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The Métis (pronounced "MAY tee", IPA: , in French: [me'tis] or [mɛ'tɪs]) are an ethnic group of the Canadian prairies, Ontario, Quebec, Labrador, and the Canadian Northwest Territories. This community of descent consists of individuals descended from marriages of Cree, Ojibway and Saulteaux women to French Canadian and British employees of the Hudson's Bay Company. Their history dates to the mid-seventeenth century, and they have been recognized as a people since the early eighteenth. Traditionally, the Métis spoke a mixed language called Michif or Mechif. Michif and Mechif are also used as the name of the Métis people. Mechif is a phonetic spelling of the Métis pronunciation of Métif, a variant of Métis.
The word Métis (the singular, plural and adjectival forms are the same) is French, and related to the Spanish word mestizo. It carries the same connotation of "mixed blood"; traced back far enough it stems from the Latin word mixtus, the past participle of the verb "to mix".
The name is most commonly applied to descendants of communities in what is now southern Manitoba. The name is also applied to the descendants of similar communities in what are now Ontario, Quebec and Labrador, although these groups' histories are different from that of the western Métis. In the West the name was applied most often to francophone Catholics who maintained a nomadic way of life, for example by participating in the annual buffalo hunt. Other descendants of Europeans and aboriginals – for example, those who had been sent to Canada or the United Kingdom to be educated and then returned to work as traders, or anglophone Protestants – often were not considered part of this community.
The Métis National Council defines a person as Métis, if they meet the following criteria:
- self-identifies as Métis
- of historic Métis Nation Ancestry
- is distinct from other Aboriginal Peoples
- is accepted by the Métis Nation.
Estimates of the number of Métis vary from 300,000 to 700,000 or more. Many Métis classify as Métis anyone who can prove that an ancestor applied for money scrip or land scrip as part of nineteenth-century treaties with the Canadian government.
A well-known Métis event was the Battle of Seven Oaks.
The Métis are not recognized as a First Nation by the Canadian government and do not receive the benefits granted to First Nations (see Indian Act). However, the new Canadian constitution of 1982 recognizes the Métis as an aboriginal group and has enabled individual Métis to sue successfully for recognition of their traditional rights, such as rights to hunt and trap. In 2003, a court ruling in Ontario found that an Ontario Métis community has the aboriginal right to hunt for food, a decision seen as a first step toward granting full hunting rights to the community. Some have seen this decision as strengthening the argument that the Métis deserve the same rights as other aboriginal communities in Canada
The most famous Métis was Louis Riel who led what are usually depicted as two failed rebellions, the Red River Rebellion in 1869 in the area now known as Manitoba, and the North-West Rebellion in 1885 in the area now known as Saskatchewan. Reasonable doubts may be raised about whether either of these events was a rebellion. For example, the actions considered rebellious in 1869 were undertaken by Riel as the leader of a government recognized by Canada as in legitimate control of territory that did not belong to Canada; Canada negotiated the Manitoba Act with this government. After these "rebellions”, land speculators and other non-Métis effectively deprived the Métis of land by exploiting a government program for its purchase, with the government perhaps turning a blind eye. The province of Alberta distributed land to Métis in 1938 to correct what it believed to be an inequity, but Saskatchewan and Manitoba have not followed Alberta's lead.
Two other famous Métis leaders were Cuthbert Grant and Gabriel Dumont.
On May 7, 2004, Métis Todd Ducharme was appointed as a judge of the Ontario Supreme Court of Justice.
Last updated: 05-23-2005 05:28:41