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The Métis

The Métis people are a distinct nation and culture in Canadian Society. The Métis people know the hardships of life very well. They know the victories and defeats of Canadian Politics. They have a spirit that is true, free, and full of life which inspires people. We will learn about their traditions, culture, history, present events, and future struggles.
Métis paternal ancestry came from a variety of nationalities: French, Scottish, Irish and English. Most mothers were Native Indian. In the beginning, the Métis Nation consisted of two different characteristic groups: the French Métis (Bois Brulé) and the English half-breeds. In every aspect of life, the Métis adjusted European technology to that of their settlements.

The Métis people have had a history of turmoil. As a people they were never really accepted on either side. They were not fully European and not fully Indian. Because of this non-acceptance, the Métis were (and still are) determined to make their own way in the world. Because of this spirit of freedom a new nation was born.

The Métis are the descendents of the fur trade. The original Métis had a close connection to the land and depended on it to provide for them and their families. Large scale Buffalo hunts of 400 plus people were very common. The Métis used the buffalo to provide for their families.

From their maternal (Indian) background, the Métis acquired a broad knowledge of traditional Indian ways. From their fathers, they learned the competitive spirit. Whether with father or by themselves, Métis learned to adapt both the Indian and European ways of life, using what was appropriate to their needs.

Métis women played an important role in the process of accommodating two cultures. It was the Métis women who retained the leather skills of their Indian ancestors, and added the glass beads sold by the trading companies. They developed leather work into a superb craft, even an art; they produced beaded moccasins, coats, belts and mittens for their men. The work was so beautiful that the Indian women who previous to this had decorated their clothing mainly with intricately worked porcupine quills, quickly adopted the beads.

It was a Métis woman who took the leather and furs to the country and made clothes from indigenous materials patterned on the European style of tailoring clothes to body shape, rather than the use of the straight flowing robe of the Indian, or wrapping a huge blanket around themselves. The Métis women tended to dress their families much as did the Europeans.

It was in the Red River Region of Manitoba that the Métis became conspicuous in Canadian history. By 1810 they had established roles as buffalo hunters and provisioners to the North West Company (NWC). As NWC supply lines lengthened to Athabasca and beyond, the Red River heartland was central to the Montréal traders. Accordingly, when in 1811 Thomas Douglas, fifth earl of Selkirk, reached an agreement with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) to found the colony of Assiniboia with a band of Scottish settlers, the Nor’Westers and their native-born employees and associates saw it as a direct threat to their trade, livelihood and territorial interests.

Events of the next decade are well known: the Pemmican War, the Seven Oaks killing of Governor Robert Semple and several colonists in 1816, the often violent conflicts between the HBC and NWC, and the final merger in 1821. Less recognized is the fact that each company's Red River Colony involvement was intensified in part by the presence of its own native-born constituency. The growing numbers of "Hudson's Bay natives" were a factor in the HBC decision to support the colony. Servants with "country" wives and families lobbied for the founding of a community where they could retire and have lands, livelihoods, schools, churches and other amenities. The HBC itself hoped to reduce costs by relocating dependent post populations in a place where they could become self-supporting under the company's governance.

There were many factors that came together that influenced the Métis people. One of the most important factors was the amalgamation of the NWC and HBC. This gave the HBC a monopoly over the fur trade. This monopoly angered the Métis people and caused them to write letters to the Federal Government in Ottawa. Another factor that greatly influenced the Métis people was Canada’s purchase of Rupert’s Land from HBC. The Métis people had lived on the land before the Dominion of Canada and did not want Easterners governing over them. They decided to set up their own government and make their own laws. A provisional government was established in 1869 with Louis Riel as the President. This establishment of government caused Ottawa to proclaim the Manitoba Act in which Manitoba was given provincial status in the Dominion of Canada and, most important for the Métis, stating that 1 400 000 would be allotted for the children of the Métis.

As more people arrived in the Colony the Métis were forced to move out. The Métis people did not have the European sense of land ownership and did not understand that their land was being filled up by European settlers. Métis people ended up trading their land for what was called Scrip. This turned out to be a small amount of money.

As President of the provisional government Louis Riel became a criminal in the dominion of Canada for allowing the execution of a Government agent (Thomas Scott). This forced Louis Riel to leave the country and go into exile in Montana.

As more and more settlers arrived in the Red River Colony, the Métis people moved further and further West. The move west allowed them to be free of the oppression of Ottawa and live their lives the way they wanted. Eventually Métis people needed a leader again.

Louis Riel was sent for in Montana. He came back to Saskatchewan to unite his people and try to make a nation of their own. They were denied by the Canadian Government which eventually led to many battles with the Canadian Army. The Métis people were finally defeated at Batoche, Sk, in 1885. Louis Riel was arrested, tried and hanged in Regina in November of 1885.

