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Mapping Métis Stories: Land Use, Gender and Kinship in the Qu'Appelle Valley, 1850-1950



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Examining Métis land use and occupancy of the Qu’Appelle Valley from 1850 to the mid-twentieth century, this dissertation addresses change and continuity in food harvesting practices, land tenure, spatial organization and family, kinship, and gender roles. It asks, What was the family and community contribution of women’s labour in food harvesting, preparation, production, and sharing from 1850-1950? Utilizing a methodology called “deep mapping” to merge qualitative approaches with digital technologies, it combines Indigenous community-based and oral history research methods, genealogical reconstruction, and Historical Geographic Information Systems (HGIS). HGIS combines historical research methods with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a computer-based mapping and spatial analysis technology for organization and analysis of geographically referenced data. Métis families first came to the Qu’Appelle Valley to hunt buffalo before taking up land on a seasonal and then on a more permanent basis by the 1860s. They supported themselves through trade with, and wage labour for the Hudson’s Bay Company as well as by what they could hunt, gather and grow. Doing so, they relied on recognizable cultural practices, including those that reinforced family and kinship structures and the roles that women filled in food gathering, preservation, and production. By the early twentieth century, as families struggled to survive within a growing, and often hostile, settler society, many found themselves displaced and forced to relocate to the road allowances or unoccupied Crown land around the Qu’Appelle Lakes. Each time these families moved, they resettled along familiar extended family lines and adapted to changing economic, social and political situations. When challenged by the imposition of settler colonialism, foreign land tenure practices, government regulation, surveillance, and state intervention into their livelihoods, they responded in flexible individual and collective ways grounded in an Indigenous worldview, their understanding of place, and familiar political approaches. They maintained a subsistence lifestyle of fishing, trapping, and harvesting wild plants and medicines mixed with small-scale agriculture and seasonal wage labour in the settler economy. Qu’Appelle Métis lived according to a worldview that privileged kinship relationships, extended family relationships, complementary gender roles in food production, and a mixed subsistence lifestyle. Consequently, women made a significant contribution to the economic production of their families through their food harvesting, production, and preparation activities.



Métis, Land use, Women, Gender, Family, Qu'Appelle Valley, Road Allowance, Oral history, Stories, Mapping



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






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