A Group Of Metis Women

The Metis people (before known as half-breed) are Aboriginal people of Canada who trace their lineage to mixed European & First Nation parentage in early Canada. European heritage is typically French or Scottish and while once though of as separate groups, this is not true in the current Metis society.

The formation of the Metis people occurred during the 18th and 19th century when the North American fur trade was booming. Many French-Canadian and British fur traders married First Nations and Inuit women, but mainly First Nations Cree, Ojibway, or Saulteaux. Many of these fur traders were Scottish, French, and Catholic. Therefore, their children became the Metis, where they were exposed to both Catholic tradition and culture as well as indigenous culture and beliefs.

Around the 18th century, the Hudson Bay Company promised Rupert’s land to the European settlers (farmers). However, there was an issue of land ownership, for there was already Aboriginals living in this area. Who the ownership should go to caused great conflicts, with not only with the Aboriginals and the Europeans, but also with the Northwest Co. Rupert’s land was a territtory

where 2 trading companies, Hudson Bay Company (the English) and the Northwest Co. (the French) competed for ownership. While the Metis were living in Manitoba for the short period of time (before they moved), they built a very distinct society. These people are similar to Aboriginal people in various ways:

  • Buffalo hunters
  • Farmers
  • Farm French-style (water is provided for all land)
  • Own leader; own government

John A. MacDonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada (an orangeman), wanted to unify Canada and he did by issuing the following 3 things:

  1. Tariffs- tax on goods from the U.S.
  2. Trade- trade with people back home (Europe and the Caribbean)
  3. Develop a railroad that will run across Canada for enhanced transportation (Canadian Pacific Railway)

Later on, John A. MacDonald sold the right to populate the land to the Hudson Bay Company.

Multiple Metis people were working for the North West Company, the Hudson Bay Company, and being fur traders. There were many others that worked as free traders, or buffalo hunters, providing pemmican to the fur trade. Eventually, the number of buffalo’s were declining, which forced the Metis and First Nations to migrate further and further west to hunt them. Not only that, because the First Nations and Metis were moving more westward, the Hudson Bay Company was forced to extend its reach in order to retrieve the fur. By doing this, the profits from fur trade went down. At the same time, the CPR was being built which continuously made it difficult for the Metis or the First Nations to live where they are. 1/10 of the CPR was populated in heavily congested areas, which forced a greater number of Metis and First Nations to continue moving westward.

Louis Riel

During this time, the Canadian government was making the First Nations sign treaties, known as the “Numbered Treaties,” which surrendered all the western plains over to the Canadian government. In return, the government would provide food, education, medical assistance, etc.

At this point in time, Louis Riel came, who was elected as the spokesperson of the Metis society. He was considered to be:

  • Educated
  • Intelligent
  • Greatly-advised

He formed a provisional government and demanded from the Canadians government that religion, language, culture, etc. would not change in exchange for the land they would give up. Once the problem was fixed, Louis Riel moved to the States, where he lived in Montana as a teacher

Soon after the provisional government was formed, the Canadian government produced a scrip system, where there were money and land scrips. These scrips were poorly formed in that it took almost 30 years before it was able to be issued and actually utilized.

The First Nations continued to move westward because the Hudson Bay Company said so (MacDonald had given the right to populate land to the HBC) and because the script system was overriding the First Nations right to stay in the land.Eventually, the Metis and the First Nations were moved out of Manitoba, and into Saskatchewan, where a similar incident occurred in Manitoba. Now that the Metis are in Saskatchewan, the Canadian government returns and wants to continue building the CPR.

The Metis heard that 500 NWMP officers were matching towards them, so they organized a provisional government called The Metis Provisional Government. Pierre Parenteau was the president, with Gabriel Dumont as adjutant-general and with the help from the First Nations chief clan, Poundmaker and Big Bear, they were able to retrieve Louis Riel from the States. Once he was back in Canada, they tried to  negotiate with the Canadian Government once more but failed miserably because the Canadian government had:

  • Money
  • A huge population in their nation
  • The reasons to say simply say “no”

The attempt to negotiate with the Canadian government was known as “Riel Rebellions.” Sadly, the Metis lost, and Gabriel and Louis fled to the States, and Poundmaker and Big Bear surrendered to the government. They had a 3 year sentence. Riel was charge with high treason and was ordered to be hung on July 6, 1885. His appeals went on shortly, but the government at that time demanded that he be hung, and so he was on November 16, 1885.