Métis Culture

Kristof Boucher

A website review of http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/metis/

The legislative place of the metis, people of mixed white and aboriginal blood, in our society has always been a matter of debate. Their mixed blood makes it difficult to determine if they fall under the same laws as "pure" blood natives or if they follow the average Canadian citizen laws. To make matters more complicated the cultural identification of metis varies greatly as many feel closer to our western way of life while others prefer the traditional aboriginal culture. In order to better understand metis history, the Canadian encyclopedia has a detailed website on the subject. The website covers many subjects from first French contact in the 17th century to the modern era following a chronological development. My review will first describe the contents of the web page before reviewing the information displayed and the site interface.

The author first tries to define who the metis are which is a difficult task. The word is used to define people of mixed European and aboriginal people but in legal texts this is not an easy thing to do; "For example, Alberta's Métis Betterment Act of 1938 defined Métis as persons "of mixed white and INDIAN blood having not less than one-quarter Indian blood", not including those people already defined under Canada's INDIAN ACT as treaty or non-treaty Aboriginal people". The author than explains that a difficulty arises when trying to define the legal status of the metis because their biological lineage has little to do with their political and social identity. The text then explains that the first metis were most likely born from Acadian Indians and French fishermen. It wasn't long before European officials discouraged mixed race intercourse which created racism and segregation leading to metis colonies during the end of the 17th century.

The text then continues to discuss in moderate detail the different interactions between the Canadian government (and the earlier British officials). The tone the text is very factual giving very little opinion and makes the reading very informative and concise. There is but one noticeable moment where the author seems to take sides with the metis and that is when talking about Hudson bay company governor George Simpson and other british officials: "Simpson showed biases that were common among other Europeans (clergy and colonists) arriving in Red River and the fur-trade country and among numerous scientific and popular writers of the period; attributes of race or "blood" were linked with cultural and behavioural traits to produce deterministic judgements that science later proved untenable. Such views, applied to biracial groups, covered a wide range; such hybrids were everything from "faulty stock" or a "spurious breed" to "the natural link between civilization and barbarism," as Alexis de Tocqueville put it in the 1830s." The text then has a lot of information about the rebellions and recent political activism of metis people but I will let you delve in those parts of the web page.

In my opinion, this website is a great source of information for anyone looking to learn more about the metis history in Canada. The tone used is very neutral which makes for a very unbiased point view of the different events. The information is delivered in a very accessible manner; sentences are clear and any new group or event discussed has a hyperlink leading to a whole new webpage discussing it. Sadly, since the text is so factual reading it in a single sitting can get tedious as a neutral tone does not deliver the emotion or intensity of a different kind of text. However I believe this site is great for anyone looking for a starting point in learning about native history and will most likely make people more likely to search for more information after their lecture. A seemingly meaningless aspect I would like to point out is that the interface is impeccable. I find this very important because having a good looking website makes the information seem of better quality and makes it more likely that people will stay on the site to browse more information. A great thing to note is that the last time the text was edited was in 2014 which means that the information is still being put up to date and that this web page is likely to stay relevant in years to come.


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