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The present Métis culture in Canada

Seminararbeit 2007 25 Seiten

Amerikanistik - Kultur und Landeskunde



1. Introduction

2. Demographical features
2.1 Métis definition
2.2 Demographical factors

3. Short overview of the Métis history

4. Métis cultural heritage
4.1 National Identifiers
4.2 The Sash
4.3 Fiddling and Jigging
4.4 Flower beadwork
4.5 Michif
4.6 Arts and social life

5. Oppression and Marginalization
5.1 The struggle for recognition
5.2 Contemporary situation of the Métis
5.2.1 Racism and Disadvantages
5.2.2 Achievements

6. Conclusion and outlook

Books and Essays
Online Essays/Articles

1. Introduction

This paper bears the title “The present Métis culture in Canada” and was prepared in the seminar “Ethnic minorities in Canada” at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg.

It deals with cultural, historical and social aspects of today’s Métis in Canada. The intention of the work is to describe and evaluate Métis cultural achievements and to prove that the Métis are a unique and distinctive people whose culture, which has been long oppressed and marginalized in the past, is precious and equal to the culture of Canada’s First Nations.

The structure is subordinated to the aim. After some introductory demographic data, I want to present the most important cultural features which still influence the life of Métis in Canada. In a further step I focus on the marginalized situation of the Métis, and finally their achievements and the newest judicial success will be discussed before an evaluation of the results of my research finishes the paper.

Although the Métis are enjoying increasing attentions from scholars due to their latest achievements in the struggle for recognition, there is still no up to date standard work about them. Magosci offers the best overview of the Métis and their culture[1], whereas the specialized Troupe describes the Métis clothing[2] and a detailed description of the struggle for recognition is supplied by Howard Adams, who was the first Métis intellectual.[3]

For the latest demographic developments and legal cases, the internet and especially Canadian government websites have been a reliable source.

2. Demographical features

2.1 Métis definition

A definition of the Métis group in order to distinguish them from other ethnic groups is not as easy as one might think it is, because in modern Canada exist more than just one definition of a Métis. Even the Federal State of Canada has not yet defined the criteria for the Métis nation.[4]

The term “Métis” is often used to describe two distinct groups of people. It is used to refer to all individuals who have mixed Aboriginal/ non-aboriginal ancestry. It is also used to describe those who belong to the Aboriginal people generally associated with the historic Métis Nation located in central, north-western Canada.[5]

The National Métis Council claims that a Métis is ” (…) a person who self-identifies as Métis, is of historic Métis Nation Ancestry, is distinct from other Aboriginal Peoples and is accepted by the Métis Nation.”[6]. This definition seems adequate superficially; there are further definitions of the MNC however that leave out other Métis groups: “`Historic Métis Nation` means the Aboriginal people then known as Métis or Half-Breeds who resided in Historic Métis Nation Homeland; `Historic Métis Nation Homeland` means the area of land in west central North America used and occupied as the traditional territory of the Métis or Half-Breeds as they were then known.”[7] This definition has a very exclusive character, because Métis communities like the Grand Cache Métis of Northern Alberta, communities in Labrador, Quebec and the United States, none of which originated from the Métis Home Land, are overlooked.[8]

The struggle for a common definition reveals that the Métis are a very diverse group, much more different than other Aboriginal groups tend to be, as Sawchuk declares: “The Métis have many local, regional, and cultural variations which militate against their being considered a unified whole.[9]

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2003 that not all individuals with mixed European and Indian heritage can claim to be Métis. The term Métis only: “refers to distinctive people who, in addition to their mixed ancestry, developed their own customs and group identity separate from their Indian or Inuit and European forebears”[10] Métis must life in a community “(…) with a distinctive collective identity, living together in the same geographical area and sharing a common way of life.“[11]

Conclusively, one can state that the Métis are very diverse and even the Supreme Court could not supply a common definition. The importance of a clear understanding who is Métis (and maybe even more important, who is not), becomes relevant in terms of federal support and benefits for the aboriginals peoples.

2.2 Demographical factors

In the 2001 National Canadian Census 292,310 people reported that they were Métis. That was 30% of those who identified themselves as Aboriginal. The number of people who identified Métis has increased 43% from five years earlier, which meant the largest population gain of the Aboriginal groups. The growth can not only be attributed to fertility. Awareness of Métis issues has increased, due to court cases related to Métis rights, and constitutional discussions. A better enumeration of Métis communities has also contributed to the increase in the population identifying as Métis.[12]

68% of the Métis population live in Canada's urban areas and 29% live in rural sectors. Only 8000 Métis live on reserves.

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Métis represent about 40% of the total Aboriginal non-reserve population in Canada. Alberta has 23% and Manitoba has 19% of the total Métis population.[13]

The median age of Canada's Métis population was 27 years in 2001 and Métis children aged 14 and under represent 29% of the Métis population.

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Young people aged 15 to 24 represent 18% of the total Métis population, whereas 49% of the Métis population was in the age group 25 to 64.[14]

The Métis are a very young ethnic group. Almost 2/3rd of them live in urban areas now, so they do not have any relation or connection to the rural country of their ancestors, and they face the all too familiar general problems of Aboriginals in cities. The two metropolitan areas with the largest Métis populations in 2001 were Winnipeg (31,395) and Edmonton (21,065).[15]

A total of 54,735 Métis children, that is 65% of the total, lived in a two-parent family, while 27,955 youngsters, or 33%, lived with a lone parent. There is, however, quite a difference by area of residence. The percentage of Métis children living with a lone parent in urban areas is 42%, almost double the number of 22% in rural areas. Contrastively, 83% of non-Aboriginal children lived in families with two parents, while only 17% lived in a lone-parent family.[16]

illustration not visible in this excerpt

This reveals that many young Métis kids in cities do have a difficult family background, so the overrepresentation of Métis in the crime record is linked to the demographical developments.

illustration not visible in this excerpt


[1] Magocsi, Paul Robert (Ed.): Aboriginal peoples of Canada: a short introduction, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2002.

[2] Troupe, Cheryl: Expressing our heritage: Métis artistic designs, Gabriel Dumont Institut, Saskatoon, 2002

[3] Adams, Howard: A Tortured People, the politics of colonization, Theytud Books LTD., Penticton, 1995.

[4] Sawchuk, Joe: Negotiating an identity, Métis Political Organizations, the Canadian Government, and Competing Concepts of Aboriginality, in: The American Indian Quarterly 25.01. 2001, pp. 73-92. p. 75.

[5] Teillei, John: Metis Law Summary, Pape&Salter, 2004, p. 4, rights/download/MLS-2004.pdf.

[6] Sawchuk, p. 80.

[7] Metis National Council: National Definition of Métis, September 2002, http://www.

[8] Sawchuk, p. 80-83..

[9] Ibid., p. 74.

[10] The Supreme Court of Canada: Her Royal Majesty the Queen vs. Steve and Roddy Charkes Powley, [2003] 2 S.C.R. 207, 2003 SCC 43, September 19, 2003, p. 2,

[11] Ibid.

[12] Statistics Canada: Métis, Canada’s statistical agency, 2001 Census, http://www12.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.


ISBN (eBook)
769 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg
Métis Canada Ethnic



Titel: The present Métis culture in Canada