Metis Economic Activity for the Period of 1840-1870

Between the 1840s and early 1870s the western interior economy was characterized by the coexistence of native economies and European capitalism. By becoming middlemen in the fur trade, Metis individuals created an entrepreneurial niche for themselves, which was lucrative for many Metis merchant families. A few examples include the Grants, Brelands, McGillis, Gingras, Fishers, Letendres and Hamelins. As long as dual societies and economies persisted on the northern plains, these Metis traders prospered. The Metis “in-between” identity had the potential to be economically advantageous. Beginning in the mid to late 1870s, the disappearance of the buffalo and the movement of First Nations peoples to reserves led to a drastic alteration in the western economy and an end to the Metis’ influential middleman position.

Other Note

Both the treatment of the Metis and the economic development of the West can be considered aspects of European colonialism that became increasingly prevalent in the West beginning in the 1870s.

Lacking an understanding of the new commercial system that became prevalent in the west (centered around agriculture and European capitalism), and having limited access to capital, Metis merchants were marginalized within the western economy.
Rural or Urban
Scholarly Debate

Metis scholars such as Howard Adams and Ron Bourgeault have argued that discrimination and mistreatment by non-Indigenous settlers—not how the economy developed—was the main factor in the marginalization of the Metis.

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