Defining Métis: Catholic Missionaries and the Idea of Civilization in Northwestern Saskatchewan, 1845–1898

Posted in Books, Canada, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Religion on 2017-05-18 01:27Z by Steven

Defining Métis: Catholic Missionaries and the Idea of Civilization in Northwestern Saskatchewan, 1845–1898

University of Manitoba Press
April 2017
240 pages
6 × 9
Paper ISBN: 978-0-88755-774-3

Timothy P. Foran, Curator of British North America
Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, Quebec

Defining Métis examines categories used in the latter half of the nineteenth century by Catholic missionaries to describe Indigenous people in what is now northwestern Saskatchewan. It argues that the construction and evolution of these categories reflected missionaries’ changing interests and agendas.

Defining Métis sheds light on the earliest phases of Catholic missionary work among Indigenous peoples in western and northern Canada. It examines various interrelated aspects of this work, including the beginnings of residential schooling, transportation and communications, and relations between the Church, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the federal government.

While focusing on the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and their central mission at Île-à-la-Crosse, this study illuminates broad processes that informed Catholic missionary perceptions and impelled their evolution over a fifty-three-year period. In particular, this study illuminates processes that shaped Oblate conceptions of sauvage and métis. It does this through a qualitative analysis of documents that were produced within the Oblates’ institutional apparatus—official correspondence, mission journals, registers, and published reports.

Foran challenges the orthodox notion that Oblate commentators simply discovered and described a singular, empirically existing, and readily identifiable Métis population. Rather, he contends that Oblates played an important role in the conceptual production of les métis.

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Saskatchewan artist Leah Dorion features Métis women in stunning exhibit

Posted in Articles, Arts, Canada, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Women on 2015-11-10 02:58Z by Steven

Saskatchewan artist Leah Dorion features Métis women in stunning exhibit

CBC News
2015-11-08


Visual artist Leah Dorion said this painting is dedicated to Catherine Beaulieu Bouvier from Fort Providence, N.W.T. (Eric Anderson/CBC)

Country Wives and Daughters of the Country: Métis Women of This Land at the Affinity Gallery

Visual artist Leah Marie Dorion grew up in Prince Albert, proud of her Métis heritage, but she always wondered why Métis women were never represented in textbooks.

Now, Dorion’s doing something about it with her new exhibit of acrylic paintings and crafts.

“I have created paintings and dedicated them to specific Métis women of history,” Dorion told Saskatchewan Weekend host Eric Anderson. “These women I felt never really had a visual presence in the history books. There is a lot of oral history of these women and their contributions.”

It’s called Country Wives and Daughters of the Country: Métis Women of This Land

Read the entire article here.

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2014 National Poetry Month Poem of the Day: Fred Wah

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Canada, Media Archive on 2014-12-08 20:44Z by Steven

2014 National Poetry Month Poem of the Day: Fred Wah

Turnstone Press
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
2014-04-16

“Waiting for Saskatchewan,” the title poem for the book, arose out of an event that occurred in Nelson, BC on a winter night in the early ’80s. We had been anticipating an exhibition of art from Saskatchewan about to open at a local art gallery when we were advised that the show would be delayed due to heavy snows over Kootenay Pass, preventing delivery of the art. So I took the poetic hint and used the phrase to meditate on my own historically tethered relationship to Saskatchewan, a place that held, for me, the complications of a mixed-race family history and the geographical site for an Asian-European intersection, a kind of hyphen that I have used to construct a personal imaginary. The poem is a biotext that offers the space to measure the accumulation of particularities and apprehensions, dreams, and memory. The poem is one way to remember the future.

Fred Wah on “Waiting for Saskatchewan”

Waiting for Saskatchewan
and the origins grandparents countries places converged
europe asia railroads carpenters nailed grain elevators
Swift Current my grandmother in her house
he built on the street…

Read the entire poem here.

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One of the Family: Métis Culture in Nineteenth-Century Northwestern Saskatchewan by Brenda Macdougall (review)

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Canada, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2013-09-12 00:53Z by Steven

One of the Family: Métis Culture in Nineteenth-Century Northwestern Saskatchewan by Brenda Macdougall (review)

Canadian Ethnic Studies
Volume 44, Number 3, 2012
pages 147-148
DOI: 10.1353/ces.2013.0012

Frits Pannekoek, President and Professor of History
Athabasca University, Athabasca, Alberta, Canada

Brenda Macdougall, One of the Family: Metis Culture in Nineteenth-Century Northwestern Saskatchewan (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2010)

For the last several decades, scholarship in Métis genealogy has matured to the point that it can proudly claim a leading position in the field of prosopography, a field first identified in medieval studies. It has become an instrument to divine an understanding of Métis society, its construction, its past and its continuity. Macdougall has built carefully on the scholarship of amongst others: Jennifer Brown, Sylvia Van Kirk, John Foster, Gerhard Ens, Doug Sprague, Heather Devine, and Nicole St. Onge. Her book deals with Métis culture in 19th century Northwestern Saskatchewan largely around Ile a La Crosse, a real and symbolic centre to the people of the Northwest. It is organized into seven chapters with introduction and conclusion, for a total of nine chapters.

