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Métis
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Metis beaded vest with floral design The Métis people are neither First Nations nor Inuit, although they do share a common ancestry. The Métis people still consider their homeland to be what was known as Rupert's land, which includes most of southern and some of central Alberta . The Métis nation is unique to the cultural map of Canada in the way they emerged with the very first arrival of the Europeans and the intermarriage of English or French Canadians with aboriginal, predominantly Cree, women. The children born of these marriages were called "Métis" which is the French term for "mixed blood". They developed their own culture and language which are based on a mixture of  French, English, Cree and Ojibway cultures, traditions and languages that is very distinct and very unique. 

The Métis were, for the most part, egalitarian nomads who possessed little or no property and followed the buffalo herd across the plains, participating in the summer buffalo hunt returning to their "home base" for winter. With the fur trade and the expansion into the west, the need for a relationship and communication between the European settlers and the First Nations people became of increasing importance. The unique background of the Métis people, particularly their knowledge and command of English and, in many cases, several Indian languages, they were a natural choice to serve as interpreters and guides and, therefore an essential part of the history and development of Alberta.

Mrs. Adam Callihou Although the Métis people share a cultural identity, they also recognize some differences between them. The French-speaking Métis generally associated themselves with the North West Company, while the English-speaking Métis associated more with the Hudson's Bay Company. Also, the French-speaking  Métis people were generally known to be religious, generous people who excelled as voyageurs as they were exceptionally skilled canoers and guides. The English-speaking Métis were known more for their skill in business and animal husbandry.

St. Albert, Lac la Biche, Buffalo Lake, Victoria Settlement and Duhamel were home for Kipling many Métis and Mixed Blood families in Alberta. Some of these families came from as far away as Red River, but many traced their roots back to local marriages at nearby missions and trading posts. Like many First Nations people, large numbers of Métis embraced the new opportunities offered by growing settlement in the 1870s and 1880s, but as buffalo herds dwindled and fur trade companies shifted their operations northward, conditions changed. Unlike other First Nations groups, the Métis and the families of former fur trade employees were expected to integrate themselves into the new settlement society. This was not such a large problem as long as the numbers of new arrivals remained relatively small. However, by the 1890s, a huge wave of new settlers would change the face of western Canada forever.

Metis beaded vest with floral designDuring the course of the negotiation of what have been referred to as the "numbered treaties" (1867-1923), the Métis were not recognized by the federal government to be Indians and therefore they were not offered treaty. During the early decades of the twentieth century, many Métis survived by trapping, trading, working at mixed farming or hiring themselves out as labourers to local homesteaders. As they were not official "treaty Indians", they were not eligible for education, medical benefits or any sort of social assistance from the government. Destitute and starving to death, liquor became an increasing problem within Alberta's Métis population. Many men enlisted during the First World War, but because their surnames are those most identifiably English, Scots or French, they did not reflect their distinct culture and therefore the numbers of Métis men who actually served their country during the war remains unknown. During the 1920s, when most other Albertans were experiencing the post-war boom, the Métis as a group remained the poorest of the poor. They suffered greatly from malnutrition, tuberculosis, pneumonia and other communicable diseases.

It was not until 1938, after many years of poverty and starvation, with the passing of the Métis Betterment Act that the Alberta Government set aside land for the Métis people. At that time eight Métis settlements were created at Buffalo Lake, East Prairie, Elizabeth, Fishing Lake, Gift Lake, Kikino, Paddle Prairie, and Peavine. In total, these settlements are comprised of 1.25 million acres and have contributed greatly to the betterment of the lives of many Métis families in the province.

Although the Métis continue to face hardship and battles with the health and welfare of their community, they are an integral part of Albertan society. As a community they are growing ever-stronger with the passing of each year as the focus has begun to shift from healing past wounds to ensuring a positive future for their youth through enhanced educational and financial opportunities and the building up of a strong community of support.

For more information on First Nations issues and history, please visit some of the following websites:
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