The hidden story of Métis people on Vancouver Island
Since 1793 Métis people have lived on Vancouver Island and played a large part in forming communities as we know them today. Lady Isabella Ross was the first female landowner in BC, and Simon Fraser Tolmie was BC Premier from 1925-1930 - both of whom were Métis.
Métis are distinct from other Aboriginal peoples in both their culture and their nationhood. According to the Métis Nation of British Columbia, Métis emerged on the plains of western North America during the late 1700’s. As the fur trade expanded westward, many employees of European origin found it both necessary and convenient to establish familial relationships with First Nations women. From these relationships came children of mixed Aboriginal ancestry. As a result, mixed Aboriginals married other mixed Aboriginals and they developed a unique culture that was not European nor First Nations, but rather a fusion of the two cultures with their own language (Michif), dance, music, food, and stories.
Métis people have a long history in Canada and on Vancouver Island, but it wasn’t until 1982 that they were finally recognized as a distinct group of Indigenous people and included in the Canadian constitution.
“Because Métis people were mixed, many would pass as non-Indigenous if they could because of the racism and bigotry. The inclusion of the Métis into the constitution allowed us to come out and celebrate who we are, reclaim our language and culture and encourage our kids to do so too,” says Patrick Harriott, President of Métis Nation of Greater Victoria. “A lot of people don’t know much about Métis people, so now we have a chance to have that conversation, share our history and let them know who we are.”
After being legitimized by the government there was a resurgence of Métis culture in Canada which resulted in the creation of Chartered Communities across Canada. There are now seven official Métis communities on Vancouver Island that are dedicated to bringing people together and preserving the culture.
LEARN MORE AT THE VANCOUVER ISLAND MÉTIS RENDEZVOUS
United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island recognizes how important it is to help preserve and promote Métis culture on Vancouver Island, so through grant funding we’re supporting the Vancouver Island Métis Rendezvous.
Anyone interested in learning more about Métis culture is invited to come out to the event to participate in dance lessons, learn how to bead or just enjoy some delicious traditional food.
July 5 & 6, 2019 at the Cowichan Exhibition Park
Suggested donation $2
Friday, barn dance 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Saturday, all day festivities: 9:30 am to 9:00 pm
FUN FACTS ABOUT MÉTIS CULTURE
· The fiddle was the main musical instrument of the Métis people.
· Traditional dance of the Métis is the Red River Jig, which is a special piece of fiddle music played and danced in two sections.
· Métis women were the first to introduce beading by applying the small brightly coloured glass beads to their moccasins, jackets, bags & leggings.
· This flag, in blue or red, is a symbol of the Métis. The two circles coming together represent the European and Native parents forming a new group. It is also a mathematical symbol for infinity, which means the Métis will continue forever.
· Chinook Jargon was the trade language of the west coast, many of the words were used to name landmarks and locations in BC:
- Tillicum – “friend”
- Skookumchuck – “strong water”
- Tyee – “chief or elder brother ”
- Cultus – “small or insignificant”