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The Métis in Western Canada: O-Tee-Paym-Soo-Wuk

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The BeginningsThe People and Their CommunitiesCulture and Lifeways

Early Métis had a social ranking system based on traditions and occupational status. For example, buffalo hunters were highly regarded. Clothing especially marked the variable social class of Métis. Some Métis wore fashionable European clothing, and others dressed as Natives, but there emerged a third group who combined European and Native dress to create a distinctive Métis style. The flamboyant and colourful Métis style of clothing was notable in how it could be individualized to reflect the personality and status of the wearer. 

Early Métis clothing was frequently made from hide (usually elk or deer) and was decorated with paint or quills. Very quickly, though, the Métis adapted these items to incorporate trade cloth, beads and silk thread brought by the Europeans. Using these more workable media, designs became even more elaborate, and any innovative or popular decorative motifs were shared by other women in the community as they discussed their work during their "gossiping parties." Never afraid to experiment, women used a range of design elements and colours: sleeves were brightly adorned with red-and-white candy strips, coats were painted with yellow, blue, red, black and pink in multicoloured patterning. Their designs also had a distinctive fluidity, and few elements stand alone without some line or connection to another part of the pattern. Their vibrant attitude towards life is reflected in the design elements and patterning and the Earl of Southesk remarked upon "the gay fashion of Métis clothing found in Saskatchewan, "where taste seems freer to indulge its fancies than in graver regions of Fort Garry."

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Liens Rapides

Men's Clothing and Footwear

Women's Clothing and Footwear

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