The Definition of Metis
The definition of Metis is a controversial subject among the Metis as well as the non-Metis in Canada. First let’s talk about the definition of Aboriginal as defined in the Canadian Constitution. There are three Aboriginal groups that are officially recognized in Canada – First Nation, Metis and Inuit.
In 1985 the Metis were entrenched in Canada’s Constitution as one of the three distinct Aboriginal groups in Canada. “The Canadian Constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal people: First Nations, Métis and Inuit. These are three distinct peoples with unique histories, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.” – Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
The Metis National Council represents five provincial Metis organizations in Canada from Ontario – Metis Nation of Ontario to BC. Their definition is as follows: “Métis” means a person who self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from other Aboriginal peoples, is of historic Métis Nation Ancestry and who is accepted by the Métis Nation.”
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is a national organization who through their affiliated provincial bodies, represents Status Indians living off-reserve, Non-status Indians, and individuals who self-identify as Metis who were never registered but have ties to specific status or non-status Indian tribes. Each affiliated group has their own definition of who is accepted as a member in that group.
The Metis Nation of Canada founder Bryce Fequet’s description of the Metis is: “The Métis People of Canada are Indigenous and whose genesis began during contact between European Men, the Inuit and Indian women.”
The Eastern Woodland Metis Nation Nova Scotia has again, their own definition of who is Metis – “A person of mixed blood; specifically: a person of European and North American Indian Ancestry, regardless of how many generations back (i.e. a person who is not entitled to registry through the Indian Act), a person who Self Identifies and is accepted by the Community.”
The Canadian Metis Council defines a Metis as: “…. persons of mixed blood – European/Aboriginal blood (Indian ancestry); Someone who is distinct from Indian and Inuit, someone who has genealogical ties to Aboriginal ancestry.”
The above are just a few of the Metis organizations in Canada who represent the Metis people in Canada and have their own definitions. However there are many different definitions of Metis and they are as varied as the Canadian landscape itself! Each province across Canada including Quebec, the eastern provinces, Labrador and Newfoundland each have there own representative bodies with their own definitions. You may access most of these on their respective websites. There is also pertinent information that can be found at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website.
We hope this information has given you a little more insight into the Metis people and their ever growing population and presence in Canada.
About the Métis Flag
There are two flags that have been adopted by the Metis people. They originate from the fur trade. One is red with a white infinity symbol and the other is blue with a white infinity symbol. The red flag represents the colours of the Hudson’s Bay Company, while the blue represents the North West Company. The horizontal figure eight is an infinity sign, which symbolizes the joining of two cultures as they are forever intertwined. The infinity symbol has also emerged in the traditional dances of the Métis. Today the representative Metis organizations in Canada fly the two flags. The red flag is also called the ‘hunting’ flag. You will see these flags being flown at special Metis events and gatherings.
The Metis Sash
The Métis Sash apparel had many more functional uses. Its fringed ends served as an emergency sewing kit when the Métis were out on the buffalo hunt. A key, which opened a trunk containing all their valuable possessions, was sometimes tied to the fringes. The Métis Sash also served as a first aid kit, a washcloth, towel, and an emergency bridle and saddle blanket when the Métis were out on a hunt. The sash acquired new significance in the 20th century, and now is a symbol of pride and identification for the Métis people and their culture in Canada.