Thousands of Métis, "children of the fur trade," were
born to Native mothers and European fathers. By the end of
the 1700s, these mixed-blood people formed a distinct social
and racial category.
By the mid-1800s, Métis were working as guides, post
factors, clerks, freighters, canoemen and packers,
interpreters, hunters, trappers, provisioners, labourers,
merchants, woodcutters, gold miners, carpenters, masons, and
farmers. To capture the independent trait of many Métis, the
Cree named them o-tee-paymsoo-wuk, which means "their own
While the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway and
the 1885 Riel Rebellion prompted westward settlement, many
Métis already lived in Alberta. As the fur trade and buffalo
herds declined, some Métis retained their nomadic
tendencies, while other Alberta Métis, with pressure from
the Canadian government and encouragement of missionaries,
turned their hand to farming. In fact, the Métis represent
some of Alberta’s earliest farmers.
In keeping with "spirit of the west" volunteerism, the
Métis, like many other settlers who would follow, helped
each other build homes, fences, farm buildings, flour mills,
A big pot of tea, a large hearty bowl of soup, and fresh
oven-baked bannock were ever ready in most traditional Métis
homes. Large families and an open door to visitors made a
large pot of soup popular for sharing. If an unexpected
guest arrived, extras were simply added to the big pot.
Hoarding food was not typical of the Métis. Métis almost
always shared extra wild meat and staple foods, such as
flour, with their kin and community members.
A pot of soup, especially during lean times, could be
stretched out by adding fish, barley, root vegetables, peas,
and soup bones. Besides providing comfort, a single large
pot of soup, brimming with a variety of wholesome foods,
carried a powerful wallop of nutritional and healing
Michel Callihoo, prominent Métis chief of the Michel
Reserve, respected farmer, and an entrepreneur, is a fine
example of a volunteer who strived to better his community.
He was a pious man and was baptized a Roman Catholic as
soon as there was an opportunity. He and his family could
regularly attend the church he helped build in Fort Edmonton
in 1857. He paid for two expensive grand masses to be sung
at Lac St-Anne in November 1870. Religious observances were
often combined with fun. The family may have attended the
St. Jean Baptiste celebration in St. Albert in June 1889. On
this Holy Day after Mass they held a dinner, then a picnic
with running races and horse races, ending up with a dance.
Michel generously provided lumber for the church of St.
Peter at Villeneuve and brought his family regularly when it
Volunteering to help someone can have positive effects
that last a lifetime, and in the case below, has the power
to shape a family tree and its succeeding generations.
"Kias Neestow". I am seeking descendants of ALBERT
CUNNINGHAM whom had a main base/home in LAC St. ANNE and a
trapping base on the Athabasca River at the turn of the
century. Albert rescued my grandfather and his partner from
starvation on the river in December 1905. My grandfather's
diary describes Albert as "Cree/Metis, exceptionally
hospitable, good trapper, thick set, strongly built and very
surprised by the encounter with 2 starving white men. Any
family stories or leads will be more than greatly
appreciated. Thanx, Dennis Cornell
Dennis G. Cornell <email@example.com>
Nanaimo, BC Canada - Monday, November 8, 2004 at 4:1827
Similar to many volunteers, Thelma Chalifoux, Canada’s first
Métis woman to hold a senate position, thinks that part of
being a human is to see a need and then address it. Her
"Let’s do it attitude" has created a legacy of good works
that includes joining the Company of Young Canadians (CYC)
in 1973. The CYC was begun in the 1960s by Prime Minister
Lester Pearson to help young people improve their
communities and their lives.
One of Thelma Chalifoux’s most ardent volunteer
endeavours is to educate people regarding Métis history,
culture, and identity.