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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
Log Cabins

St Albert MuseumWhen the Great Lakes Métis began to build their own, they could choose between the wigwam form used by the Ojibway and the small cabin used in Quebec and in the trading posts. Their choices varied according to their abilities. A wealthy free-trader might have built a two-storey Red River style house, while an engagee who was doing well might build a nice, two room dove-tailed style cabin.

When the Métis began to form their own communities as free-traders, or buffalo hunters, or as colonizers, they took these two forms of construction with them. They are found as widely separated as the house in Fort Vermilion historic park, and the Ewan Moberly homestead in Jasper National Park.

The interior of such homes was generally rather sparsely furnished. Heat and cooking facilities were provided by a stone and clay fireplace, sometimes placed in a corner and sometimes on a centre wall.

Winter CabinOn the other hand, the children of HBC traders seemed to have used Aboriginal style housing or tents. The family had to be more mobile in the north to pursue hunting and trapping. When they did settle, they could not adopt the timber frame style of building found in the Bay posts. They seem to have adapted the timber frame and ‘pièce sur pièce’ construction, resulting in the Red River style. Even the larger buildings in Fort Edmonton were built using that style of construction. When they had to build with logs, they used the Scandinavian style corners.

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Log Cabins

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