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Birth of the Métis Nation

Métis family

In the late 1700s and 1800s the Métis came to be a new heritage "nation." Métis were most often Roman Catholic, French-speaking people from the families of French voyageurs and First-Nations women. The term "Métis" is French for "mixed." They shared the values of both communities and spoke French and Aboriginal languages. These abilities made the Métis key to the success of the fur trade.

The French Métis of the North West Company called themselves "Canadiens." If they were not under contract (engagé) they also called themselves "gens libres" (free traders). The English Mixed-blood peoples often worked for the Hudson's Bay Company.

The voyageurs' work in the fur trade brought them into the west in larger numbers over time. Their families grew and Métis communities were established. In Alberta, the Métis population did not grow much until after 1870. This was after the Red River uprising in Manitoba.

The northwest changed when the Hudson's Bay Company gave up land ownership of Rupert's Land. Government surveyors came to measure land for new settlement. The Métis community in Manitoba made up most of the Red River Settlement. The Métis of Red River thought their traditional land might be given up to new settlers coming in from Canada. To deal with their concerns, they organized to protect their community.

Events during this time became known as the 1870 Red River uprising. At the end of the uprising, the provisional government leader Louis Riel fled. The Manitoba Act 1870 provided some land for the Métis living there. Later, the Dominion government created scrip. The scrip document was a promise of land the Métis person could claim. Scrip was given to the Métis from 1884 to 1924

The new government was not recognized and the Province of Manitoba was created. The new province provided some Métis land. However, the following few years were full of trouble and lack of respect for rights to land, language, religion and culture. The Manitoba Act did not solve the land problems. Many Métis sold their land and left the new province for other points west.


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