There was a dispersion of the people after the battle of Batoche. The Métis felt that they were by law able to live on unused government land. Eventually, most of the agricultural land was taken by settlers. This left no land for the Métis to live on. The Métis people became known as the Road Allowance People. The year 1935 was terrible for Métis people as the Federal Government established the Prairie Farm-Rehabilitation Act. In this act unused crown land was turned into common community pastures which forced the Métis off the land and onto the road allowances.

In the years that followed, there was a rejuvenation of the Métis spirit. The people started to plead with the Government to gain status as Indian people. Many Métis people suffered under the laws of Saskatchewan as the province did not want to grant hunting and fishing rights to Métis people on the premise that they were not “Indian”. It only took the Province of Saskatchewan nearly 100 years to recognise the Métis people as unique and founding people of the province. This fight still remains today, although some people have found ways to be distinguished as Aboriginal.

Today, the fight continues with the Métis to regain land that they lost. In fact, there is a battle currently in the Supreme Court of Canada in which the Métis claim the Government of Canada owes them money for the land they lost in the Red River Colony.

The history of the Métis people is filled with great turmoil. They are a people who are extremely proud and independent. Their history is the history of Saskatchewan and most of Western Canada.
Essential Question:
What is and has been the affect of the Métis people on Canadian (specifically Western Canadian) Society?
This unit will focus on the Métis people and their many contributions to Western Canadian Society. It will do this by focusing on historical issues, as well as present issues, and future issues. There will be great focus on who the Métis people are. This will be done by learning about the culture and history of this unique distinct nation.

There will be many activities that span across the curriculum. The activities will involve Social Studies, Language Arts, Physical Education, and Arts Education. The instructional techniques that will be used are direct, indirect, experiential, and inquiry.

Since this is a Social Studies Unit the outcomes that will be covered will be the following: a) IN4.1 Analyze how First Nations and Métis people have shaped and continue to shape Saskatchewan.

b) IN4.2 Describe the origins of the cultural diversity in Saskatchewan communities

c) DR4.1 Correlate the impact of the land on the lifestyles and settlement patterns of the people of Saskatchewan.

d) DR4.2 Explain the relationship of First Nations and Métis peoples with the land.

e) PA4.4 Demonstrate an understanding of the Métis governance system.
Students need to learn the history of the Métis people as their history is truly the history of Saskatchewan and Western Canada. Students need to learn about the Métis culture in order to better understand this history so that as a society mistakes that were made in the past will not be remade in the future.
Student Readiness:
Student readiness was assessed by anecdotal observation. A field trip was made to the Natural History Museum in Regina by the class and I had the opportunity to attend. The students knew many answers to the questions that were asked of them. They even knew things that I was surprised to learn. A second observation was made by me in their classroom. My co-op teacher led the class in an oral review of explores and first nation content. They have been well taught.

Lesson Plan # 1

Topic: Life of the Métis People Class: Social Studies (Grade 4) Date:
Description of Lesson:

This lesson is a shared book reading with the class. The book used is called, “The Flower Beadwork People” by Sherry Farrell Racette.

Outcomes: Indicators:

IN4.1 Analyze how First Nations and Métis people have shaped and continue to shape Saskatchewan.


DR4.2 Explain the relationship of First Nations and Métis peoples with the land.

- Create an inventory of the contributions of First Nations and Métis people to government, business, and professional life in Saskatchewan (e.g., consulting firms, outfitters, financial firms, architects, educators, health workers, legal specialists, artists, athletes).

- Explain the significance of dance and music to First Nations and Métis peoples and its contribution to Saskatchewan intercultural development.

- Research the history of the Métis people and their relationship with the land.

- Assess the impact of historic loss of land on First Nations and Métis people.

Research the Métis struggle for land, and the displacement of Métis people in the late 19th century.


  • The Flower Beadwork People by: Sherry Farrell Racette

Adaptive Dimension:

  • Students can research their own family history to discover how they came to live in Canada.


- Check for understanding of key words and places by questioning.


- Developing thinking

- Geographic literacy

- Developing social responsibility

- Developing identity and interdependence
Prerequisite Learnings:

  • Basic understanding if First Nations People

  • Basic understanding of European Explorers and the Fur trade

Lesson Preparation:

  • Clear a spot in the room so all students can sit close and see the pictures.

  • Have the book on hand.

  • Read the book over and make some specific questions that you will ask the students.



  • Introduce the book and tell them that the class is going to read it together.

  • Start with the cover reading the title and authors name. Ask the question, “Does anyone have any suggestions what this book is about?”


  • Students need to get comfortable. They need to move close so that all can see the pictures. But not so close that they are sitting on each other.

  • I need to read with a loud clear voice.

  • Students need to raise their hands to answer questions


2 mins.


