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Exploring the Métis People of Alberta

January 26, 2021

The Métis people have a unique identity distinct from the Indigenous and European roots of Canada; they are considered one of the three groups of aboriginals in Canada. The original Métis people were the offspring of the indigenous women and fur traders of European descent situated in the Red River area, the area now known as Manitoba.

The word Métis is a French term that means ‘mixed’ and can be used to describe anyone of mixed descent. They were responsible for establishing the first trade relationships between Canada and Europe thus advancing trade relations between these two communities. This cultural blend contributed to their local language known as the French Cree.

The history of the Métis culture dates as far back as the 17th century;  they were known for their distinctive clothing, art, festive music, and dance.  They were also highly skilled in the art of fishing, hunting, and fur trapping.

What symbols represent the Métis culture?

The Métis flag is symbolic of a nation that displays its heritage with pride. This red and blue flag with an infinity symbol on it represents the blending of two cultures who have remained an established nation in Canada to this day. Several other things that were unique to the Métis culture that include:

The Red River Cart  – the Red River Cart was a means of mobility for these resourceful people who traveled for miles on end along the Plains transporting food and other resources.

The Red River Jig –  skilled in the arts and dance, the Red River Jig was a fanciful traditional Métis dance comprising intricate dance steps accompanied by the sound of European music that they created with the use of cleverly designed fiddles.

The Métis Sash – The Métis Sash (like the Métis flag) is one of the most prominent symbols of the Métis culture. This brightly woven garment is also worn as a symbol of pride and identity to honor this enduring culture.

Indigenous Tourism Alberta

Indigenous Tourism Alberta is dedicated to providing a rich cultural experience for tourists and locals alike to experience the culturally diverse history of Canada, specifically the history of the indigenous people known as the First Nations, the Métis, and the Inuit, the first indigenous settlers on the North American plains.

Indigenous Tourism Alberta honors and respects the eight settlements of the Métis nation, the homelands of the Métis, as well as the six Métis regions of Alberta, together with other traditional treaties that belong to the indigenous people of Alberta.

The eight settlements unique to the Métis people include Buffalo Lake, East Prairie, Elizabeth Fishing Lake, Gift Lake, Kikino, and Paddle Prairie and Peavine which form part of the recognized indigenous territories of Alberta.

Indigenous Travel Association of Canada

The Indigenous Travel Association of Canada aims to enhance the thirteen indigenous regions of Canada through economic developments, increase of tourism events, training and skills development, and the provision of the latest research and information for industry-specific trades in the indigenous communities.

The Indigenous Travel Association of Canada has now just introduced unique travel experiences that highlight and take visitors on a unique travel experience back in time. Through activities based on the life and times of indigenous people, The Indigenous Travel Association of Canada aims to highlight the values of honor, cultural pride, and loyalty of the Métis people that still influence our Canadian heritage today.

One culture in particular, the Métis, greatly influenced the various practices that advanced the homelands and territories into productive prospering economic hubs. The Métis people exhibited a harmonious blend of two very different cultures from different lands coming together to work as one.

The Métis people were lively people who enjoyed living in the moment. As much as they were focused on sustaining and growing their communities through the development of ingenious hunting-gathering and fur trapping methods, they also greatly valued the importance of family and friendship and were known for their storytelling, dancing style (known as the traditional Red River Jig), and music and were highly skilled at playing the fiddle.

Points of interest to discover more about the Métis people

The Métis Nation of Alberta is an institution that is dedicated to honoring the traditions and culture of the Métis Nation. Through various educational and community-based programs, their goal has been to preserve, uphold, and improve the living conditions of the Métis people and to guard their role in society.

The Métis people occupied several distinct territories in Alberta each related to a specific way of living unique to this historic tribe of people. There are opportunities to gain first-hand experience to see how and where the Métis people lived back in the day through the exploration of these different sites.

Victoria Settlement

Paddling into the Past provides the perfect opportunity to travel in a canoe along the fur trade routes on the North Saskatchewan and Athabasca River. (It is currently on hold due to Covid19 restrictions).

It is an outdoor real-life experience that is as close to nature as you can get. The Victorian settlements provincial historical sites further immerse you into the Métis fur trade era where you can transport fur in bales just as they did.

