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Métis in Alberta website puts history online: site dedicated to culture, achievements of 66,000 Albertans of mixed aboriginal-European heritage
Edmonton Journal, March 30, 2005
By Elizabeth Withey
(Copyright The Edmonton Journal 2005)
Alberta’s Métis people are surfing their heritage online thanks to the Métis in Alberta, and educational website launched Tuesday to honour their culture, history and achievements.
“It is one more opportunity for us to promote who we are as people, that we are a combination of two worlds,” Métis Nation of Alberta president Audrey Poitras said. “We are of the aboriginal community, but we certainly are part of the European community as well, and it’s important that people understand that.”
The Métis in Alberta is one of 30 websites within AlbertaSource.ca, a free information gateway created by the Heritage Community Foundation that will become the Alberta Online Encyclopedia.
“The West as we know it would not have existed without that fur trade and the meeting of cultures and then the mixed-blood Métis families,” foundation executive director Adriana Davies said.
The term Métis refers to people of mixed aboriginal and European descent who identify themselves as a culturally distinct group. According to Statistics Canada’s 2001 census, there are nearly 300,000 self-identified Métis in Canada. Alberta has the largest Métis population of any province, with more than 66,000 Albertans identifying themselves as Métis.
The origin of the Métis people in Canada stems from the fur trade in the late 1600s. Many of the first Métis communities were built near fur trading posts. Communities such as Lac Ste Anne, Lesser Slave Lake, Lac La Biche and Cold Lake developed independently as the Métis culture evolved. Many moved to Alberta after the Métis rebellions in the late 1800s.
The early Métis way of life included lively fiddle music, river lot land divisions and the voyageurs, who were hired by merchants to transport goods by canoe to and from trading posts in the interior.
Louis Riel, likely the best-known Métis in Canadian history, was a leader in the Métis rebellions including the Battle of Batoche in 1885 and was later hanged for treason. But many other Métis have helped lay the foundations of a cultural legacy for the people.
Morinville native Adrian Hope was a successful rodeo cowboy and was being wooed to make Hollywood films when he lost his leg in a train accident. The Métis man then played a crucial role in organizing an association for his people in 1932, now known as the Métis Nation of Alberta.
Hope was one of the five founders of the Federation of Métis Settlements, formed to fight for Métis land security and obtain local legislative authority. In 1982, Métis were finally recognized as a distinct aboriginal group in Canada’s Constitution.
Another well-known member of the Métis community is Olive Dickason, a writer and historian who taught at the University of Alberta between 1975 and 1992. Dickason is a member of the Order of Canada and has written several award-winning books on the history of aboriginal people.
Find the Métis website at www.albertasource.ca/metis/
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