  • Start reading the book.

  • Before reading each page, ask the students to make a guess of what the page is about by looking at the picture.

  • As the book progresses, ask student specific questions about things that are seen in the book. Point to the Red River Cart and see if the student can identify it.

  • Ask why the many of the people in the book look different than most of us.

  • Is there anything about the pictures that interest you?

  • Why are the pictures in this book so colourful?

  • It is good to take enough time for the students to answer.

  • Let the students have a good look at the pictures before moving on to the next page.



- Wrap up the book by choosing some of the vocabulary words from the back of the book. Ask the class about these words. Choose words that can lead to discussion such as relatives, Portages, Pemmican, Moccasins, York Boats, and Leggings

  • Students may need time to think about their answers so allow for enough time.

  • Allow students to quickly discuss with each other about what the words mean.

10 mins

Lesson Plan # 2

Topic: Introduction to the Métis People Class: Social Studies – Grade 4 Date: Feb.20/2011
Description of Lesson: This lesson will focus on introducing the class to the Métis people. This will be done by a quick map study, time line, and definition of Métis.
Outcomes: Indicators:

DR4.1 Correlate the impact of the land on the lifestyles and settlement patterns of the people of Saskatchewan.

- Make inferences about why people in Saskatchewan settled particular locations, including settlement patterns before and after coming together of First Nations and European peoples using a variety of maps (e.g., near waterways, sources of water, rail lines, natural resources, low population density in rural areas).

- Conduct an inquiry investigating how residents of Saskatchewan came to occupy the land that is now our province (e.g., First Nations, early Europeans, and Métis).


  • Photocopies of maps of Western Provinces that show rivers and some settlements including a transparency map.

  • Information pertaining to the fur trade in Canada

  • Information pertaining to the history of the Métis

  • Photo from Canadian Encyclopaedia

  • Overhead projector

  • Video projector

  • A computer and website – History of HBC


  • Check the students’ work on their maps to ensure they have followed the directions and placed the marks in appropriate places. Assess that the printing is neat and legible.

  • Ask questions to the class about settlement patterns and different regions of the Province. This will relay to me what the students know about the fur trade and what they know about the physical regions of Saskatchewan. Make anecdotal notes on this plan.


- Developing thinking

- Geographic literacy

- Developing social responsibility

- Developing identity and interdependence
Prerequisite Learnings:

- Students must have a basic understanding of the fur trade in Canada. Students will need to know why furs were important and why people from other Countries decided to come to Canada

Lesson Preparation:

  • Photocopy maps of Early Settlements on the Western Provinces

  • Have questions ready to ask students regarding settlement patterns of the people.

  • Presentation


  • Write the word Métis on the white board.

  • Have the students make guesses as to what the word means.

  • Explain to the class that we are going to explore what Métis means and how it applies to our lives.


- Students will raise their hands to answer. This will be established before the discussion begins.


5 mins.


  • Present a picture to the class. A good one will involve a picture of both a tepee and red river cart. Ask the students what they see in the picture and ask if there is anything that seems out of place in the picture. This will make the connection that the Métis are a combination of two cultures.

  • Using the map and the overhead. Mark these specific places on the maps noting that the settlements are along the rivers. Why is this? Specific places should include the Red River Colony, The Province of Assiniboia/Manitoba, Lake Winnipeg, The Assiniboine River, the Qu’Appelle River, The Saskatchewan Rivers, Fish Creek, Batoche, St. Laurent, Duke Lake, Fort Carlton, Fort Pitt.

  • An overview of the Rivers will show where they go and how they end up at the ocean.

  • Students will label their maps using a key. This will keep their maps neater. A numbering system works fine with a corresponding number and name in the key. We will also add a North Arrow and Title to the map.

- Again, hands need to be raised to answer. Allow a good amount of time for the students to see the picture and make guesses about what is out of place. Only take answers one at a time. Students will want to get out of their desks and look. Allow this as long as it is orderly. If on the overhead projector, it should be large enough for all to see.

- Clear expectations need to be given to the students. Telling them that they are expected to print on their maps with their neatest printing.

- These will be put into their binders for this unit and handed in for me to look at.

40 mins


- We will do a quick wrap up of what the word Métis means. I will some ask questions such as why did people beside the rivers? Why did the Europeans marry the First Nation peoples?

5 mins

Lesson Plan

Topic: Life of Métis People Class :Social Studies (Grade 4) Date:
Description of Lesson: This lesson will focus on the life style of the Métis people. It will highlight points of their culture and way of life. This lesson is designed so that the students will make a quick summary and explanation of a certain piece of the Métis life style.

Outcomes: Objectives:

- DR4.2 Explain the relationship of First Nations and Métis peoples with the land.

- Research the history of the Métis people and their relationship with the land.

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