Hand-written letters by the Métis will make you feel as if you are right there speaking to them face to face and you get to experience Métis life vicariously through these time kept treasures.

The Hudson’s Bay building was restored in 1864 and it is here that you can get to recreate crafts that were popular at this time. Guides dressed in ethnic costumes will take you on an educational experience to see what life was actually like inside the fort.

Métis Crossing is where you will get to experience the famous fur trade era of the Métis culture. True to the welcoming nature of the Métis people you will get invited into an original Métis family home where you will get to try your hand out at weaving a sash and setting a fur trap.

Elk Island

Elk Island National Park is a natural heritage site that is perfect for shorter day activities like hiking or longer ones such as staying at a campsite overnight. This heritage site is of particular importance due to the preservation of the once near-extinct bison buffalo. It is also home to elk and many other indigenous bird species.

There are activities to do on the island for both children and adults and this makes it an ideal family-friendly getaway. Your child can explore safe and secure nature trails, enjoy the local playground as well as play on the beach.

If you don’t like experiencing the outdoors without the company of your furry friend you can bring them along too as there are dog-walking trails as well as a host of other outdoor activities that will set the stage for outdoor life and outdoor living such as camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, and cycling.

Explore Edmonton

Métis Crossing is the first major cultural interpretive centre of Alberta. It is a facility that celebrates and educates tourists and locals alike about the activities that centred around Métis culture and the resources they used to build a self-sustaining lifestyle in the fishing, hunting, and fur trapping trade. Experience the harmonious and free-spirited lifestyle of the Métis here through the arts, storytelling, and dance.

Rupert’s Land Institute

Rupert’s Land Institute’s works alongside the Métis Nation of Alberta. Its purpose is to establish an educational training and research framework to support and equip Métis people with additional skills and resources to improve and enhance the lives of the Métis people.

Fort Edmonton Park

Fort Edmonton Park is a world on its own and is set to open in 2021. Step into the world of the Métis nation like never before as you explore the daily living of the Métis from how they conducted their fur trade activities to how they seized Fort Garry during the Red River Rebellion.

Visit Métis Crossing for the full experience

The Métis people are people who are classified as Métis by either receiving a land grant by the Manitoba or Dominion Land Act or otherwise recognized as such by either the government, the church, or the local community.

While the Métis people live and work in most areas in Alberta, in general, they have quite high population percentages in Edmonton and Calgary specifically. It is only in Alberta where you will find actual provincial legislation that recognizes the eight Métis settlements in Alberta.

For the full Métis experience at Métis Crossing, you can give our Walk in Our Mocs – Métis Archery Program a try. This immersive and detailed tourism experience will walk you through the daily life and living of the Métis people and how they worked the land.

You can also get to try your hand at using a bow and arrow, a unique method that the Métis people used to hunt and trap wild animals. You are also able to taste the unique flavor of Métis food through a Métis inspired menu. Some other culturally inspired activities include:

    • Learning how to make a traditional Métis woolen capote using traditional Métis methods, design, and decorations.
    • Paddle into the Past is one of our most famous Métis experiences; however, this has been understandably put on hold due to Covid19 restrictions. When restrictions are lifted you can expect to look forward to lessons on crafting, a canoe Voyageur experience, learning about traditional plants and the medicinal and herbal benefits that the Métis derived from them, as well as how to do a traditional jig known as the Red River Jig.
    • Tales of the Trapline Experience – this Métis cultural experience is a true winter experience set in the heartlands of the Métis River Lot Farm. Explore this area and learn how to set a snare while navigating the snow with your snowshoes on and learn how to build a survival shelter designed to withstand the freezing elements.
    • There are also other event catering experiences we offer which include event and function hire, camping in trappers’ tents, gift shops and cafes where you can buy traditional Métis nick-nacks, food, and drinks as well as educational experiences based on set curriculums taught by experienced educators.

The Métis nation has contributed so much towards enriching Alberta and making it the multicultural diverse province that it is today – one that embraces diversity as well as the values and cultural contributions of all its indigenous people.

If you’re looking for a memorable experience that is rooted in culture, teamwork, loyalty, honor, and pride in one’s history, contact us today for more information.

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