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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Prairie and Quebec Metis territoriality : "interstices territoriales" and the cartography of in-between identity Rivard, Etienne


This thesis is a historical and contemporary exploration of Prairie and Quebec Métis. The Métis, individuals of mixed Native and non-Native ancestry, have been constitutionally recognised as Aboriginal people(s) in Canada since 1982. They are the result of the numerous episodes of Métissage that have occurred in the course of Canada's history. Métissage emerged early in the French Regime, as the intermingling of "Indian" and "white" blood was an inescapable outcome of the fur trade economy. In spite of this long history and recent official recognition, the mixed cultural origins of the Métis have challenged many aspects of Canadian society — its conception of aboriginality, its ethnic classifications and policies, and its conception of territorial integrity. On the other hand, the Métis also represent an opportunity for Canada to question its conceptions of aboriginality and to outline possible paths of reflection about the country's socio-political landscape. This thesis approaches these paths indirectly by exploring the historical importance of Métis geographies in the development of Canada. More specifically, it aims to identify the changing patterns of Métis territoriality — the changing Métis sense of identity and territory. My historical exploration is largely based on an investigation of colonial maps, on which I have sought territorial markers (material, political, and symbolic) that identify the existence of Métissage and the Métis. The visual nature of maps makes them influential territorial discourses and efficient means by which Métis geography and territoriality can be identified as well as the mental conceptions Canadians have of the country. This study of colonial maps is complemented by the analysis of Métis oral tradition as revealed by stories, individual accounts, songs, and place names. I also investigate the ways in which contemporary Métis conceive of history and the future, and how this affects (or supports) their self-identification. This contemporary inquiry is primarily based on Métis maps, Métis official web sites, and interviews I conducted with Métis living in different regions in the province of Quebec. Both historical and contemporary examinations reveal real regional distinctions between Prairie and Quebec Métis, although there have been significant social and familial connections between the two groups. Both Métis peoples also share common characteristics. The most important one is "in-betweenness," which appears to be a principal feature of Métis past and present territoriality.

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