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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

The tipi was the principle form of shelter for nomadic Natives. Besides making tipis, Native women erected them and took them down. Additionally, they were responsible for transporting supplies and tipis from camp to camp. Logically, shelter had to be highly portable and efficient.

Native and Métis women often acted as guides, interpreters, and sometimes paddlers for fur traders and explorers so they were available to erect shelters. What happened when men were travelling and camping without women? There are numerous photographs of Métis tripmen (men who rowed York boats), European fur traders, and Métis buffalo hunters sitting around small campsites with a tipi or two in view. It leaves one to conclude that when left to their own devices, men knew how to erect tipis and other wilderness survival shelters such as a lean-to.

Using European stationary building techniques, posts, forts, missions, churches, and settlements were constructed. Native and Métis women who had a union or were married to Company fur traders commonly lived in forts or posts with their families and with company personnel and their families. Sometimes, for months at a time, posts also harboured the ill or the starving.

Large forts such as Fort Edmonton, were like walled villages, with log houses, a classroom, and in the case of Chief Factor Rowand, a baronial mansion was built to indicate his immense status.

While the prejudices of the traders resulted in their exaggerating the degradation of Indian women, there can be no doubt that on a material level, life in a fur-trade post offered an Indian woman an easier existence.

In the first place, she now had a much more sedentary routine. With a stationary home, the Indian woman was no longer required to act as a beast of burden, hauling or carrying the accoutrements of camp from place to place. In fur-trade society, the unenviable role of carrier was assumed by the engage or servant. The men at the fort were responsible for providing firewood and water, although the women might help. In contrast to Indian practice, the women of the fort were not sent out to fetch home the produce of the hunt. The wife of a bourgeois, benefiting from her husband's rank, enjoyed a privileged status as "la premiere femme de ce pays. She was carried in and out of the canoe and could expect to have all her baggage portaged by a voyageur.

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Liens Rapides

Early Métis Homes

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