The book argues that the Métis families of the Northwest are “wahkootowin.” This, according to Macdougall, is a Cree “worldview linking land, family, and identity in one interconnected web of being.” The first chapter deals with the social landscapes of the Northwest, the second with the social construction of the Métis family, the third with residency and patronymic connections across the Northwest, the fourth with family acculturation and Roman Catholicism, and the fifth with family labor and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Two later chapters deal with free trade and the culture it contributed.

Macdougall’s contributions are significant and considerable. As noted, she used “wahkootowin” to explain the complex set of interrelationships amongst a people. She explains how marriage patterns, work lives, and religion were all mutually reinforcing and how these complex relationships or “wahkootowin” defined life. Family mattered a great deal and a study of the family structures evidences a pattern that persisted and deepened over four generations. The volume is rich in detail and anyone with roots in Northern Saskatchewan will leave with a deeper understanding of themselves. It is, to a degree, an insider’s study, but for the scholar of Métis genesis, it is now the best explanation of how a people and an identity emerged in the Saskatchewan interior.

The book is, however, not without its problems, although some will consider these its greatest strengths. First, it will be very difficult for people outside the region or new to Métis studies to read the book with any real enjoyment. The genealogical data is dense and will be in the eyes of some a major obstacle to understanding “wahkootowin.” Others, however, will find the nuanced tapestry of family information a highly compelling background to the family networks that Macdougall argues are so foundational to an understanding of the Métis. Most Métis scholars will ponder these connections and will use the questions Macdougall asks to further their own family reconstructions regardless of region or Aboriginal cultural roots.

The real question that will be posed by many is whether the findings are replicable. Are the complex interconnections of Northwestern Saskatchewan to be found in Northern Manitoba at Rossville for example? Macdougall rightfully makes much of the Catholicism of the Ile a La Crosse community, and points out how Protestant mixed bloods were probably purposefully excluded. Would the Methodist community at, for example, Rossville, the community at White Fish Lake, or that at Stanley mission have been equally exclusionary to Catholics? Would English-speaking, Protestant mixed-blood communities have differing structures? Would “wahkootowin” take on a different texture in these communities? Would the Hudson’s Bay Company have a different relationship given the dominance of Protestants in its hierarchy? Would there be Protestant Catholic intermarriages? Macdougall, I would suggest, would likely say not, but were Irene Spry still alive she would suggest that intermarriages would and did occur. A more careful reading of Anglican and Methodist archives might pose new questions. What is important is that Macdougall has moved the discussion on Métis culture from one of class, or one focusing on ethnicity to one that requires an understanding of complex Aboriginal cultural norms rather than one requiring a complex understanding of European or Euro American ones. Macdougall demands much of her readers, and those who accept the challenge will be well rewarded…

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Métis Families and Schools: The Decline and Reclamation of Métis Identities in Saskatchewan, 1885-1980

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Dissertations, History, Media Archive on 2012-10-10 05:57Z by Steven

Métis Families and Schools: The Decline and Reclamation of Métis Identities in Saskatchewan, 1885-1980

University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon
March 2009
270 pages

Jonathan Anuik, Assistant Professor of Educational Policy Studies
University of Alberta

A Dissertation Submitted to the College of Graduate Studies and Research in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History

In the late-nineteenth century, Métis families and communities resisted what they perceived to be the encroachment of non-Aboriginal newcomers into the West. Resistance gave way to open conflict at the Red River Settlement and later in north central Saskatchewan. Both attempts by the Métis to resist the imposition of the newcomer’s settlement agenda were not successful, and the next 100 years would bring challenges to Métis unity. The transmission of knowledge of a Métis past declined as parents and grandparents opted to encourage their children and youth to pass into the growing settler society in what would become Saskatchewan. As parents restricted the flow of Métis knowledge, missionaries who represented Christian churches collaborated to develop the first Northwest Territories Board of Education, the agent responsible for the first state-supported schools in what would become the province of Saskatchewan. These first schools included Métis students and helped to shift their loyalties away from their families and communities and toward the British state. However, many Métis children and youth remained on the margins of educational attainment. They were either unable to attend school, or their schools did not have the required infrastructure or relevant pedagogy and curriculum. In the years after World War II, the Government of Saskatchewan noticed the unequal access to and achievement of the Métis in its schools. The government attempted to bring Métis students in from the margins through infrastructural, pedagogical, and curricular adaptations to support their learning.

