Fur Trade Enters the North
Influence of the Metis
“The young people model themselves in every way, from the cut of their hair to the style of their clothes, on the French-Canadian Métis who work at the English trading posts.” Father Emile Petitot, 1876. In Emile Petitot, Monographie des Dènè-Dindjié. Paris
In the 19th century, Métis who traced their origins to the Red River area of Manitoba were important agents of change with respect to Dene clothing fashions and decorative art. In the early days of the trade, Red River Métis men entered the North as canoeists and packers in the fur brigades. Later, many Métis families emigrated north. They brought with them a love of colourful clothing and a decorative art that emphasized floral designs, a tradition strongly influenced by the teachings of mission-school nuns in the Lake Winnipeg area. Girls in these schools were taught embroidery techniques and motifs that the nuns themselves had learned when young, and that were ultimately European (particularly French) in origin. Métis women complemented these skills with their own techniques and materials, and a new, distinctive craftwork emerged.