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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 coeur des bois (woods runners) who went to the Aboriginal communities to trade, lived with the people in these communities when they were not travelling. The Aboriginal tribes (Ojibwa and Algonquian) around the Great Lakes lived in wigwams, while the Iroquoian lived in long houses. When the woods runners were travelling, they might have slept under their canoes or used European tents.

French trading posts were built using techniques brought from France and adapted to the colder climate of Quebec.

post and sliding pieceIn northern France they framed buildings with grooved uprights filled with planks, a technique known today in Europe as "plankwall framing". In Quebec, they replaced the planks with whole, squared and tenonned timbers for the fill. This technique solved the problem of wood shrinkage because the vertical uprights would keep the roof from moving while the horizontal timbered fill shrank. This method of pièce sur pièce construction was called poteaux et pièce coulissante or "posts and sliding piece".1

This technique was used for large trading post buildings and can be seen at Old Fort William and certain buildings at Mackinac as well as the Big House at Fort Edmonton. It was in such general use that it became known by a variety of terms. "Across the county it was variously called ‘Red River,’ ‘Manitoba,’ ‘Rocky Mountain,’ ’Hudson’s Bay’ or simply ‘Canadian’ frame construction.

Smaller buildings at the post such as engageés homes, and the building in secondary fur trade posts were built using a log cabin technique.

Dove tailed corner"In finer construction of this type the timbers would be squared, the ends would not stick out at the corners, and the overlapping joins would be dovetailed. The French in Lower Canada called log construction in general pièces de bois sur pièces de bois or wood pieces on wood pieces construction. This was later shortened to pièce sur pièce, or piece on piece construction. They called the finer style of construction using dovetailed corners à queue d'aronde."2

This type of log cabin was much sturdier than the Scandinavian style and did not rot at the corners. These homes were generally chinked with mud and grass or with oakum if it were available, and then plastered and whitewashed on the inside. This form of home will be referred to as the ‘dove-tailed’ cabin.

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Log Cabins

Tent Tepee

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