Northern Metis

Most of the Northern Metis live in the lower Mackenzie River region in the Mackenzie District of the Northwest Territories of Canada, from Fort Simpson northward. Others live in the northern Yukon Territory and in eastern Alaska. They are dispersed through numerous communities in the region, in most of which they are a minority.

They do not at present form an ethnic group as such and have no collective legal identity. But their sociocultural characteristics, their traditions, and especially the discrimination against them by other groups have in recent years combined to give them a sense of social identity as Metis. They are of a comparatively recent origin as a group, most of them being descendants of mixed unions that took place after the middle of the nineteenth century. They generally have an Athapaskan Indian maternal ancestry and northern European Paternal ancestry.

It is difficult to form an estimate of how many Northern Metis exist—probably more than one thousand and fewer than ten thousand. Their social organization is little, if at all, different from that of the other groups in the region. The Nuclear family is dominant, with European-American kin terms used in common discourse, and the appropriate Indian or Eskimo kinship patterns expressed with Native American kinsmen. Their church affiliation is mainly Protestant with a large Roman Catholic minority.

Individuals have great physical mobility and wide-ranging social ties, with much community exogamy and Neolocal residence after marriage. There are perhaps two dozen family surnames among the Metis in the Mackenzie District with affiliation being determined genealogically. Family stories and traditions often deal with service with various Commercial companies. Most Metis have worked at many kinds of jobs, often connected with transportation and the fur trade. Subsistence hunting and fishing, and trapping have been important through the years.

See also Metis of Western Canada


Burger, Joanne O., and Allan Clovis, eds. (1976). A Portrayal of Our Métis Rentage. Yellowknife, Northwest Territories: Métis Association of the Northwest Territories.

Slobodin, Richard (1966). Métis of the Mackenzie District. Ottawa, Ontario: Saint Paul University, Canadian Research Centre for Anthropology.

Slobodin, Richard (1981). "Subarctic Métis." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 6, Subarctic , edited by June Helm, 361-371. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

Smith, David Merrill (1981). "Fort Resolution, Northwest Territories." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 6, Subarctic, edited by June Helm, 683-693. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

Smith, Derek G. (1975). Natives and Outsiders: Pluralism in the Mackenzie River Delta, Northwest Territories. Ottawa, Ontario: Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Northern Research Division, Mackenzie Delta Research Project, 12.

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