The Metis are descendants of the unions between Aboriginal and European peoples. Their ancestry may be Ojibwe-French, Cree-Irish, or any other combination of the red and white races.
Michif: "Sa prend lee famee di Michif chee shoohkshichik kispin la Nation di Michif chee shoohkawk."
English translation: "We must have strong Metis families to have a strong Metis Nation."
A Michif prayer by Norman Fleury in Taanishi Kiya, Michif Revival Strategy, Metis National Council, April 2000.
The cultural identity of the Metis is influenced by Aboriginal and European customs, values, and language.
In western Canada, Michif, the language of the Metis, is a mix of French nouns and Cree verbs. As on moves east across Canada, some Ojibwe verbs and nouns are also included.
Peter Bakker, at the Institute for Linguistics in Aarhus, Denmark, regards Michif as an unusual language for several reasons. It belongs to two language families at the same time (Algonquian and Indo-European). It is distinct from other languages which arose out of Aboriginal-European contact because it is not a trade language, nor is it pidgin, Creole, or a result of second language acquisition.
It is not simply a combination of two languages, says Bakker. No other mixed language has virtually all of its nouns coming from one language and all of its verbs from another.
Once in widespread use, today very few people speak Michif. Various organizations are researching and organizing teaching programs in an effort to keep this unique language from disappearing. In 1998, the Metis National Council began working to preserve and teach Michif. The Manitoba Metis Federation published the first Canadian Michif Language Dictionary (Pemmican Publications in Winnipeg, Manitoba). For more information, visit the site www.metisnation.ca