By Noella I Snowshoe
It can often be said that the cultural effects of the Mtis people often go unnoticed and oft unappreciated in total and totality. Yet the Mtis people are a speck and a drop in the lake of the proverbial oceans of the world. Yet the impact of this nation spreads far and wide.
Across the breadth of the expansive Mtis homeland and homelands there are more than a few if not many emblems themselves of the enduring emblematic reminders of the historic Metis presence, and of the Metis nation and nations.
Take for example the Montana Buffalo Skull Logo, the Buffalo symbol on the province of Manitoba Canada’s officialdom government of Manitoba Coat of Arms, the seal of the Manitoba Mtis Federation, the blue colored Mtis infinity flag, the ubiquitous fiddle and sash, the world famous and known Red River Cart. In addition worldwide and throughout North America Canada and the USA, you will no doubt find numerous streets and landmarks named after Mtis patriarchs and founders.
Indeed streets and landmarks named after famous Mtis participants can be both readily and easily found in such varied geographic locales from as far and wide in the lands of North America as Kansas City , Edmonton to as far north as Yellowknife North West Territories NWT Canada.
Lastly the Metis language Mishif is still spoken to this day in fully four states and five provinces of the Dominion of Canada.
What is the history of the Mtis nation and the Mtis people? Indeed while it can be stated emphatically that the Metis while being descendants and a merger of two peoples and communities that of First Nation Aboriginal motherhoods and White European fathers are both First Nation Aboriginal and European in origin yet are entirely unique and distinct both as a people and culture from their Indian Aboriginal First Nations mothers and White European male ancestors.
Entirely on their own and perhaps due the rugged means and manner of living the Metis developed entirely separately. One must remember for a French courier de bois, or a Scottish Hudson Bay Company factor to live a life in these isolated climes and rugged geography that is to live off the land they can be considered to be of even a more adventurous type and leading lives more daring than 20Th century astronauts on a moon landing mission. True these Frenchman as well as the Scots from such out flung rugged spots as the Orkney Island of the Scottish isles were characters no doubt yet they were the most adventurous and daring of souls so that these traits are an integral part of Mtis culture and pride. No doubt about this in any manner shape or form. A Mtis was not a French-Canadian, nor a Canadian, nor a Scot. Neither was they First Nations nor Inuit (Older term now considered pejorative is the term Eskimo which graphically translates as raw fish eater or eaters).
Mtis created for themselves, and future generations a unique culture, a group identity and thus declared themselves a New Nation. The Mtis forged treaties and declared a Bill of Rights that marked their identity and identities as a New Nation.
The Mtis became the very symbols and role models of the Canadian Northwest and Northern US as the very originators and founders of the lucrative and basic fur trade which supported these regions. In various roles the Mtis nation worked long and hard and endured much arduous work and adversity. Whether it was in the roles of the original coureurs de bois (roughly translated as runners of the woods), or later on as more mechanized dock and warehouse workers it never was an easy life for a Mtis. There is no doubt about it. Mtis and the Mtis nation were indispensable in commercializing both the fur trades and general commerce as well in the north and the northern regions of the central US and the fur bearing areas of Canada. They fed the areas with their well organized buffalo hunts; they provided transport of both food and commercial materials with their York Boats and sturdy Red River carts. Not only that but they functioned in the vital role of interpreters between the white man of the Hudson Bay Company and the local Indian populations as well as the coureurs providing the first official post office services in these areas. Lastly They were also most instrumental in making fishing a year round commercial industry with their ingenious jigger t hat was used to set nets under the Canadian and northern US Minnesota and North Dakota wintertime lake ice.
The Mtis nation lives and has spread its influence far and wide across the lands.
About the Author: Noella I. Snowshoe
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