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The Métis

The Métis

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The traditional Metis homeland and the Metis as part of the Nehiyaw Pwat Confederacy are described by Nick Vrooman, Ph.D.
The traditional Metis homeland and the Metis as part of the Nehiyaw Pwat Confederacy are described by Nick Vrooman, Ph.D.

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Published by: Lawrence J. Barkwell on Feb 22, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/27/2013

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The Métis
By Nicholas C. P. Vrooman, Ph.D.The Metis are a sector of our greater society that has been part of North American historysince the coming of the first Europeans. The children of marriages between Aboriginalwomen and Euroamerican men gave birth to large and significant mixblood populationthroughout North America by the 1740s.On the Northern Plains of the United States and Canada, the first major population of Metis trace their line to the Hudson’s Bay Company men after 1682 (when their first postwas set up on the shores of The Bay), and the LaVerendrye encounters in Manitoba andthe Dakotas during the 1730s-40s. By the 1780s, with the fur trade having trapped out theWoodlands and Great Lakes region, coupled with the formation of the American nationin 1783 (up to that time being only 13 colonies east of the Appalachian Mountains), manywho were once citizens of New France, and others who wanted to maintain their distinctand personal liberty and independence, moved west of the Mississippi. A large contingentof Great Lakes and Mississippi Basin mixbloods who had evolved over the150 yearsprior to the formation of the United States, converged at the confluence of the Pembinaand Red Rivers, in what is today North Dakota. Those people, joined by Ojibwa andOttawa pushed west from the Great Lakes, intermarried with the Cree and Assiniboinewho then controlled that territory. The Cree and Assiniboine were allied with each otherand already intermarried from at least the early 1600s. It was they with whom the HBCand LaVerendrye's men mixed. More French and Scots fur traders working with theHudson's Bay and the North West Companies moved into the region. All of those peopleintermarried in beneficial economic, cultural, and social relationships.By the turn of the 18th to 19th century, the mixblood offspring of those polyethnicassociations began intermarrying among themselves. A new mixed culture and societycame to be, the Metis, comprised of cultural lifeways amalgamated from both sides of their heritage, including a wholly distinct language called Michif. The Metis of theNorthern Plains (as distinct from other mixblood peoples in North America) came toAboriginal nationhood as a singular and manifest people at the Battle of Seven Oaks,now called Winnipeg, in 1816. The Metis allied with the Cree, Assiniboine, and Ojibwaas part of the Nehiyaw Pwat Confederacy (Nehiyaw Pwat means "Cree Assiniboine" inCree). The Nehiyaw Pwat Confederacy homeland stretched from the Red River on theeast, to the Front Range of the Rockies in the west, and straddled the borderlands of whatbecame the United States and Canada. The Metis have had a consistent presence inMontana since the 1790s. Settlements along the Milk River, Poplar River, and WoodMountain corridor have been inhabited since that time. Significant Metis communitieswere in the Deer Lodge, Bitterroot, and Flathead Valleys by the 1840s. By the 1850sthere were Metis settlements along the Front Range from the Augusta, to Choteau, toDupuyer, Heart Butte, and St, Mary's, on up to Fort Edmonton. Following the Metisresistance movements of 1870 at Red River (Winnipeg), and 1885 in Saskatchewan (inwhich many Montana Metis participated), an influx of displaced peoples from thoseTroubles sought refuge in Montana with their relatives in many established communities.

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