The origin of the Métis Nation is rooted in the historical fabric of Canada. It was here that they evolved into a new and distinct Aboriginal nation. From the mid-1600s to the late 1800s, the fur trade population came increasingly from the mixed-blood offspring of Cree, Ojibway or Saulteaux women with French fur traders from the North West Company or Scottish and English fur traders from the Hudson’s Bay Company.
As people of mixed ancestry increased in number and married among themselves, they developed a new culture, neither European nor Indian, but a fusion of the two and a new identity as Métis. With their mixed traditions and command of both European and Indian languages, the Métis were logical intermediaries in the commercial relationship between two civilizations. They adapted European technology to the wilderness. Innovations such as the Red River cart and York boat made it possible to transport large volumes of goods and supplies to and from the outposts of the fur trade.
By the mid-19th century, Métis villages appeared in and around fur trade posts from the Great Lakes to the Mackenzie Delta. As provisioners to the North West Company, the Métis of the prairies organized the commercial buffalo hunt. They left their permanent settlements periodically and for each expedition, they would elect a provisional government to make and enforce the law of the hunt.
This activity increased the Métis political consciousness, which was further heightened by the rivalry between the fur trade companies.
In 1811, the Hudson’s Bay Company made a land grant to Lord Selkirk of 116,000 square miles of land in the Red River Valley (southern Manitoba). It was to be an agricultural settlement and a source of provisions for the fur trade. Efforts by the Scottish settlers to restrict Métis hunting and trading practices eventually led to their defeat in 1816 at the Battle of Seven Oaks. It was the same site where the victorious Métis led by Cuthbert Grant, Jr., first unfurled the flag of the Métis Nation.
In 1821, the amalgamation of the Hudson’s Bay Company and North West Company closed many fur trading posts and forced employees and families to move to the Red River Settlement. Here the Scottish Métis joined with French Métis to defend common interests against the governing Hudson’s Bay Company. As the Métis become more concentrated and married within, group consciousness grew. The Hudson’s Bay Company authorities took this sentiment into account in its administration of the Red River Settlement.