The first Métis people emerged in the 1700s with the arrival of European settlers, primarily the French fur traders. The French fur traders recognized that the Indigenous peoples had valuable knowledge of how to survive on the land as well as important connections for trading. The French fur traders married First Nations women. The children of these original marriages were known as Métis.
PHOTO CREDIT: WESTERN DEVELOPMENT MUSEUM
This First Nations woman and European man married, and their children are Métis.
As the number of Métis people grew, their culture and way of life became distinctly different from European and First Nations peoples. The word Métis comes from a French word meaning ‘mixed’. The unions between the First Nations women and the French fur traders benefited both sides. The marriages allowed the fur traders to learn local First Nation languages, gain knowledge about the land, and connect with important families for trading. The marriages also made it easier for First Nations peoples to trade for valuable goods with the fur traders.
The fur trade continued to push west and Métis communities developed in the Prairies along the fur trade routes. The early Métis settlements were seasonal and depended on bison hunting activity and the fur trade. Many Métis communities were established around the fur trade posts, near fishing locations, close to rivers, and near the sites where Métis hunters settled for the winter. By the early 1800s, the Métis had become known in the Prairies as skilled bison hunters and suppliers for the fur trading companies.
The Métis people were very skilled hunters and suppliers for the fur traders to trade with.
The Métis Nation Homeland includes the land now known as the three prairie provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta), as well as parts of Ontario, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, and the northern United States. Throughout the 1700s and early 1800s, The Métis Nation began to grow into a distinct culture with their own traditions, language, customs, and ways of life.
The Métis culture is rich and distinct with its own traditions.