Contours of a People
Metis Family, Mobility, and History
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
What does it mean to be Metis? How do the Metis understand their world, and how do family, community, and location shape their consciousness? Such questions inform this collection of essays on the northwestern North American people of mixed European and Native ancestry who emerged in the seventeenth century as a distinct culture. Volume editors Nicole St-Onge, Carolyn Podruchny, and Brenda Macdougall go beyond the concern with race and ethnicity that takes center stage in most discussions of Metis culture to offer new ways of thinking about Metis identity.
Geography, mobility, and family have always defined Metis culture and society. The Metis world spanned the better part of a continent, and a major theme of Contours of a People is the Metis conception of geography—not only how Metis people used their environments but how they gave meaning to place and developed connections to multiple landscapes. Their geographic familiarity, physical and social mobility, and maintenance of family ties across time and space appear to have evolved in connection with the fur trade and other commercial endeavors. These efforts, and the cultural practices that emerged from them, have contributed to a sense of community and the nationalist sentiment felt by many Metis today.
Writing about a wide geographic area, the contributors consider issues ranging from Metis rights under Canadian law and how the Library of Congress categorizes Metis scholarship to the role of women in maintaining economic and social networks. The authors’ emphasis on geography and its power in shaping identity will influence and enlighten Canadian and American scholars across a variety of disciplines.
“This book both enriches and amplifies the range of Metis studies and historiography. The contributors provide new and diverse perspectives on Metis communities and identities, exploring the complex dynamics of those communities in light of fresh research and insights. Metis history is thriving, and—as Contours of a People demonstrates—it is history in motion, still being made.” Jennifer S. H. Brown, author of Strangers in Blood: Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country
“This deeply researched, beautifully structured volume not only synthesizes earlier work on the Metis, but charts an agenda for future scholarship. The essays offer a new way of thinking about Metis identity, forcing readers out of comfortable Western notions of identity as the solitary self and of political territoriality as bounded. This is Canadian history that American scholars will have to pay attention to, because it is their history, too. A pathbreaking book.”—Susan E. Gray, author of The Yankee West: Community Life on the Michigan Frontier and co-editor of The American Midwest: Essays on Regional History