Where did we go?
What happened to the Métis in Indiana and other Mid-western states? Below is a summary of R. David Edmunds essay entitled: American attitudes toward the Métis in the Old Northwest. In it Mr. Edmunds offers explanations as to why we were forced out of Indiana.
As the Americans poured into the Indiana territory they found several Native Tribes and a well established Métis population. The Métis spoke French and several of the Native languages. The Métis were well off by frontier standards and maintained a very lucrative trading business. The Americans however were extremely frustrated upon their arrival and felt the Métis were ignorant because they did not speak English. Also, the Americans took a very dim view of the interracial marriages and considered the children of these marriages as nothing more than mongrels.
William Keating, while in the Fort Wayne area complained to U.S. authorities that Indiana contains a population of mixed and worthless people who were more or less imbued with Indian blood. In the Detroit area William Hull complained that the Métis had adopted ‘Indian Culture’ and that they openly fraternized with the Indians. He went on to say that the Native population was as much at home in the homes of the Métis as the Métis were themselves.
Mr. Edmunds continues his essay by stating that the greatest shortcoming of all the Métis, according to the Americans, was that they had no interest at all in becoming farmers. Mr. Edmunds believes the Americans felt this was the greatest sacrilege of all. The Americans believed the Indian and Métis population were simply wasting the land.
Lewis Cass, who Cass County is named after, later on became Sec. Of War under President Andrew Jackson, and, who was instrumental in formulating the removal policies of the United States, criticized the Métis extensively charging that they spent half the year as traders and the other half amusing themselves. Mr. Cass also complained that the Métis refused to raise sheep, and the Métis women refused to spin wool or weave cloth for their families. Many Americans were appalled that the Métis wore Buckskin clothing rather then cloth. Sec. Cass believed the only solution to the Métis/Indian ‘problem’ was a large migration of Americans into the area to teach proper living techniques to the inhabitants, or the more desirable solution, simply remove the Métis along with the Native population.
As Americans moved in there were many complaints that the Métis had accepted the wrong values of European culture and that their close ties with the Native population made them an even greater threat. There was a fear that if the Métis organized the various Native populations then they could never be removed. When land successions and treaty rights began in the early 1800’s the Métis were either cheated out of their land, driven off, or preferably, forcibly removed along with the Native Americans.
As Metis people we are struggling to make sure that our identity, our culture and our rights continues to exist.
We have a right to exist as a distinct people.