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   Frequently Asked Questions


Who are the Métis people?

The Métis are one of three distinct Aboriginal peoples of Canada recognized under the 1982 Canadian Constitution. During the fur trade (1670-1870) the Métis were known to be fiercely independent and were very instrumental in the development of western Canada. The historic Métis emerged as a distinct people on the plains of western North America during the late 1700s. As the fur trade moved westward many of the employees who were of European descent found it both necessary and convenient to establish familial relationships with First Nations women. These relationships resulted in children of mixed aboriginal ancestry. Due to the circumstances of the time these children who were neither First Nations nor European began to marry and settle among themselves which resulted in a distinct Métis culture. The Métis culture is a fusion of French, English, Scottish and Indian influences, and took root and flourished in the late 1800s. The Métis developed a unique language called Michif, using both Indian nouns and English or French verbs. Métis fiddlers combined jigs and reels into their unique forms of dance and music. Métis attire included woven sashes, embroidered gun sheaths; deer hide caps, quilled and beaded pipe bags and the capote, a European style coat made from Hudson Bay point blankets.


Who was Louis Riel?

Louis David Riel (22 October 1844 – 16 November 1885) was a Canadian Politician, a founder of the province of Manitoba and a political and spiritual leader of the Métis people of the Canadian Prairies. He led two resistance movements against the Canadian Government. Riel fought to preserve rights and culture as their homelands in the Northwest came progressively under the Canadian sphere of influence. He is regarded by many today as a Canadian folk hero.

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What is the significance of the Sash?

The Sash is a finger woven belt made of wool approximately three meters long. Traditionally it was tied at the waist to hold a coat closed, including being used as a scarf or rope. Here are some excerpts from a Métis priest’s prayer. “Métis people, God, have been wearing the sash proudly for many years. When I look at it, I notice that it is composed of many interconnected threads, many strands, many patterns, many colors contribute to the overall design of the sash. Our Métis culture, God, is like the sash. The lives of the Métis have been woven together from a variety of cultures, traditions and beliefs … For example, God, we are the descendants of the English, of the French, of the Indian-Cree and Ojibway and Scots to name a few. We speak a variety of languages: English, Canadian French, Michif French, Michif Cree and Mashkegon. Look at the sash: it is a composite. It is a mixture. It is Métis. It is made of a variety of elements, like the lives of the Métis. Look at its pattern, its fabric, its colors. Nonetheless, these disparate elements form an integrated whole. Similarly, the different ethnic backgrounds and different languages to the Métis blend into one another to form a rich tapestry like the lives and culture of the Métis.” Today, the sash is still worn by the Métis people. Métis women occasionally wear it over the shoulder, while others wear it the traditional way, around the waist & tied in the middle, with the fringes hanging down. The Manitoba Métis Senate started a tradition of draping the sash over the table wherever Métis people are gathered for discussion. The Manitoba Métis Federation at their last Assembly, adopted a new sash with the colour variations of ; Red, which is the historical depicted colour for the Métis Sash; Blue & White symbolizing the colours of the Métis Nation flag; Green signifying fertility, growth and prosperity and; Black, symbolizing the dark period in which the Métis people had to endure dispossession & repression.

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What is the significance and history of the Métis Flag?

The first Metis flag was blue and was a gift from the Northwest Company. The infinity symbol on the flag represents the Metis culture will live forever. The two joining circles stand for two cultures coming together-Aboriginal and European. The blue Metis flag was first flown in 1816 and the first patriotic flag flown in Canada.

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What is the Daniel’s Case?

The case was initiated in 1999 by well-known Métis leader – Harry Daniels when he was President of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (“CAP”). The case was against the federal government as represented by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (now known as the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) and The Attorneey General of Canada (the “Defendants”). After Harry’s death in 2004, Gabriel Daniels (Harry’s son) was added as a plaintiff to ensure a Métis representative plaintiff was maintained in the litigation. The Plaintiffs asked the Court to grant them three declarations:

  • (a) that Métis and non-status Indians are “Indians” within the meaning of the expression “Indians and lands reserved for Indians” in s. 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867;

  • (b) that the Queen (in right of Canada) owes a fiduciary duty to Métis and non-status Indians as Aboriginal people;

  • (c) and that the Métis and non-status Indian peoples of Canada have the right to be consulted and negotiated with, in good faith, by the federal government on a collective basis through representatives of their choice, respecting all their rights, interests and needs as Aboriginal peoples.


What does this mean for Métis?

The Daniel’s Case does not say that we are Indians. What it simply says that the term “Indian” in the Constitution Act (which sets out federal jurisdiction is broad enough to include Métis in the same way it is broad enough to include Inuit (who are also not culturally Indians). Think of it as similar to how the term “Aboriginal” is used today. While First Nations, Inuit and Métis people are all “Aboriginal” that does not make them the same. Historically, the term “Indian” was used in the same way “Aboriginal” is used today (ie it included all Aboriginal peoples). Métis are happy about the decision because it removes the “lack of jurisdiction” excuse the federal government has long used in order to avoid dealing with Métis rights, interests and needs. At the writing of this website the Daniel’s Case has been appealed and we will update the information when a final decision has been reached by the Courts.


What is the Powley case?

Two Métis men, Steve and Roddy Powley killed a moose in 1993 and were charged with contravening Ontario hunting law. The men argued that section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 protects the right of Métis to hunt for food. The case was appealed up to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in favour of the Powleys in September 2003. In its decision, the Supreme Court found that the Métis community in and around Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario has an Aboriginal right, protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, to hunt for food.


Does the Powley decision recognize harvesting rights for Métis throughout Canada? 

No. The Powley decision deals only with the Métis community in and around Sault Ste. Marie, although it does establish a legal test to determine the Aboriginal rights of other Métis groups. To establish their Aboriginal rights, Métis individuals or groups must demonstrate that they meet the legal tests set out in the Powley decision.


Does the Powley decision mean that Métis are free to hunt and fish without licences?

Not necessarily. These section 35 rights are not absolute. Governments can limit these rights (e.g., to respond to concerns regarding conservation, public safety and health). Specific questions about licensing should be directed to the appropriate government agency or ministry.


Does the Powley decision grant Métis the right to kill an animal and sell it commercially?

No. The Powley decision addressed only Métis harvesting for the purpose of food.


What criteria must be met for an individual to prove they are a member of a Métis community and are able to

exercise that community’s Aboriginal right?

An individual must first demonstrate membership in a present-day Métis community that can trace its existence back to an historic Métis community with a distinctive culture. To prove membership, an individual must: self-identify as Métis, have an ancestral connection to an historic Métis community, and be accepted as a member by this community. The Supreme Court decision also stated that self-identification should not be of “recent vintage”-that is, made only to claim an Aboriginal right under s.35. Taken from – aboriginal affairs and Northern Development Canada website

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