Metis Community in Saskatoon - Nutana Area


In the interview cited below in "relevant resources", Metis woman Isabelle Betty Roy describes the Metis community within the Nutana area of Saskatoon. Regarding the high percentage of Metis people in the Nutana area, she says: " “What type of neighbors did you have around you? Were they close or...?” --- Betty: “Mostly Metis. They were, you know, some Metis settlers.” She notes that officials, assumedly from the city of Saskatoon, attempted to segregate Metis people into a particular area: "they tried to get them into one area, one general area, you know. Where they say, "Okay, the Metis are over there and the white are over here." --- Victoria: “That happened here in Saskatoon?” --- Betty: “Yeah.” --- Victoria: “What part of town would that be?” --- Betty: “That was part of Nutana, just past Taylor Street there, they wanted us way up past the hill up there."-------------------- She also details her experiences of racism in the primary school system: "Never knew what a Metis was until I went to school and they start calling me half-breed." Fortunately, Ms. Roy's teacher stepped in: "My teacher explained to me what a half-breed was, and she said, ‘Be proud of your heritage,’ she said. ‘Don't let them worry you.'" Ms. Roy also described experiences of racism in her secondary education at St. Joseph's: "I was always invited to birthday parties and stuff, but there was just those few, you know, that always running you down because you weren't the same as they are." She notes that there was a high percentage of Metis students at St. Joseph's: " I would say half, half the school was Metis. The Caliphonys (?) and the Trottiers, you know, they all went to that school." She states that First Nations and Metis history was not taught in the Saskatoon school system: “Victoria: Were you taught any Metis or Indian History in school.” --- Betty: “No, not that I can remember.”------------------ Ms. Roy notes that employers took advantage of her father's social marginalization as a Metis person in negotiating wages. Because Metis people possessed less education and experienced greater difficulty finding work, Ms. Roy reports they would be forced to take whatever jobs were available, regardless of pay: "most of the them at the time were, you know, just doing odd jobs, not many of them had trades. They weren't lucky enough to go that far in school to learn anything of real value, you know.” The interview (Victoria) also asks, “Did Metis people that you knew of receive less pay than white people, you know, for doing the same type of a job?” To which Ms. Roy replied: “Oh definitely, because it was easier to talk them into doing a job for less pay. They didn't have to hire a white man if they can get a Metis for less pay. My dad always worked sometimes for half just so he could feed the family.” --- Victoria: “What type of jobs were those?” --- Betty: “Anything. He'd dig gardens. He'd do anything.”

Perhaps one of the most notable implications of this interview is the widespread racism towards Metis individuals in Saskatoon. This racism was encountered by Ms. Roy in the education system, as indicated by being called "Half-breed" and not being "the same as they are". The education system also engaged in discriminatory practices by erasing the existence of First Nations/Metis people from the historical curriculum. This type of erasure is typical of colonial myths, in which Indigenous people are constructed as "prehistoric" - that is, as having existed prior to "legitimate" history, which is misperceived as having begun at the point of European Contact. This also serves to delegitimize the complexity of Indigenous philosophies, governance and culture, and presents Indigenous people as being in opposition to modernity, as well as a hindrance to its advancement. Ethnic discrimination was also encountered by the Metis community in Saskatoon, and racist attitudes are indicated by the city's efforts to restrict Metis people to one area of the city (Ms. Roy indicates that this was a part of Nutana, around Taylor street). Discrimination is also indicated through wage disparities - she reports that Metis people were paid less than non-Metis people for the same work. The wage disparity experienced by Ms. Roy's father demonstrates the normalization of economic exploitation of Metis people.