METIS + NON-STATUS
PEOPLE IN BRITISH
COLUMBIA
Children of Contact
WHAT IS A MÉTIS?
• Winnipeg-based filmmaker, Janelle Wookey
explains the definition of a Métis. Her
brother, Jérémie Wookey is her
cameraman.
• 4:01 minutes
• http://www.cbc.ca/8thfire/2012/01/what-is-
a-metis.html
The Metis Nation
has many symbolic
flags which evolved
over time. This
particular flag has a
blue background
with a white infinity
symbol that has two
meanings: The
joining of two
cultures. The
existence of a
people forever.
CATEGORIZATION
• One of the negative legacies in Canada is
the division of Aboriginals into categories.
• The Indian Act labelled First Nations as
“Status” and “Non-Status” – this did not
change the depth of their identities, but
changed the way mainstream Canadian
society viewed them.
CATEGORIZATION
• Moreover, through its policies, the
government perpetuated the notion that
there were only two major groups of First
Nations people in Canada: First Nations and
Inuit.
CATEGORIZATION
• Only in 1982, with repatriation of the
Constitution, were Métis included as the
third Aboriginal people.
MÉTIS IN CANADA
• In 2011, 451,795 people in Canada
identified as Métis.
• They represented 32.3% of the total
Aboriginal population and 1.4% of the total
Canadian population.
MÉTIS IN CANADA
• Most Métis people today are not the direct
result of intermarriage between First Nations
and Europeans.
• The vast majority of those who identify as
Métis are the descendants of unions
between generations of Métis individuals.
MIXED ROOTS
• How did these mixed roots come
to be?
MIXED ROOTS
• The colonization of BC and the rest of
Canada was dependent on resourcebased industries, such as the fur trade and
the gold rush, which resulted in many mixed
unions/families, usually with a First Nations
mother and a non-Aboriginal (European)
father.
MIXED ROOTS
• The roots of the Métis Nation mostly lie in the
fur trade (HBC + NWC).
• French, Scottish, Irish, and English traders
married/had relationships with First Nations
women.
MIXED ROOTS
• Many of the NWC employees were
encouraged to marry Native women,
known as “country wives,” who were
essential to the fur trade.
• HBC employees initially were forbidden to
marry Native women = “country marriages”.
MIXED ROOTS
• The early mothers were usually
Mi'kmaq, Algonquin, Salteaux, Cree,
Ojibway, Menominee, or Maliseet, or of
mixed descent from these peoples and
Europeans.
MIXED ROOTS
• What were the effects of these
policies on Aboriginal women
and their families/children?
MIXED ROOTS EFFECTS
• After New France was ceded to Britain's
control, there was an important distinction
between French Métis born of francophone
voyageur fathers, and the AngloMétis (known as "countryborn") descended
from English, Irish or Scottish fathers.
MIXED ROOTS EFFECTS
• Their cultural heritage is a mix of customs -
Métis tradition - but were/are especially
influenced by French and First Nations.
MIXED ROOTS EFFECTS
• These children had their feet in both worlds,
and the knowledge and skills they gained
from their separate cultures of their parents
was advantageous in BC’s early days.
MIXED ROOTS EFFECTS
• As immigration began to swell in BC, the
children and grandchildren of mixed
families became marginalized and often
invisible as a unique culture.
• Half-breed became a term of shame.
MIXED ROOTS EFFECTS
• Some children were accepted by their First
Nations relatives and became part of that
community.
• Many other, however, felt rejected by both
worlds.
CHILDREN OF CONTACT
• The Métis and Non-Status people are in
many ways the “Children of Contact,” since
they are mostly descended from mixed
unions and our an important part of our
heritage.
• Métis families and communities were
recognized as early as the 1600s.
MARGINALIZATION
• However, the contributions of these families
and their children of the building of Canada
have often gone unrecognized.
• It is safe to say that many Métis have been
marginalized by and in Canadian society.
THE EAST
• In eastern Canada, most Métis trace their
ancestry to the earliest colonizers.
• Yet, apparently there are no “Métis” in
eastern Canada, since their ancestors did
not identify as Métis communities.
THE EAST
• “Labrador Métis” for example, have
dropped Métis for this reason and instead
prefer a term their ancestors used to define
themselves: NunatuKavut.
THE EAST
• The first small-m métis communities
emerged during the Great Lakes fur trade in
the 18th century; French fur traders
established family connections through
marriage and ceremonial adoption with
prominent Aboriginal families in the region.
THE PRAIRIES
• On the Prairies, a distinct culture developed,
with its own language, culture and customs.
• The battles of the people (i.e. The Red River
Rebellion, The Northwest Rebellion) for the
recognition of their culture under the
leadership of Louis Riel were significant
events in history.
THE PRAIRIES
• Distinct communities grew up on the Prairies
near the fur trading posts.
• Métis provided food for forts, becoming
expert buffalo hunters.
THE PRAIRIES
• A unique language evolved called Michif.
• Michif is the language of the Métis that
blends ancestral languages to create a
new language; there are several dialects
and the most well-known blends Cree,
French and English.
