Prior to Canada's crystallization as a nation in west central North America, the Métis people emerged out of the relations of Indian women and European men. While the initial offspring of these Indian and European unions were individuals who possessed mixed ancestry, the gradual establishment of distinct Métis communities, outside of Indian and European cultures and settlements, as well as, the subsequent intermarriages between Métis women and Métis men, resulted in the genesis of a new Aboriginal people - the Métis.
Distinct Métis communities emerged, as an outgrowth of the fur trade, along some parts of the freighting waterways and Great Lakes of Ontario, throughout the Northwest and as far north as the McKenzie river. The Métis people and their communities were connected through the highly mobile fur trade network, seasonal rounds, extensive kinship connections and a collective identity (i.e. common culture, language, way of life, etc.).
The Métis, as a distinct Aboriginal people, fundamentally shaped Canada's expansion westward through their on-going assertion of their collective identity and rights. From the Red River Resistance to the Battle of Batoche to other notable collective actions undertaken throughout the Métis Nation Homeland, the history and identity of the Métis people will forever be a part of Canada's existence.
Today, the Métis people are alive and well within Canada; however, they continue to push for the respectful recognition and reconciliation for their Aboriginal rights and existence within the Canadian federation.
The Métis Nation
The Métis people constitute a distinct Aboriginal nation largely based in western Canada. The Métis Nation grounds its assertion of Aboriginal nationhood on well-recognized international principles. It has a shared history, a common culture (song, dance, dress, national symbols, etc.), a unique language (Michif with various regional dialects), extensive kinship connections from Ontario westward, a distinct way of life, a traditional territory and a collective consciousness.
The Métis Nation's Homeland
The Métis Nation's Homeland is based on the traditional territory upon which the Métis people have historically lived and relied upon within west central North America. This territory roughly includes the 3 Prairie provinces (Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan), parts of Ontario, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, as well as, parts of the northern United States (i.e. North Dakota, Montana).
The Métis Population in Canada
In September 2002, the Métis people adopted a national definition of Métis for citizenship within the Métis Nation. Based on this definition, it is estimated that there are 350,000 to 400,000 Métis Nation citizens in Canada. The Métis Nation is now in the process of uniformly implementing this definition across the Homeland, as well as, developing a consistent acceptance process.
Although the Canadian Census has never accurately reflected the Métis Nation's population, in 2001, the Métis population from Ontario westward was 262,785. Based on these statistics, the Métis now represent 26% of the total Aboriginal population in Canada. The 2001 Census further reports that one third of the Métis population is under the age of fourteen and two thirds of the Métis population lives in urban centers.