Métis peoples are those of mixed French and Native ancestry, often including other cultural origins as well, especially Scottish. The word came into common use in the 1800s on the Canadian prairies to describe the children of French-Canadian traders and First Nations women. These intermarriages spawned a syncretic culture, including distinctive languages, called Mitchif, or Métchif, as well as clothing, food, and music. Central to Métis musical culture, both past and present, is a fiddle and dance tradition which reflects Scottish, French and Aboriginal roots as well as other influences. Métis peoples live in every province and territory of Canada and many of the northern States. Many are Francophone, but many are not, speaking English and/or Aboriginal or mixed languages. However, all share, to some extent, in an Aboriginal-French-Scottish cultural legacy which varies from one region to another, and even from one family to another.
In the late 17th century through the 18th, fiddles, fiddle music and the dances that went with them came to Canada largely with men hired by the Hudson's Bay Company to work in the fur trade, many from the Orkney and Shetland Islands. By the 19th century, this body of Scottish dance music had evolved into a distinctive fiddle tradition in Quebec, which then came west in the hands of French-Canadian voyageurs, mixing further with continued direct Scottish influence, and, in many instances, taking on characteristics of local Native cultures.
Fiddling is essentially part of a social dance tradition. Dancing happened in trading posts, church halls and private homes, where people would often go to great lengths. They'd move all the furniture out into the shed. Dances happened in order to celebrate special events or just as social gatherings.
Please help us celebrate and revive this social dance tradition. We’ll be introducing some traditional dances of the kind our local Frenchtown settlers were familiar with, and that were danced from Quebec throughout the fur-trading communities of western Canada by Metis or people of mixed indigenous, French, and Scottish descent.
We hope to be able to introduce some of these dances at Frenchtown and other cultural events in our community, and invite you to join us in this. Please let us know of anyone else who might be interested in dancing with us.
For more information on our local Frenchtown Dance Troupe, contact Dan Clark, firstname.lastname@example.org, 509-522-0399.