Repository logo

Métis families and schools : the decline and reclamation of Métis identities in Saskatchewan, 1885-1980



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title




Degree Level



In the late-nineteenth century, Métis families and communities resisted what they perceived to be the encroachment of non-Aboriginal newcomers into the West. Resistance gave way to open conflict at the Red River Settlement and later in north central Saskatchewan. Both attempts by the Métis to resist the imposition of the newcomer’s settlement agenda were not successful, and the next 100 years would bring challenges to Métis unity. The transmission of knowledge of a Métis past declined as parents and grandparents opted to encourage their children and youth to pass into the growing settler society in what would become Saskatchewan. As parents restricted the flow of Métis knowledge, missionaries who represented Christian churches collaborated to develop the first Northwest Territories Board of Education, the agent responsible for the first state-supported schools in what would become the province of Saskatchewan. These first schools included Métis students and helped to shift their loyalties away from their families and communities and toward the British state. However, many Métis children and youth remained on the margins of educational attainment. They were either unable to attend school, or their schools did not have the required infrastructure or relevant pedagogy and curriculum. In the years after World War II, the Government of Saskatchewan noticed the unequal access to and achievement of the Métis in its schools. The government attempted to bring Métis students in from the margins through infrastructural, pedagogical, and curricular adaptations to support their learning. Scholars have unearthed voluminous evidence of missionary work in Canada and have researched and written about public schools. As well, several scholars have undertaken research projects on Status First Nations education in the twentieth century. However, less is known about Métis’ interactions with Christian missionaries and in the state-supported or publicly funded schools. In this dissertation, I examine the history of missions and public schools in what would become Saskatchewan, and I enumerate the foundations that the Métis considered important for their learning. I identify Métis children and youth’s reactions to Christian and public schools in Saskatchewan, but I argue that Métis families who knew of their heritages actively participated in Roman Catholic Church rituals and activities and preserved and protected their pasts. Although experiences with Christianity varied, those with strong family ties and ties to the land adjusted well to the expectations of Christian teachings and formal public education. Overall, I tell the story of Métis children and youth and their involvement in church and public schooling based on how they saw Christianity, education, and its role on their lands and in their families. And I explain how Métis learners negotiated Protestant and Roman Catholic teachings and influences with the pedagogy and curriculum of public schools. Oral history forms a substantial portion of the sources for this history of Métis children and youth and church and public education. I approached the interviews as means to generate new data – in collaboration with the people I interviewed. Consequently, I went into the interviews with a list of questions, but I strove to make these interviews conversational and allow for a two-way flow of knowledge. I started with contextual questions (i.e. date of birth, school attended, where family was from) and proceeded to probe further based on the responses I received from the person being interviewed and from previous interviews. As well, I drew from two oral history projects with tapes and transcripts available in the archives: the Saskatchewan Archives Board’s “Towards a New Past Oral History Project ‘The Métis’” and the Provincial Archives of Manitoba’s Manitoba Métis Oral History Project. See appendices A and B for discussion of my oral history methodology and the utility of the aforementioned oral history projects for my own research.



Métis, family, education, religion, spirituality, place, missionaries



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






Part Of