________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 14 . . . . March 7, 2008


Metis Legacy (Volume II): Michif Culture, Heritge and Folkways.

Lawrence J. Barkwell, Leah M. Dorion & Audreen Hourie, eds.
Saskatoon, SK: Gabriel Dumont Institute: Winnipeg, MB: Pemmican Publications, 2006.
254 pp., pbk., $45.00.
ISBN 978-0-920915-80-6.

Subject Headings:
Michif language-Canada.
Métis-Social life and customs.

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.

Review by Gary Babiuk.

***1/2 / 4

Metis Legacy is a beautiful collection of historical photos, paintings, drawings, maps, stories, and songs for all ages. It is a collaborative effort by the editors who have been involved over the years in recording and sharing Metis or Michif culture and history. This volume reveals the significant Metis influence on North American culture by illuminating their often-unacknowledged contributions. The creators of this text make visible the vibrant resonance of a dynamic culture. The following excerpt illustrates this:

The ancestors of today’s Metis Nation were the children of the unions between North American Aboriginal mothers and European fathers. They developed into a distinct people with a group consciousness necessary to promote their collective causes. A Metis was not French Canadian, nor an English Canadian, nor a Scot. Neither were they First Nations or Inuit. They created for themselves and future generations a unique culture, a group identity, and declared themselves a “New Nation.” The Metis forged treaties and declared a Bill of Rights that marked this identity as a “New Nation.”

In the United States and Canada, we are surrounded by many symbols of Metis culture and heritage. Across the greater Metis Homeland there are many enduring, emblematic reminders of the Metis historical presence: the Montana buffalo skull logo, the buffalo on Manitoba’s coat of arms and on the flag of the Manitoba Metis Federation, the blue Metis infinity flag, the fiddle and sash; the ubiquitous Red River Cart; and the numerous streets named after Metis patriots in cities and towns from Kansas City to Winnipeg, and from Edmonton to Yellowknife. The Metis founded many of our major cities from Green Bay (La Baye), Wisconsin in the east to Juneau, Alaska in the west, founded by Metis gold prospector, Joe Juneau. The unique and world-renowned Michif-Cree language is still regularly spoken in four American states and five Canadian provinces.

     I believe this volume needs to be in every classroom. It reveals and celebrates an unexamined and often ignored part of our North American history. It outlines how the roots of Canada and the United States are interconnected. Although the reading level is at middle years to adult, it could be very effective at all levels because of the many photos of people, artifacts, and places. It provides a first hand account of the early years as Europeans came into contact with the First Nations of North America. This book could be used as a:

1) Teacher resource for stories, photos, songs, recipes, Metis language, and history,
2) Student text for studying History,
3) Reference resource for student research, or just for
4) Browsing.

     It is not a history book, per se, but it could be. It is more a reservoir of the cultural aspects of the Metis Nation. It includes chapters such as:

4. Storytelling and Folklore (Oral Literature)

5. Mythology / Heroes / Legends / Superstitions

6. Families / Housing / Transportation

7. Clothing / Tanning / Making a Living

8. Art

9. Food and Food Preparations / Buffalo Hunt

10. Medicines and Remedies

11. Holidays and Celebrations

12. Games

13. Music and Dance

14. Language

15. Spirituality

16. Bush lore / Voyageur Life

     With the help of this book, students and teachers can learn how to prepare pemmican, sing a voyageur song, learn Michif language, tan a hide, tell a legend about a Metis hero, read a myth, or play a traditional game. The book is chock full of primary sources, photos of people, places, documents, and artifacts. “This ground-breaking book, the first time that a systematic account of the Michif worldview has appeared in one volume, provides readers with holistic appreciation of what it means to be 'Michif'. With contributions from Elders, scholars and laypeople, Metis Legacy II provides the reader with a thorough overview of all the central tenets of the Michif worldview….”

     I highly recommend this book wherever teachers and students want to uncover their historical roots and understand their common connection to all the people who inhabit this earth.

Highly Recommended.

Gary Babiuk is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba where he teaches Social Studies Methods.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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