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Virtual Museum of Canada The Making of Treaty #8 in Canada's Northwest
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The Peoples, Their Places

The Métis Nation


metis men with dogsledSome historians claim that the first person of Aboriginal and European heritage probably was born nine months after the first Europeans arrived on the shores of Canada.  Those of mixed Native and European ancestry were certainly an important group in the settlement of New France by the 1600s.  But the distinct society of people called Métis (French meaning "mixed blood") or half-breeds are the children of the fur trade in the Canadian west.  The term "Métis" generally applied to those born from the marriage between French traders and predominately Cree and Ojibway women.  "Half-breeds" or "breeds" were names applied to those of Scots/English and Native ancestry.  In the Peace Country, Courtoreille, Cardinal, Bellerose, Bourassa, Chalifoux, Beaudry, and Laboucan were common French Canadian names; Ross, MacDonnell, MacDonald, Gray, Cunningham and Isbister reflected Scots, English, and Orkadian origins.  Many of these are still common names of Métis and mixed-bloods today.

Reprinted from "A Sense of the Peace," by Roberta Hursey with permission of the Spirit of the Peace Museums Association and the author.