travelling exhibition is on display at the University of Alberta, Enterprise Square Gallery, in Edmonton, Alberta, from November 15, 2017, to January 14, 2018.

The Order of the Sash

The Order of the Sash is an award, recognized and presented by the Métis Nation British Columbia, in honour and recognition of outstanding contributions, personal sacrifice, selfless commitment, and service to the Métis nation, and or our country.

 

I’m Métis! CD – Dana Lynn Seaborn

 

Dana Lynn Seaborn is a Red River Métis, and has written 14 touching & toe-tapping songs celebrating the history and spirit of the Métis people.  Includes some great Métis-style fiddle-playing by Adrian Dolan.

 

Learn Michif Web Portal

 

LearnMichif.com was an initiative by Jeff Ward of Animikii early in 2003. Jeff saw the need for online Michif language instruction and built a basic web page based on the existing body of work done by Norman Fleury, Peter Bakker, Heather Souter, Pemmican Publications, and many, many other people. It wasn’t until 2005 that he approached the Metis Youth British Columbia (MYBC) to partner and produce a website that would engage, educate and revive the Métis language.