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The Métis
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The Métis Environment
  • Métis communities were established along the major fur trade routes, mostly near the important freighting waterways.
  • The Métis lived in:
    • Ontario
    • Manitoba
    • Saskatchewan
    • Alberta
    • British Columbia
    • Northwest Territories
  • The first Métis communities appeared in Ontario, particularly around the Great Lakes, and Eastern Canada.
  • As the fur trade moved west, so did the French-Canadian fur traders. Métis settlements were located as far west as British Columbia, and as far north as the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories.

Saskatchewan River Basin

Grass River, Manitoba
Water
  • Rivers were important for transportation during the fur trade.
  • The French-Canadian voyageurs who traveled along the rivers, set up settlements, got married and had children, giving rise to new Métis communities.
  • The Hayes River in Manitoba was used a principle fur trade route.
  • Lakes were also used as important routes for the fur trade. Therefore, many Métis communities were established near the Great Lakes, and many Western Canadian lakes.

Hayes River, Manitoba

Setting Lake, Manitoba

Killarney Lake, Manitoba

Pelican Lake, Manitoba

Red River, Manitoba
The Red River
  • The Red River in Manitoba was used as a principle route during the western fur trade. Therefore, it played a critical role in the establishment of the Métis Nation.
  • Many French-Canadian voyageurs made camp along the banks of the Red River. It was there that many voyageurs fell in love with local Native women and had children: the Métis.
  • Winters were cold and deep snow fell in the Red River area.
  • Métis communities along the Red River became known as the ‘Red River Settlement’.

Aerial Red River

Red River Settlement

Canadian Prairies
Canadian Prairies
  • Most Métis communities were located in two Canadian Prairie Provinces: Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
  • Southern portions of Manitoba and Saskatchewan were completely flat, but rich soil made the area conducive to farming.
  • The Prairies were known as ‘Big Sky’ country, because of the flat landscape and appearance of an endless horizon.

Prairies, looking from the band of the Red River

Prairie sunset

Prairie sunset

Winter on the prairies

Red River Winter
Winters
  • Winters in the Canadian Prairies were harsh. The temperatures were regularly below freezing and deep snow blanketed the area.
  • The Métis were forced to adapt to the shorter growing season and the cold weather during the winter months.
Settlements and Housing
  • On buffalo hunts and trade expeditions, the Métis camped in tipis similar to the Plains tipis.
  • The Métis also had canvas tents that were brought over by the Europeans.
  • For the rest of the year, the Métis lived in permanent settlements, like the one established along the Red River in Manitoba.
  • They lived in Red River lots: farm houses that were built along the Red River.
  • When they were not hunting, they spent their time gardening and farming.
  • Most Métis families lived and farmed along the Red and the Assiniboine Rivers in Manitoba.

Métis camp, women cooking, Harper's Bazaar (1859)

Red River Colony

Métis farm house

Métis family in front of home

Red River Settlement

Métis log house
Métis Log Houses
  • Log houses were the most common Métis dwellings.
  • They were basic square log cabins, made out of rounded logs with notched ends. The roofs were often flat.
  • Mud and hay were put on the outside of the house for added insulation.
  • Log houses in a village were usually built in a circle, with the largest building in the centre.
  • The largest building in the village was generally used for dances and town meetings.
  • Small Métis settlements, or villages, had around 40-50 log cabins.

Métis log house frame

Heart River Community Hall

Heart River, Métis settlement

Heart River settlement

Snowshoes

Powder horn
Inside the houses
  • Furniture
    • The furniture and utensils in a typical Métis house were a mixture of both Native and European culture.
    • Most of their furniture was made out of wood: wooden trunks, round tables, beds (covered with buffalo furs)
  • Floors
    • Some log cabins had wooden floors, while some had dirt floors. Water was added to the floor on occasion to keep the dirt floors packed down.
  • Walls
    • Buffalo hair and clay were added to the inside walls for added insulation. Typical Métis families decorated their walls with: guns, powder horns, bullet bags, animal skins, snowshoes.
  • The Métis either used mud ovens or iron stoves for cooking.
  • Utensils were carved from wood, or acquired through trade.

Métis style rocking chairs

Iron stove, inside Louis Riel's house
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