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Ethnogenesis of Métis, Cree & Chippewa-MT

Ethnogenesis of Métis, Cree & Chippewa-MT

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Published by Pamela Letterman

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Categories:Types, Research, Genealogy
Published by: Pamela Letterman on Oct 01, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The history of Plains Metis, Plains Cree and Plains Chippewa people of Montana,

known collectively as “landless Indians,” is a compelling but often overlooked aspect of

Montana’s Indian and white history. Without land or a legal identity, this unique Indian

population has been cast in the shadow of Montana history, both Indian and white,

despite their social, cultural and economic contributions to the state’s history as a whole.

In fact, contemporary Montana history books do little justice to Montana’s Metis, Cree

and Chippewa people, let alone to Montana Indian history in general. For instance,

Montana: A History of Two Centuries stands as a definitive source of Montana history.25

While this book is a good source of information regarding the history of Montana’s white

population, it covers two centuries of Montana’s social, economic and political history at

the exclusion of Indian contributions to, and participation in, these central themes.

Montana’s Indian people, including the Metis, Cree and Chippewa, are positioned in the

book’s first chapter on Montana prehistory alongside a brief overview of the region’s

geology, topography, ecology, and paleontology. “Significantly,” the authors conclude,

“those Indians first seen by Lewis and Clark and by other white explorers had been in this

region for no more than three centuries, and many were late arrivals.”26

While the Metis, Cree and Chippewa have been excluded from Montana’s general

history, they acquired a place in Montana’s fictional literature as romantic and tragic

‘half-breed’ figures. This is evident in literary works such as Frank Bird Linderman’s


Lige Mounts, A.B. Gutherie’s The Big Sky, and The Death of Jim Loney by James


These images stand in contrast to Montana’s nonfiction literary sources,

particularly Joseph Kinsey Howard’s Strange Empire, which presents a serious and

realistic image of Metis and Cree history.28

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