They know who they are. Of predominantly Chippewa, Cree, French, and Scottish descent, the Metis people have flourished as a distinct ethnic group in Canada and the northwestern United States for nearly two hundred years. Yet their Metis identity is often ignored or misunderstood in the United States. Unlike their counterparts in Canada, the U.S. Metis have never received federal recognition. In fact, their very identity has been questioned.
In this rich examination of a Metis communitythe first book-length work to focus on the Montana MetisMartha Harroun Foster combines social, political, and economic analysis to show how its people have adapted to changing conditions while retaining a strong sense of their own unique culture and traditions.
Despite overwhelming obstacles, the Metis have used the bonds of kinship and common history to strengthen and build their community. As Foster carefully traces the lineage of Metis families from the Spring Creek area, she shows how the people retained their sense of communal identity. She traces the common threads linking diverse Metis communities throughout Montana and lends insight into the nature of Metis identity in general. And in raising basic questions about the nature of ethnicity, this pathbreaking work speaks to the difficulties of ethnic identification encountered by all peoples of mixed descent.