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Metis History

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The two articles titled "Unacquainted with the laws of the civilized world: American attitudes toward the metis communities in the Old Northwest" by David Edmunds and "Many roads to Red River: Metis genesis in the Great Lakes region, 1680-1815" by Jacqueline Peterson have in comparison many differences and a few similarities. Peterson's article is quite lengthy and because of this it is difficult to follow at times. She discusses the metis in much detail; where, when and how they emerged, their lifestyle, culture, and beliefs. In contrast to Edmunds' article, which was not only much shorter but more easily understood.

Peterson's article discusses who the metis were and how they emerged in the Great Lakes region. She continues to discuss how the terminology changed over time from 18th to 19th century, first referring to these people as Canadian, French or Indian then to half-breed, metis, or metif. Observers began to become more prejudiced in the Americas by the 19th century and later. The article is about the metis population and their significance, importance and influence in the Great Lakes region. The ethnicity of these individuals depended on where they were located and their survival tactics rather than biological or social ties. Peterson also writes about Michilimackinac (later referred to as the Mackinac) as the most important trading post of Canada. She discusses Mackinac quite a bit in her article; the placement, population, community, intermarriages, housing, children, British take-over and trade details. She talks about Green Bay and other trading posts around the Great Lakes area which actually reflects on the title of the article "Many roads to Red River." The years between 1815-1850, there was a distinctive population of a cultural people in the Great Lakes region which were identified as metis according to Peterson's article.

"Ð'...a new society came into being. At first it was a tiny society. Always, it was a society in fluxÐ'...if not self-consciously metis before 1815 Ð'- were a people in the process of becoming. We know this because their distinctiveness was fully apparent to outsiders, if not themselves."

This was evident by their language, religion, dress, cuisine, architecture, music and dance. They were not Indian nor were they European but a hybrid mix of Euro-Indian peoples, mainly French European settlers not English European.

In Edmunds article he also writes about metis but in a somewhat different manner. His discussion is geared towards American behaviors and views of the metis in the Old Northwest. Edmund points out that missionaries and government agents tried to convert Indian and metis peoples into farmers, to have them adopt an agricultural lifestyle. While this conversion or alteration of metis people did not last long however, metis did adopt a few aspects of European culture according to McKenny, "metis and Indians had adopted a few of the technological advantages of European culture (such as firearms and clothing) and had fallen victims to come of its vices (alcoholism)." Like Peterson, Edmund also talks about how Indian and French amalgamated to create a new peoples, combining both cultures which in turn are identified as metis.

"By the early 19th century the close association between the French and the Indians created a culture based upon values extracted from both groups. The new people, the metis, dominated both the French creole and Indian communities, combining much of the rich heritage from both ancestries."

The creation of these new people were beneficial to the American colonists and Aboriginal people since they aided in the fur trade greatly, the metis were fundamental to the continuation of the fur trade. Edmunds states that metis had ties to the French other than blood. Many French were referred to as "coureurs de bois, voyageurs and engages" which means travelers and hunters. Metis were more closely linked to traveling and hunting unlike their British settlers who were more agriculturally orientated.

The metis were well-off, adopted French culture, were educated because of their French counterparts but why then did Americans still view them as savages and were being forced out of the Americas?

Edmunds answers his own question by stating that Americans had an ethnocentric view of the future of the United States. Metis spoke no English, they spoke mainly their native language and French Ð'- which they learned by their French partners. Anglo-Americans, who were settlers from



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