THE PRAIRIES
• Today Michif is considered an endangered
language as there are fewer than 1,000
fluent speakers, most of them in the Prairie
provinces of Canada and the USA.
THE PRAIRIES
• A unique life-style evolved as well,
combining fiddle music of the French and
Scottish with the First nations skills and
knowledge of managing resources of the
land.
• The roots have a distinctive cultural appeal.
THE PRAIRIES
• The woven sashes - Métis sash - became an
emblem, and the beadwork which was
inspired by First Nations and European
design became highly regarded.
• The Métis sash was traditionally made with a
finger weaving technique used by First
Nations of Ontario.
THE PRAIRIES
• The governments of Manitoba and
Saskatchewan have created the Order of
the Sash, which recognizes the
achievements of Métis individuals.
THE PRAIRIES
• Other Aboriginal groups referred to the
Métis as “the flower-beadwork people”
because of their elaborately adorned
clothing and belongings, such as
embroidered gun sheaths and beaded
pipe bags.
THE PRAIRIES
• A well-defined democratic political system
as fostered by the Métis in the Prairies.
• The Métis had become a unique people
and a distinct nation.
THE PRAIRIES
• In 1811 the HBC, with Lord Selkirk, began the
Red River Settlement in what is now
Manitoba.
• The export of pemmican was outlawed;
only for the settlement - The Pemmican
Proclamation of 1814.
THE PRAIRIES
• The Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816 (between
some settlers and the Métis) was a protest
that unified the Métis Nation and proved
the members could speak up for their rights.
THE PRAIRIES
• In 1869 HBC sold Rupert’s Land (including
the Red River Colony) to Canada without
the consultation of Métis or First Nations
inhabitants.
• Louis Riel led the Métis in protest – they saw
this move as taking away their rights to land.
THE PRAIRIES
• Surveyors where sent out by Governor
William McDougall to plot out a township.
THE PRAIRIES
• Under Riel, the Métis created a provisional
government (temporary government) in
Red River and drew up a list of demands
including making Manitoba a province and
protecting Métis lands.
THE PRAIRIES
• Meanwhile, Riel's men arrested members of
a pro-Canadian faction who had resisted
the provisional government; they included
an Orangeman named Thomas Scott; Riel's
government tried and convicted Scott, and
executed him for threatening to murder
Louis Riel.
THE PRAIRIES
• This became known as the 1869 Red River
Rebellion/Resistance/Uprising.
THE PRAIRIES
• After reaching an agreement with the
Métis, Canada sent a military expedition to
Manitoba to enforce federal authority. Now
known as the Wolseley Expedition (or Red
River Expedition.
THE PRAIRIES
• Outrage grew in Ontario over Scott's
execution, and many eastern folk
demanded that Wolseley's expedition arrest
Riel for murder and suppress what they
considered to be rebellion.
THE PRAIRIES
• Riel peacefully withdrew from Fort Garry the
day the troops arrived; he was warned by
many that the soldiers would harm him, and
denied amnesty for his political leadership
of the rebellion, Riel fled to the USA.
• The arrival of troops marked the end of the
Red River Resistance.
THE PRAIRIES
• The people soon realized that despite the
law, their rights were not going to be
honoured by the federal government.
• Many left Manitoba (in Red River Carts) and
moved west where they could continue
their traditional lifestyle but without a land
base.
THE PRAIRIES
• Saskatchewan became the focus of Métis
society during the 1870s.
• Also during this time the buffalo on which
they depended for food was near to
extinction.
THE PRAIRIES
• By 1885, the Métis and First Nations were
starving.
• The government was doing nothing to help
them.
• They called Louis Riel back from exile.
THE PRAIRIES
• Under the combined leadership of Riel and
Gabriel Dumont, he Métis and the First
Nations people mustered a force to take
military action again the federal
government; this has become known as the
Riel Rebellion or the Northwest Rebellion of
1885.
THE PRAIRIES
• It took place in northwestern Saskatchewan,
near the settlements of Duck Lake and
Batoche.
• After initial wins by the Aboriginal forces, the
Canadian government crushed the
rebellion.
THE PRAIRIES
• Prime Minister John A. MacDonald had Riel
was arrested for treason and tried.
• He was found guilty and was hanged on
November 16, 1885.
THE PRAIRIES
• In Canadian parliament, future PM Wilfrid
Laurier defended Riel and Métis.
• The aftershocks still reverberate today.
BRITISH COLUMBIA
• After 1885, the Métis families migrated west,
many to northeastern BC - Peace River/
Dawson Creek area – and founded in 1893
Kelly Lake, the only Métis community in BC.
• After WWII, some Métis from the Prairies
moved to BC.
BRITISH COLUMBIA
• In BC, the struggle for Métis and Non-Status
people took a different path.
• So overt was the racism in BC, and the lack
of acknowledgement and rights, that many
kept their Aboriginal heritage secret.
BRITISH COLUMBIA
• People speak of the “lost generation” =
those who felt compelled to hide their
identity.
