Defining Métis

Catholic Missionaries and the Idea of Civilization in Northwestern Saskatchewan, 1845-1898


Defining Métis

"Defining Métis" examines categories used in the latter half of the nineteenth century by Catholic missionaries to describe Indigenous people in what is now northwestern Saskatchewan. It argues that the construction and evolution of these categories reflected missionaries’changing interests and agendas.

"Defining Métis" sheds light on the earliest phases of Catholic missionary work among Indigenous peoples in western and northern Canada. It examines various interrelated aspects of this work, including the beginnings of residential schooling, transportation and communications, and relations between the Church, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the federal government.

While focusing on the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and their central mission at Île-à-la-Crosse, this study illuminates broad processes that informed Catholic missionary perceptions and impelled their evolution over a fifty-three-year period. In particular, this study illuminates processes that shaped Oblate conceptions of sauvage and métis. It does this through a qualitative analysis of documents that were produced within the Oblates’ institutional apparatus – official correspondence, mission journals, registers, and published reports.

Foran challenges the orthodox notion that Oblate commentators simply discovered and described a singular, empirically existing, and readily identifiable Métis population. Rather, he contends that Oblates played an important role in the conceptual production of les métis.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Cover 1
Contents 6
List of Illustrations 8
Preface 10
Introduction: From sauvage to métis: The Evolution of Missionary-Made Categories at Île-à-la-Crosse 12
Chapter 1: Saint-Jean-Baptiste in an Evolving Mission Network 27
Chapter 2: Oblate Perceptions of the Hudson's Bay Company 55
Chapter 3: Oblates and the Beginnings of Residential Education 76
Chapter 4: Oblates and the Categorization of Indigeneity 104
Conclusion: La civilisation moderne: The World Came Seeping In 126
Acknowledgements 130
Appendix 132
Notes 139
Bibliography 216
Index 235