CM Magazine: Book Reviews of the Metis Legacy Series
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission. Published by The Manitoba Library Association ISSN 1201-9364
CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 19 . . . . May 24, 2002
Metis Legacy.: A Metis Historiography and Annotated Bibliography.
Lawrence J. Barkwell, Leah Dorion and Darren R. Prefontaine, editors. Winnipeg, MB: Pemmican Publications, 2001. 512 pp., pbk. & cl., $ 69.95 (pbk.), $84.95 (cl.). ISBN 1-894717-03-1 (pbk.), ISBN 1894717-04-X (cl.). Subject Headings: Metis-Bibliography Metis-Historiography. Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up. Review by Alexander Gregor. **** /4
The ancestors of today's Metis Nation were the children of the unions between North American Aboriginal mothers and European fathers. They developed into a distinct people with a group consciousness necessary to promote their collective causes. A Metis was not a French-Canadian, nor a Canadian, nor a Scot. Neither were they First Nations or Inuit. They created for themselves and future generations a unique culture, a group identity and declared themselves a "New Nation." The Metis forged treaties and declared a Bill of Rights that marked this identity as a "New Nation."
This large (500-plus 8 1/2"x11" pages) and expensively produced (almost seventy pages of photographic plates, many in colour) is very much a group enterprise: sponsored by the Canada Millennium Partnership Program, it is based on the collaboration of the Louis Riel Institute of the Manitoba Metis Federation (based in Winnipeg), and the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Metis Studies and Applied Research
(based in Saskatoon). In addition, it has been supported, financially or "in-kind," by some twenty agencies and organizations both in Canada and the United States, ranging from the Canadian Museum of Civilization to the University of Montana Center for the Rocky Mountain West. The compilation has been motivated by a concern for the state of Metis Studies both in Canada and the United States. Although written by and primarily for scholars, it is presented in a way that ensure its interest to a broad general readership; indeed, the goal of fostering a better understanding of the issues and prospects of Metis Studies in the larger community is implicit in the undertaking. In general, the balance between these two objectives has been successfully maintained. The first section of the book comprises a sort of "state-of-the-art" review of Metis historiography. This assessment is premised on the claim that, until recent years, that historiography written in the main by "Euro-centric males" - had been biased and limited. It focused on individuals, and on political, social, and military topics, ignoring almost completely such matters as language, religion and spirituality, women, oral traditions, and on. The entry in recent years of Metis scholars from a range of disciplines has, it is argued, started to set that account aright, both in balance and scope; on the basis of their work, it is clear the area need no longer remain an incomplete and biased appendix to the mainstream of North American historiography. The area is now in the process of being studied in its completeness. The next challenge and one, if this book is to be used as evidence, that has not been met as yet will be to show this revised history in its proper relationship to the "mainstream," so-called. There is an inherent danger that in reclaiming the history the new scholars may inadvertently isolate it in yet a different way. But however incomplete, this present study is nonetheless a necessary and reassuring beginning. The book itself is divided into three distinct parts, the first having to do with the current state of scholarship in the field. As an initial step in this reassessment, the first chapter of Part One proceeds through the task of "Deconstructing Metis Historiography," with sections devoted to the "Epochs of Metis History," "Emerging Voices of Metis Women," "Metis Identity and Community Studies," "Metis Oral Tradition and Spirituality," "Metis Culture and Language," "Metis Resistances and Political Activism," "Metis People and the Land," "Educational Resources About the Metis," "Metis Literary and Artistic Sources," "Canadian Military Service," and "Contemporary Issues". Following this overview, a series of free-standing chapters (representing the new genre of scholarship) deal with various historical issues, periods, and settings in both countries: touching on geographical settings (e.g., "The Emergence of the Metis Nation in Manitoba," by Bruce J. Shore; and "The Spring Creek (Lewistown) Metis: Metis Identity in Montana," by Martha Harroun Foster); on individuals (e.g.," Resistance Activist Elzear Goulet," by Todd Lamirande); on Metis music; on the Michif language; on the clothing and decorative arts of the Metis; and on Metis perspectives in contemporary art. A very useful final chapter deals with the
issue of multiculturalism, as it is understood in contemporary social policy, and the special nature and circumstances of the Metis community in respect of that policy. Two additional sections of the book deal, respectively, with "Metis Material Culture": a very attractive set of colour photographs of Metis crafts and artifacts, along with a primarily black and white but just as engaging collection depicting Metis life, historical and contemporary. The third and final section of the book includes a comprehensive annotated bibliography which will be of immense use to anyone wishing to pursue topics further or to use the book as an instructional tool. (The only complaint to be made here is that the bibliography is organized solely on an alphabetical basis.) This bibliography of print sources is followed by an equally useful compilation of videos, audiotapes, CD's and CD-ROM's. Metis Legacy makes an important contribution, both as an opportunity to review and reassess the state of Metis Studies, and as an occasion to showcase examples of that new scholarship and of the teaching and research resources now available in the field. The book is an excellent example of the potential of effective scholarly collaboration between the academy and the community; and it will prove a very useful resource in any senior years or undergraduate courses and programs that in any way touch on the Metis experience. Highly Recommended. Alexander Gregor is a professor of higher education at the University of Manitoba.
CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 14 . . . . March 7, 2008
Metis Legacy (Volume II): Michif Culture, Heritage and Folkways.
Lawrence J. Barkwell, Leah M. Dorion & Audreen Hourie, eds. Saskatoon, SK: Gabriel Dumont Institute: Winnipeg, MB: Pemmican Publications, 2006. 254 pp., pbk., $45.00. ISBN 978-0-920915-80-6. Subject Headings: Métis. Michif language-Canada. Métis-Social life and customs. Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.
Review by Gary Babiuk. ***1/2 / 4
Metis Legacy is a beautiful collection of historical photos, paintings, drawings, maps, stories, and songs for all ages. It is a collaborative effort by the editors who have been involved over the years in recording and sharing Metis or Michif culture and history. This volume reveals the significant Metis influence on North American culture by illuminating their often-unacknowledged contributions. The creators of this text make visible the vibrant resonance of a dynamic culture. The following excerpt illustrates this:
The ancestors of today’s Metis Nation were the children of the unions between North American Aboriginal mothers and European fathers. They developed into a distinct people with a group consciousness necessary to promote their collective causes. A Metis was not French Canadian, nor an English Canadian, nor a Scot. Neither were they First Nations or Inuit. They created for themselves and future generations a unique culture, a group identity, and declared themselves a “New Nation.” The Metis forged treaties and declared a Bill of Rights that marked this identity as a “New Nation.” In the United States and Canada, we are surrounded by many symbols of Metis culture and heritage. Across the greater Metis Homeland there are many enduring, emblematic reminders of the Metis historical presence: the Montana buffalo skull logo, the buffalo on Manitoba’s coat of arms and on the flag of the Manitoba Metis Federation, the blue Metis infinity flag, the fiddle and sash; the ubiquitous Red River Cart; and the numerous streets named after Metis patriots in cities and towns from Kansas City to Winnipeg, and from Edmonton to Yellowknife. The Metis founded many of our major cities from Green Bay (La Baye), Wisconsin in the east to Juneau, Alaska in the west, founded by Metis gold prospector, Joe Juneau. The unique and world-renowned Michif-Cree language is still regularly spoken in four American states and five Canadian provinces.
I believe this volume needs to be in every classroom. It reveals and celebrates an unexamined and often ignored part of our North American history. It outlines how the roots of Canada and the United States are interconnected. Although the reading level is at middle years to adult, it could be very effective at all levels because of the many photos of people, artifacts, and places. It provides a first hand account of the early years as Europeans came into contact with the First Nations of North America. This book could be used as a: 1) 2) 3) 4) Teacher resource for stories, photos, songs, recipes, Metis language, and history, Student text for studying History, Reference resource for student research, or just for Browsing.
It is not a history book, per se, but it could be. It is more a reservoir of the cultural aspects of the Metis Nation. It includes chapters such as:
4. Storytelling and Folklore (Oral Literature) 5. Mythology / Heroes / Legends / Superstitions 6. Families / Housing / Transportation 7. Clothing / Tanning / Making a Living 8. Art 9. Food and Food Preparations / Buffalo Hunt 10. Medicines and Remedies 11. Holidays and Celebrations 12. Games 13. Music and Dance 14. Language 15. Spirituality 16. Bush lore / Voyageur Life With the help of this book, students and teachers can learn how to prepare pemmican, sing a voyageur song, learn Michif language, tan a hide, tell a legend about a Metis hero, read a myth, or play a traditional game. The book is chock full of primary sources, photos of people, places, documents, and artifacts. “This groundbreaking book, the first time that a systematic account of the Michif worldview has appeared in one volume, provides readers with holistic appreciation of what it means to be 'Michif'. With contributions from Elders, scholars and laypeople, Metis Legacy II provides the reader with a thorough overview of all the central tenets of the Michif worldview….” I highly recommend this book wherever teachers and students want to uncover their historical roots and understand their common connection to all the people who inhabit this earth. Highly Recommended. Gary Babiuk is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba where he teaches Social Studies Methods.