Metis/First Nations Pemmican Economy


Pemmican was essential to the fur trade and consisted of flaked game meat (often buffalo), fat and fruit (often berries). It was valued not only for its portability, longevity and high caloric value, but also because it prevented vitamin C deficiencies - also known as "scurvy".

It should be noted that Pemmican was in such high demand that it led to a war, known as the Battle of Seven Oaks. This event has been described by some scholars as formative in the process of Metis ethnogenesis - that is, their emergence as a distinct nation. For example, the Metis victory at the Battle of Seven Oaks resulted in the creation of a national anthem and flag. This reflects the degree to which the production of pemmican was integral to the economic practices of the Metis. First-person testimony from Metis persons Adeline Sparvier and Norbert Welsh reveal that pemmican was frequently used for travel and trade. Historians George Colpitt and James Daschuk (authors of the books "Pemmican Empire" and "Clearing the Plains" respectively - see "relevant resources" below) confirm that pemmican was an indispensable foodstuff to the North-West. It was also used and produced by First Nations people for similar purposes - a portable foodstuff for travel and highly useful for trade.