Scholars have unearthed voluminous evidence of missionary work in Canada and have researched and written about public schools. As well, several scholars have undertaken research projects on Status First Nations education in the twentieth century. However, less is known about Métis’ interactions with Christian missionaries and in the state-supported or publicly funded schools. In this dissertation, I examine the history of missions and public schools in what would become Saskatchewan, and I enumerate the foundations that the Métis considered important for their learning. I identify Métis children and youth’s reactions to Christian and public schools in Saskatchewan, but I argue that Métis families who knew of their heritages actively participated in Roman Catholic Church rituals and activities and preserved and protected their pasts. Although experiences with Christianity varied, those with strong family ties and ties to the land adjusted well to the expectations of Christian teachings and formal public education. Overall, I tell the story of Métis children and youth and their involvement in church and public schooling based on how they saw Christianity, education, and its role on their lands and in their families. And I explain how Métis learners negotiated Protestant and Roman Catholic teachings and influences with the pedagogy and curriculum of public schools.

Oral history forms a substantial portion of the sources for this history of Métis children and youth and church and public education. I approached the interviews as means to generate new data – in collaboration with the people I interviewed. Consequently, I went into the interviews with a list of questions, but I strove to make these interviews conversational and allow for a two-way flow of knowledge. I started with contextual questions (i.e. date of birth, school attended, where family was from) and proceeded to probe further based on the responses I received from the person being interviewed and from previous interviews. As well, I drew from two oral history projects with tapes and transcripts available in the archives: the Saskatchewan Archives Board’s “Towards a New Past Oral History Project ‘The Métis’” and the Provincial Archives of Manitoba’s Manitoba Métis Oral History Project. See appendices A and B for discussion of my oral history methodology and the utility of the aforementioned oral history projects for my own research…

Read the entire dissertation here.

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One of the Family: Metis Culture in Nineteenth-Century Northwestern Saskatchewan

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Canada, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Monographs on 2010-04-07 03:57Z by Steven

One of the Family: Metis Culture in Nineteenth-Century Northwestern Saskatchewan

University of British Columbia Press
2010-02-22
360 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-7748-1729-5   

Brenda Macdougall, Chair in Métis Studies
University of Ottawa

In recent years there has been growing interest in the social and cultural attributes that define the Metis as both Aboriginal and a distinct people. The study of Metis identity formation has also become one of the most innovative ways to explore cultural encounters and change in North American history and anthropology.

In One of the Family, Brenda Macdougall draws on diverse written and oral sources and employs the concept of wahkootowin—the Cree term for a worldview that privileges family and values relatedness between all beings—to trace the emergence of a distinct Metis community at Île à la Crosse in northern Saskatchewan. Wahkootowin describes how relationships in the nineteenth century were supposed to work and helps to explain how the Metis negotiated with local economic and religious institutions while creating and nurturing—through marriage choices and living arrangements, adoption and the selection of godparents, economic decisions and employment—a society that emphasized family obligation and responsibility.

This path-breaking study showcases how one Metis community created a distinct identity rooted in Aboriginal values about family and shaped by the fur trade and the Roman Catholic Church. It also offers a model for future research and discussion that will appeal to anyone interested in the history of the fur trade or Metis culture and identity.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Note on Methodology and Sources
  • Note on Writing Conventions
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: “They are strongly attached to the country of rivers, lakes, and forests”: The Social Landscapes of the Northwest
  • Chapter Two: “The bond that connected one human being to another”: Social Construction of the Metis Family
  • Chapter Three: “To live in the land of my mother”: Residency and Patronymic Connections Across the Northwest
  • Chapter Four: “After a man has tasted of the comforts of married life this living alone comes pretty tough”: Family, Acculturation, and Roman Catholicism
  • Chapter Five: “The only men obtainable who know the country and Indians are all married”: Family, Labour, and the HBC
  • Chapter Six: “The HalfBreeds of this place always did and always will dance”: Competition, Freemen, and Contested Spaces
  • Chapter Seven: “I Thought it advisable to furnish him”: Freemen to Free Traders in the Northwest Fur Trade
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Glossary
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index of Names
  • Index of Subjects
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