BRITISH COLUMBIA
• A renewed drive to organize for political
action came in 1968 with the creation of
the BC Association of Non-Status Indians
(BCANSI).
BRITISH COLUMBIA
• The goal of BCANSI was to improve the
opportunities for Non-Status Aboriginals and
Métis in BC by increasing access to
education.
• It began largely through the efforts on one
individual, H.A. “Butch” Smitheram.
BRITISH COLUMBIA
• At the same time as BCANSI was growing,
the Union of BC Indian Chiefs was
establishing.
• The two bodies became dominant voices of
Aboriginal politics in BC.
BRITISH COLUMBIA
• At first, attempts were made to unify both
Métis and Non-Status under the umbrella of
the British Columbia Association of NonStatus Indians and later the United Native
Nations Society.
BRITISH COLUMBIA
• By the mid-1970s, BCANSI evolved into a
different type of organization.
• It sought to unite Status and Non-Status
people, and its name changed to the
United Native Nations in 1976; the founding
president was Bill Wilson.
BRITISH COLUMBIA
• The Native Council of Canada changed
too and is now called the Congress of
Aboriginal Peoples.
• It continues to advocate for Métis and Non-
Status people.
BRITISH COLUMBIA
• Following the recognition of the Métis in the
1982 Constitution, the Métis National
Council was created in 1983.
• It is recognized by provincial and federal
governments as the governing body
representing the Métis Nation at the
national and international levels.
BRITISH COLUMBIA
• The Métis Provincial Council of BC (MPCBC)
is the elected governing organization of the
Métis people in our province.
• Among its many roles, it acts as the political
representative for its members to
governments and funding agencies and
advocates for its members.
MÉTIS DEFINED
• What are the origins of the word
Métis?
MÉTIS DEFINED
• Métis means “mixed” French.
• Such mixed-race people were referred to
by other terms, many of which are now
considered to be offensive, such as Mixedbloods, Half-breeds, Bois-Brûlés, Bungi, Black
Scots, and Jackatars.
MÉTIS DEFINED
• There are generally two meanings:
1. The broad definition = anyone of mixed
heritage could be Métis.
MÉTIS DEFINED
2. The narrow meaning = as defined and
voted upon by the Métis National Council
in 2002; linked to Red River ancestry.
WHO IS MÉTIS?
• What are the implications of this
definition?
WHO IS MÉTIS?
• The identification of who is Métis is
controversial.
• The words Métis and Non-Status are both
used to describe a people of mixed
lineage, although there have been different
interpretations of the definitions of “Status”
and “Non-Status”.
WHO IS MÉTIS?
• Aboriginal people have always held the
notion of self-identification as the key to
their identity.
• Two elements, self-identification and
community acceptance, were agreed on,
but the third key element regarding
ancestry was not.
WHO IS MÉTIS?
• Some people believed that anyone with
mixed lineage could be Métis, while others
believed Métis heritage was linked to the
original Red River settlements in Manitoba.
WHO IS MÉTIS?
• At the Métis National Council Annual
Assembly in September 2002, the delegates
voted unanimously to link the definition to
Red River ancestry.
• The implications of this decisions has
brought both challenges and opportunities
to Métis and Non-Status people.
WHO IS MÉTIS?
• Since the recognition of Métis Non-Status
identity in the 1982 Constitution, they both
have organized councils to promote
culture, to have their role in Canadian
history recognized, and to work towards
attaining rights that have been denied.
WHO IS MÉTIS?
• Métis leaders knew that to achieve full
recognition of their identity and rights, a
specific and widely accepted definition of
Métis would be necessary; they voted
unanimously for this change in 2002.
WHO IS MÉTIS?
• Pursuing Métis land claims in the Prairie
provinces was one of the driving forces to
shape a definition of Métis to the
homelands.
WHO IS MÉTIS?
• For the “Red River” people – those who
trace their ancestors back to the original
families who were given scrip – it means a
stronger and more unified voice in political,
economic, social and cultural realms.
WHO IS MÉTIS?
• Scrip or Land Scrip was a certificate that
was issued to Manitoba Métis families
entitling them to 240 acres or money for the
purchase of land, issued in compensation
for lands lost by the Métis after the
Northwest Rebellion.
WHO IS MÉTIS?
• For other of mixed lineage who do not fit
the new definition, it will undoubtedly
create a number of feelings, including
confusion and anger, as some feel the
definition is exclusionary.
MÉTIS RIGHTS
• The Métis seek rights in two areas: land and
resource rights + self-government rights.
• They seek greater control of their own lives
within the broader Canadian society.
MÉTIS RIGHTS
• They seek a land base in the Prairie
provinces or compensation for the lands
they once owned but lost through
development.
MÉTIS RIGHTS
• The implications of the definition and these
rights of Métis will bring both challenges and
opportunities to Métis and Non-Status
people in the coming years.
MÉTIS DEFINED
• What do you think of the “new”
definition of Métis?
• What are the benefits and the
challenges?
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Children of Contact