Arrival of Strangers - The Last 500 Years

The Métis


"We are Métis, with roots and rights that extend 9,000 years into this continent. We are neither First Nations nor Inuit, nor are we European immigrants to this land. Instead, we are the middle-ground between camps; the compromise between differences and the dawn that separates night and day. We are not half-breeds, but the children born of a marriage between two very different worlds.... To be Métis is to be blessed with the best fruit of not one, but two family trees. We are not "half" of anything, but doubled. Being twice blessed, we are likewise proud, strong and determined."

- Terry St. Amant, The Georgian Bay Métis Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario Web site

Métis people from different parts of Canada and the United States expressed their identities in decorative arts and clothing. In the 1800s, design ideas were exchanged between the Great Lakes and Red River Métis, the Eastern Woods Cree, and the various Aboriginal peoples of the Plains, and the Dene of the Northwest Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Métis also used design elements from French and British objects and clothing.

Brent Potskin Jr. dancing on stage at the Edmonton Heritage Days Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, August 5, 2001, photograph by Morgan Baillargeon
Canadian Museum of Civilization, K2001-1169
Brent Potskin Jr. - K2001-1169

Métis decorative and clothing styles changed steadily through the 1800s and the twentieth century. Vibrant, colourful floral embroidery dominated Métis textile arts in the 1800s. By the mid-1900s, styles and materials had changed. The "old trade goods" obtained from Hudson's Bay Company stores were no longer available. In spite of widespread poverty, Métis women continued to make distinctive clothing. Métis creativity is still a vibrant force in the twenty-first century.

Sash, Métis, 1875
Canadian Museum of Civilization, III-X-385, CD96-002-036

Sash - III-X-385 - CD96-002-036

Assomption Sash - The Assomption sash is perhaps the most widely recognized and best-known symbol of Métis culture. Some woven Assomption sashes were made in Quebec and were a popular trade item for Hudson's Bay and Northwest Company voyageurs and traders, as well as for the Métis. The sash was valued for its attractive appearance, practicality and versatility. It could serve as a temporary tumpline, as a covering in cool weather, as a rope, or an emergency bridle and saddle blanket. Today, the sash continues to be an integral part of Métis culture and is a symbol of pride and identification. "The Order of the Sash" is given to members of the Métis community who have made significant contributions to their people.

Mittens - V-Z-1 a,b - CD94-335-048 Coat - III-X-229 - CD2001-140-005 Panel Bag - III-Z-1 - CD2001-139-009
(left) Mittens
Red River Métis
About 1840
Deer or caribou skin, porcupine quills and sinew
Canadian Museum of Civilization, V-Z-1 a,b, CD94-335-048

(center) Coat
Great Lakes Métis
Early 1800s
Moosehide, horsehair, porcupine quills, natural pigment, glue, dye and sinew
Canadian Museum of Civilization, III-X-229, CD2001-140-005

(right) Panel bag
Wool, animal hide, glass beads, cotton, wool yarn, sinew and cotton thread
Canadian Museum of Civilization, III-Z-1, CD2001-139-009

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