Michif and other Languages of the Canadian Métis


Author's Introduction, Page 1-2:

"Here we will discuss only the languages of the second (but chronologically first) group of Métis, the Red River Métis. They used to live or gather regularly around the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers at present-day Winnipeg from around 1800. Many of these Métis claim that, from their European side, they have only French ancestors. On the Amerindian side it is mostly Ojibwe and Cree. Virtually all have French family names. In the area where they live, one can usually tell by the family name whether a person is Métis or French Canadian. 

The Métis number some 100,000 and they live mostly in the Canadian Prairie Provinces Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories and in the United States mostly in North Dakota and Montana, with some in Oregon. Since many of them were nomads, they can also be found as far as the Grande Ronde Reservation in Oregon and as far north as the Northwest Territories.

The Métis do form an ethnic unit – although they do lack the most important attribute of the definition of an ethnic group, namely a common language. They do share part of their history in that they centred around the “Red River Settlement” around present day Winnipeg in the early 1800s. They are generally Roman Catholics. They tend to choose their marital partners from their own group. They have a distinct music: dance music produced with the 'fiddle', ballads and other songs sung on official occasions in French and in some groups also in-group songs in Michif (the most typical language of the Métis, a mixture of Cree and French, to be discussed later). As they are not officially 'Indians', they are treated legally like EuroCanadians and thus they are not allowed to live on the Canadian reserves (although they do live on U.S reservations). Many Canadian reserves in the Prairie Provinces and elsewhere have 'satellite' Métis communities, where Métis who are not allowed to live on the reserves, settle just outside the reserves.

The Métis, although they readily recognize French and Amerindian ancestry, do not want to identify as either French or Indian, but as a distinct people. The term “Natives” is often used as a cover term for both “Indians” and “Métis” in English." (1-2).

Publication Information

Bakker, Peter, Papen, Robert A, and the Gabriel Dumont Institute. "Michif and other languages of the Canadian Métis" University of Amsterdam & Université du Québec à Montréal. 

Bakker, Peter
Robert A. Papen
Gabriel Dumont Institute
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