The Métis people originated in the 1700’s when French and Scottish fur traders married Aboriginal women, such as the Cree, and Anishinabe (Ojibway). Their descendants formed a distinct culture, collective consciousness and nationhood in the Northwest. Distinct Métis communities developed along the fur trade routes. Today, it is sometimes used as a generic term to describe people of mixed European and Aboriginal ancestry, but in a legal context, it only refers to descendants of specific historic communities (e.g., the inhabitants of the Red River Colony in today’s Manitoba) or specific groups (e.g., the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement, a contemporary community in today’s Alberta) or the people who received land grants or scrip from Canadian government. The term is sometimes contentious, as each Métis organization defines membership using different terms. Canada has the only constitution in the world that recognizes a mixed-race culture, the Métis as a rights-bearing Aboriginal people.
The Métis National Council website defines Métis as “a person who self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from other Aboriginal Peoples, is of historic Métis Nation ancestry and who is accepted by the Métis Nation.”