Métis peoples are those of mixed French and Native ancestry, often including other cultural origins as well, especially Scottish. The French word Metis, meaning mixed blood, came into common use in the 1800s on the Canadian prairies to describe the children of French-Canadian traders and indigenous women, mostly Cree and Ojibwa. These intermarriages spawned a new culture, including distinctive languages, as well as clothing, food, and music.
Métis peoples live in every province and territory of Canada and many states in the U.S. Many are French-speaking, though many are not, speaking English and/or Aboriginal languages. However, to some extent all share an Aboriginal-French-Scottish cultural legacy which varies from one region to another and even from one family to another.
Indigenous women were the link between cultures; they provided companionship for the fur traders, treated and processed their furs, and aided in their survival. Many times Native women served as translators, usually managed their husband’s households, and generally were involved in resolving any cultural issues that arose. The fur traders benefited greatly from their wives' knowledge of the land and its resources.
The Métis played a vital role in the success of the western fur trade. Not only were the Métis skilled hunters, but they were also raised to appreciate both Aboriginal and European cultures. Métis understanding of both societies and their customs helped bridge cultural gaps, and improved trading relationships. The Métis were invaluable employees of the fur trading companies. They navigated the rivers, they managed the pack trains, they hunted for food, and they served as the critical link between the Natives and Company management.
METIS HISTORY IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
We recommend the following publications on Metis history in the Pacific Northwest and related topics:
Children of the Fur Trade--Forgotten Metis of the Pacific Northwest, John C. Jackson, Oregon State University Press, 1996, 2007
A Little War of Destiny--The Yakima/Walla Walla Indian War of 1856-56, John C. Jackson, Ye Galleon Press, 1996, Amazon Books, 2011 (available from and all proceeds donated to Frenchtown Historical Foundation)
A True Copy of the Record of the Official Proceedings at the Council in the Walla Walla Valley, 1855, Darrell Scott, Ye Galleon Press, 1985 (donated copies available from Frenchtown Historical Foundation)
Les Canadiens, Robert Foxcurran, in Columbia, the Magazine of Northwest History, Fall 2012, pp.22-26