Rev. John Black speaks of the Metis people
Rev. John Black, a protestant minister who lived and worked in the Red River region during the early and middle 1800s provided a clear distinction between the people of the Metis Nation based on their distinct heritage. In writing about the (mostly) French half-breeds, Black stated:
“The French half-breeds, called also Metis, and formerly Bois-brule, are athletic, rather good-looking, lively, excitable, easy going being. Fond of a fast pony, fond of merry-making, free-hearted, open-handed, yet indolent and improvident, he is a marked feature of border life. Being excitable, he can be aroused to acts of revenge, of bravery, and daring”.
He continued: “The offspring of the Montreal traders with their Indian spouses, so early as 1816, numbered several hundreds, and they possessed a considerable esprit-de-corps. They looked upon themselves as a separate people, and, headed by their Scot-French half-breed leader, Cuthbert Grant, called themselves the “New Nation”. Having tasted blood in the death of Governor Semple, they were turbulent ever after. Living the life of buffalo hunters, they preserved their war like tastes. Largely increased in numbers in 1849, they committed the grave offence of rising, taking the law into their own hands, defying all authority…”
While the majority of these French Metis were descended from distinct French lineages, others were of French and Scottish descent. Some of the family names mentioned by Black included the McGillivrays, Grants, McLeods, and Mackays, who had French, Scotch, and Indian blood.
Black also mentioned the distinct “English speaking” half-breed as standing somewhat apart from the French and French-Scot Metis. He stated that as early as 1775 Orkneymen employees in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company at Cumberland House were intermarrying with native women. The offspring were English-speaking half-breeds who ranged from Hudson's Bay to the Yukon, but made Red River their home.
Black mentions several family names for the English speaking half-breeds, including Inkster, Fobister, Setter, Harper, Mowat, Omand, Flett, Linklater, Tait, Spence, Monkman, and others.
From John Black, Apostle of the Red River (by G. Bryce). (1908) Harvard Library.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities