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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
Traditional Beliefs

Aboriginal spirituality

For the Aboriginals everything is alive, sentient, aware, and a spiritual being. In that type of belief system, it is vital that human beings work to be in the correct relationships with not only their fellow humans, but all life. The fact that this knowledge and understanding of their environment is very useful in their lives as hunter-gatherers is a side benefit. The point is to be an aware, responding member of the web of life.

This "ecological" view of life seems to be common among all Aboriginals. Each major sub-group had their own history and elaborated their own system of spiritual practices, based in part on their own territory. In North America, one common practise was the smoking of the ‘peace pipe’ as Europeans call it. Many values are encapsulated in the pipe ceremony. Smoking the pipe in ceremony is a promise or a declaration of truth – that all which follows be true. It contains a sense that those who smoke the pipe together, are, for the length of that gathering, one people with common goals. Above all else, the pipe ceremony is a request that the Creator’s messengers be present in the gathering.

French Canadian mythology

The original Métis combined Aboriginal spirituality with French Catholicism as practiced in New France. Along with the celebration of the Mass and the use of the rosary and prayers, the Métis also took the Catholic calendar of Saints and Saints’ days. In the early days, they would have retained the private practices while they were travelling and celebrated Mass when they returned to New France.

They also took with them the legends, some of which, such as "Loup-garou" the wolfman, have been traced back to old France. Other legends, such as those of lake serpents or giant man-apes, may have originated in unexplained glimpses of wildlife, or with First Nations legends. Legends of shape-shifters may have originated with Nanabozho, a First Nations character. One legend that seemed to have been transmitted directly from Quebec to the Métis is the story of the flying birchbark canoe.

Ethic/Ethos of good spirits [keeping ones spirits up/not getting depressed.]

The Métis culture included another facet that is found both in the Quebecois and Aboriginal cultures. As an Algonquian Elder told one of the first priests in New France, it is important to keep your spirits up or you could die. In the harshness of northern winters, keeping your spirits up kept you from despair, and enabled you to dig down for that last bit of courage and strength when it was needed. Both the Quebecois and Métis cultures are known for their "joie de vivre," for their gaiety and spirit.

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Traditional Beliefs

Anglican/Methodist Missions and Schools

Catholic Missions and Schools

Pilgrimage (Kootenay Plains)

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