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Indigenous Learning - Métis in Canada

Origins of the Metis People

The Métis people originated in the 1700s when French and Scottish fur traders married Aboriginal women, such as the Cree, and Anishinabe (Ojibway). Their descendants formed a distinct culture, collective consciousness and nationhood in the Northwest. 

Distinct Métis communities developed along the fur trade routes. This Métis Nation Homeland includes the three Prairie Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta), as well as, parts of Ontario, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and the Northern United States. 

The Métis Nation grew into a distinct culture and became a people in the Northwest prior to that territory becoming part of Canada.

The Métis are one of the “Aboriginal peoples of Canada” within the meaning of section 35 (2) of the Constitution Act, 1982. Section 35 reads as follows:

(1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

(2) In this Act, “aboriginal peoples of Canada” includes Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada. The Supreme Court in Powley held that the Métis have “full status as a distinctive rights-bearing peoples”, a characteristic they share with the Indian (First Nation) and Inuit peoples of Canada.

Credit:  Library and Archives Canada Métis Nation

Metis Flag

The infinity symbol featured on the Métis flag is often thought to have 2 meanings: a representation of the immortality of the nation and a representation of the joining of two cultures.

Some historical interpretations claim that the blue background represents the Northwest Company and and that the red background represents the colours of the Hudson's Bay company.

Credit: The Louis Riel Institute


Métis Pride - Flags of the Metis

Métis Sash

Perhaps the most prominent symbol of the Métis Nation is the brightly coloured, woven sash. In the days of the Voyageur, the sash was both a colourful and festive belt and an important tool worn by the hardy tradesmen, doubling as a rope when needed. Not only functional, the sash is colourful and identifiable as Métis apparel. The sash itself served as a key holder, first aid kit, washcloth, towel, and as an emergency bridle and saddle blanket. Its fringed ends could become a sewing kit when the Métis were on a buffalo hunt.

Credit:   Métis Nation of Ontario