Traditionally, the Métis were hunters. Every aspect of their lifestyle was dependent on the buffalo hunt. They needed buffalo to survive.The lifestyle of the Métis revolved around the Plains buffalo. However, when the skilled Métis hunters were not on a buffalo hunt, they spent time hunting other animals for food. They hunted:

  • Pronghorn antelope

  • Moose

  • Elk

  • Mule deer

  • Prairie bush rabbit

  • Wild birds - prairie chicken, sage grouse, duck, geese


Métis communities were established along the major fur trade routes, mostly near the important freighting waterways.

The Métis lived in:

    • Ontario

    • Manitoba

    • Saskatchewan

    • Alberta

    • British Columbia

    • Northwest Territories

The first Métis communities appeared in Ontario, particularly around the Great Lakes, and Eastern Canada. As the fur trade moved west, so did the French-Canadian fur traders. Métis settlements were located as far west as British Columbia, and as far north as the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories.Rivers were important for transportation during the fur trade. The French-Canadian voyageurs who traveled along the rivers, set up settlements, got married and had children, giving rise to new Métis communities. The Hayes River in Manitoba was used a principle fur trade route. Lakes were also used as important routes for the fur trade. Therefore, many Métis communities were established near the Great Lakes, and many Western Canadian lakes. The Red River in Manitoba was used as a principal route during the western fur trade. Therefore, it played a critical role in the establishment of the Métis Nation. Many French-Canadian voyageurs made camp along the banks of the Red River. It was there that many voyageurs fell in love with local Native women and had children: the Métis. Winters were cold and deep snow fell in the Red River area. Métis communities along the Red River became known as the ‘Red River Settlement. Most Métis communities were located in two Canadian Prairie Provinces: Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Southern portions of Manitoba and Saskatchewan were completely flat, but rich soil made the area conducive to farming. The fairies were known as ‘Big Sky’ country, because of the flat landscape and appearance of an endless horizon. Winters in the Canadian Prairies were harsh. The temperatures were regularly below freezing and deep snow blanketed the area. The Métis were forced to adapt to the shorter growing season and the cold weather during the winter months.


The Métis people helped to shape the Canada of today, mainly in terms of the expansion of the west. The first Métis people were born in Eastern Canada as early as the 1600s. They were the children born to European fishermen and their Native wives. However, it was the Red River region, in present day Manitoba, where the Métis Nation was really first established. When the fur trade moved west, in the 1700s and 1800s, many French-Canadian fur traders found Native wives and had children. The children born from these unions formed a new Nation in Canada - the 'Western Métis. Today there are 350,000-400,000 Métis in Canada. The Métis people had a distinct way of life that incorporated aspects of both French-Canadian and Native cultures. This could explain why they were called the 'Métis', which came from the French word for 'mixed'.During the height of the fur trade in the 1700s and 1800s, many French-Canadian fur traders married Native women, mainly Cree, Ojibwa, or Salteaux women. Most of the fur traders were French and Catholic. Therefore, their children, the Métis, were exposed to both the Catholic and Native belief systems. The Native people were eager to establish strong relationships with their European allies and trading partners, so they offered wives to the traders.Native women not only provided companionship for the fur traders, they also aided in their survival. They were able to translate the language, sew new clothing for their husbands, cook food, and help resolve any cultural issues that arose.The First Peoples had survived in the harsh west for thousands of years, so the fur traders benefited greatly from their knowledge of the land.

By: Tiara Peralta Fernandez