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The Métis
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Food & Hunting
  • Traditionally, the Métis were hunters. Every aspect of their lifestyle was dependent on the buffalo hunt. They needed buffalo to survive.

Métis buffalo hunt, Paul Kane

Plains buffalo
  • The lifestyle of the Métis revolved around the Plains buffalo.
  • However, when the skilled Métis hunters were not on a buffalo hunt, they spent time hunting other animals for food. They hunted:
    • Pronghorn antelope
    • Moose
    • Elk
    • Mule deer
    • Prairie bush rabbit
    • Wild birds - prairie chicken, sage grouse, duck, geese

Mule deer

Pronghorn antelope


Prairie bush rabbit


Sage grouse

Prairie chicken



Fishing in Lake Manitoba
  • If fishing was available in the area it was also a major source of food for the Métis people.
  • They fished for whatever was available in the area, and mainly caught:
    • Salmon
    • Pickerel
    • Trout

Saskatoon berries
  • The Métis also gathered wild berries and edible plants.
  • Berries were important food for the Métis. They were eaten alone, or added to a popular meal called ‘Pemmican’.
  • Berries were stored in animal skins to prevent them from going bad.

Preparing the food

La Tourtière (meat pie)


Drying buffalo meat for pemmican

Buffalo jerky
  • Meat
    • Roasted
    • Baked
    • Smoked
    • Minced to make les tourtières (meat pies)
  • Recipes - some traditional Métis recipes include:
    • Pemmican (made from dried buffalo meat)
    • Bannock (bread)
    • Fried Bread
    • Métis soups
    • Meatballs
    • Les Tourtières (meat pies)
    • Pea Soup
    • Steamed pudding
    • Custard
  • Pemmican
    • A single buffalo supplied the Métis with a large amount of meat. Therefore, they needed to find a way to preserve some of that meat to keep it from going bad.
    • Most of the buffalo meat was used to make ‘pemmican’, which lasted for year without spoiling.
    • Pemmican was usually made from buffalo meat.
    • Drying the meat ensured that it did not go bad.
    • How to make pemmican:
      • First, the buffalo meat was cut into long strips.
      • The strips were then dried on racks, either over a fire, or in the sun.
      • The dried buffalo meat was then pounded into granular form.
      • Once in granular form, it was placed into animal-hide bags.
      • Hot buffalo fat was poured into the bags and mixed with the dried meat.
      • Wild berries were added to the mixture for flavour.
      • The hide bag were sewn shut, and the pemmican kept for years.
    • Pemmican was a nutritious and filling snack, and was eaily transported on long trade journeys.
    • Pemmican recipe
      • Ingredients:
        • 2 lbs of buffalo meat
        • ¼ cup of berries (blueberries or saskatoon berries)
        • 5 tablespoons of animal fat
      • Steps:
        • Cut meat into long strips
        • Hang meat in the sun to dry
        • When dry, pound strips into flakes
        • Mix together flakes and dried berries in hide bag (or bowl)
        • Add melted fat (hot)
        • Add berries (optional)
  • Jerky
    • Another way to prepare buffalo meat was to dry the meat and cut it into small pieces- called buffalo jerky.
  • Bannock
    • The Métis ate a lot of ‘bannock’. Bannock was a combination of Scottish bread and Indian fry bread that could be baked in an oven, cooked in a skillet over a fire, or fried. The benefit of bannock was that it was easy to make and transport. It also lasted a long time without spoiling, and was quite filling.
    • The Métis harvested wild turnips, peeled and dried them, and then pounded them into flour for use in the bannock. The Métis also traded with the HBC and NWC for flour.
  • The Métis used all parts of the buffalo that they hunted- nothing was wasted.
  • They used buffalo skin to make:
    • Containers
    • Shields
    • Buckets
    • Ropes
    • Bags
  • They used buffalo bones to make:
    • Knives
    • Pipes
    • Arrowheads
    • Shovels
    • Clubs
  • They used buffalo horns to make:
    • Arrows
    • Spoons
    • Powder Horns
    • Ladles

Buffalo herd

Steel, buffalo horn knife

Métis pipe

Métis powder horn (horn, metal, wood, leather)

Cast-iron skillet
  • Storage and cooking containers were made from buffalo hides, mainly rawhide with a willow wood frame.
  • These skin pots could not be placed directly over a source of heat. Instead, stones were heated over a fire and placed inside the container. If the container was filled with water, then the stones brought the water to a boil.
  • Through trade with the Europeans, the Métis acquired more metal cooking utensils, such as:
    • Cast-iron pots
    • Cast-iron skillets
    • Copper kettles
    • Tin plates and cups
    • Metal cutlery
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