History in the Canadian West
The courageous voyagers created a group of people known in Canada as the Metis. In those times political correctness was not even thought of. It is probably one of the most difficult things I find when writing historical romances and wanting the story to be accurate. Many voyagers were gone at least a year at a time. Many had wives either in the east or in Europe. But they would take ‘wives for the winter’ – picking from the Cree who were mainly friendly to the voyagers. There are so many stories untold and imagined about those men who used the Native women and then abandoned them – or fell in love and stayed with them. Some probably juggled and separated their lives as well and returned to the same woman each year – living out their lives with two wives.
The Metis are an example of my theory we should have integrated instead of segregating. Half white/half native, the Metis set up farming communities and adjusted well to the modern Canada being created. Mainly the French or Scottish were more inclined to integrate. For a time the NorthWest Fur Traders dominated the fur trade. These men were only interested in the lucrative business of getting furs and their exploration was secondary. Occasionally someone wanted to find the western route to India again because of the rich trade in the east. But unlike some governments no one was interested in the west, except exploiting it. The English owned Hudson’s Bay Company and were more inclined to remain segregated.
The Metis, established villages and towns as well as farms. Most gathered near and around the North Saskatchewan River to farm. They set up their farms like the French in Quebec – each plot, long and running to the river. This created a problem when Canada bought the western lands from the Hudson’s Bay as the plans were made instead (by an Eastern government) to have square plots of land instead on the flat prairies. It was another cause for Canada’s Civil War.
The Metis lived mainly like homesteaders do everywhere – building houses, wells, animal shelters, churches, schools and villages. But they still utilized and used the buffalo for food and clothing. They became so proficient and organized that wealthy people from Europe and England came to participate in a Metis Buffalo Hunts.
Although Winnipeg was the first established Metis settlement in the west, Batoche is the most famous in Canada.
The Metis were a perfect example of combining two different cultures and living in harmony.