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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 324: Groupes ethniques, Métis

Ce texte a été publié en anglais et n'est pas disponible en français.

By the mid 1930s, the poorest and most desperate Albertans were those of Métis heritage.

After an inquiry into their plight by Justice J.B. Ewing, the government established a number of Métis settlements in northern and central Alberta.

As historian David Leonard explains, it was a sorry state for a once proud and industrious people, whose beginnings date to the fur trade.

The word "Métis" is French, and its natural that it be so, because the first people of European descent to marry into indigenous Aboriginal culture to any extent were fur traders working for the fur trade companies, primarily the Hudson's Bay Company [and North West Company], who were recruited from along the St. Lawrence River, and brought out west, either to be employees of the Hudson's Bay Company, or shall we say, servants of the Hudson's Bay Company, or freeman, brought out to themselves trap and trade and serve as middlemen between the indigenous population and the traders at York Factory and Fort Prince of Wales on Hudson Bay.

Along with the French Métis, were those of Scottish descent, who came from the Red River Colony established by Lord Selkirk. And by the mid-1800s, the western prairie was home to many Métis.

They moved quite freely in Red River carts to the West, so that by the 19th century, most people living around Fort Edmonton and other forts on the Prairies were of Métis culture, Métis descent, or people who had just simply, recently been born as the result of white traders and Indian women, primarily Cree women.

People like Marie Anne Gaboury, who lived in Fort Edmonton in the early 19th century. Well, she was white, but she married J.B. Lagimodiére, and they produced children, and amongst them were Louis Riel.

Louis Riel grew up to become an advocate of a Métis nation for this now widespread and vibrant cultural group.

And they found political expression in 1870 with the Red River Rebellion, as led by Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont and others. Canada had simply decided that it would be taking over this area, since they had come to an agreement with the Hudson's Bay Company over the settlement of Rupert's Land, not paying much attention to the wishes or concerns of the indigenous people of the Red River.

The result of which was that many Métis moved further westward onto the plains, particularly along the Saskatchewan River - North and South.

By the 1880s, the Métis had begun to think of themselves as the primary culture of the great western plains.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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