The mixed-bloods of both French-Canadian and Scots/English
ancestry adopted the lifestyles of their parents, blending the values and
lifestyles of both cultures to form a unique culture of their own.
In the mid-1800s, the Lac Ste. Anne and Red River Métis were still living
a semi-nomadic lifestyle based on the seasonal round and trapping.
In the spring whole families joined together for the annual buffalo hunts
to acquire meat to make into pemmican. During the summers they
gathered berries and farmed their small vegetable gardens along the
rivers. In the fall they would go on another buffalo hunt, this time
to provide enough meat to get them through the winter. The winter
was spent in trapping activities, in which the whole family participated.
Religion formed an important part of their lives.
Most Métis were devout Catholics, and mixed-bloods of Scottish or English
ancestry were Anglicans, Methodists or Presbyterians. A priest would
often accompany the Métis on their annual buffalo hunts. Feast days
were a time to socialize with other families. With the arrival of
the Grey Nuns at Red River settlement in 1844, the Métis children had
access to religious and secular education, however brief it might be.
With the decline of the buffalo on the plains in the 1870s
and following the Red River Insurrection of 1869-1870, many families from
the Red River colony dispersed to join their relatives in Saskatchewan and
in Alberta at St. Albert, Lesser Slave Lake and Lac La Biche, where they
hoped to escape the intervention of the Dominion government and invasion
of new settlers from the East. Their lifestyle reflected where they
chose to settle. In the Peace Country, they adopted a lifestyle of
their Cree relatives, hunting moose, fishing, trapping, trading, and
working off and on for the HBC as rivermen, freighters, guides, carpenters
and labourers. The Métis women formed an indispensable work force,
making clothing, beaded moccasins, snowshoes, and doing silk embroidery
fancy work they learned from the Sisters, which could be sold or traded to
the HBC. In the Peace Country, by the 1870s there were several
communities of mixed-bloods living around Lesser Slave Lake, Dunvegan,
Peace River Crossing, Spirit River, Flying Shot Lake, Saskatoon Lake, and
Fort St. John. A later group of Métis entered the Peace Country and
northeastern Alberta following the Riel uprising of 1885.
Reprinted from "A Sense of the
Peace," by Roberta Hursey with permission of the Spirit of the Peace
Museums Association and the author.