Métis: Preserving a Way of Life

Many visitors to Alberta’s central regions have some understanding of North America’s colonial past, particularly the interactions between colonizing Europeans and the First Nations and Inuit who originally populated the land. However, many have little understanding of the uniqueness of the place of the Métis people within this mix.

The first European explorers (and later traders for the Hudson Bay and Northwest Company) consisted almost exclusively of men who spent long months and even years far from the land of their birth. These men, primarily of French or Scottish origin, frequently joined First Nations (Cree, Ojibwa, or Saulteaux) or Inuit women in “marriages of the country.” The children of these marriages developed unique skill sets, including fluency in multiple languages and an understanding of both parents’ cultures and religions. This rich background placed these individuals, as adults, in the position of being able to negotiate trade deals and cultural understanding between the native hunters and trappers and the European traders, to the benefit of all.

As conditions in North America changed and the fur trade and buffalo harvest declined in economic importance, these early and ongoing unions left as a legacy a unique Métis culture, distinct from its European and First Nations roots. Today, Métis groups such as the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) preserve and renew the traditions of the Métis people, provide support for its members, and lobby politically for Métis rights. You can learn more about the nation at http://albertametis.com, or participate in the Métis activities at Rails and Tales, where the MNA will have static displays, a demonstration of traditional dancing, and Marlene Lanz, President of Region 3, will present greetings to attendees at our Canada Day celebration.

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