Indigenous Voices

In the golden age of the Métis Nation, circa 1816-1869, the Métis traversed the landscape of present-day Western Canada and the American Great Plains in Red River Carts. In fact, among the First Nations, the Métis were known as “Half-Wagon Men” in the common Plains sign language because of their extensive use of Red River carts for trading and resource gathering purposes. The Red River cart has always been an indelible symbol of Métis culture and nationhood. It is, therefore, a fitting symbol for this section, which pays tribute to the Métis’ various heritage languages: Michif-Cree, Northwestern Saskatchewan Michif, Michif-French, Cree, Saulteaux and Bunji. This section contains all oral histories, video clips and learning resources in these various Métis heritage languages.

Michif Collection

 

 

The Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) works with Michif speakers to preserve and promote the three Michif languages spoken in Saskatchewan: Michif, Michif-French, and Northern Michif.  GDI employs sociological conventions when classifying a Michif language: if a Michif person living in Saskatchewan calls their language “Michif,” than the Institute respects their wishes and calls that language “Michif.”  As part of our cultural mandate, most of GDI’s publications include Michif components.  

       Spoken mainly in southern and central Saskatchewan and Manitoba and ranging into North Dakota (the area in and around the Turtle Mountain Reservation) and some parts of Montana, Michif is considered by linguists to be the true mixed Métis language. It mixes Plains Cree verbs and verb phrases and French nouns and noun phrases along with some  Nahkawē (Saulteaux) and English , depending on the locale and family.  Michif-French, spoken in various places in all three Prairie Provinces, is a dialect of Canadian French that sometimes employs an Algonquian syntax.  Northern Michif, spoken in northwest Saskatchewan, is a dialect of Plains Cree with a tiny number of French loan words.  

       According to Norman Fleury, Michif language specialist, speaker, and traditional storyteller, “Michif” was the “nationality” (ethnicity) and the languages now known as Michif were Métis versions of “Cree” and “French,” despite their differences with standard Cree or French-Canadian French.  The old people referred to the language we now call Michif as the “Cree spoken by the Michif.”  Michif-French was referred to as the “French spoken by the Michif.” 

Michif-language resources, including dictionaries and children’s books, can obtained through the Gabriel Dumont Institute at shopmetis.ca.

 


Li Michif: The Language of Our Families

Michif Interviews

Michif Learning Games—Heather Souter

Michif Reference Resources

Michif Speakers Conferences

Michif Storytellers Workshop, 2008

Michif-French Interviews—St. Laurent, Manitoba, 1987

Northern Michif Interviews

Oral History Transcripts—Michif to English

The Alfred Reading Series—Michif