Culture and Language
The Métis Nation grounds its assertion of Indigenous nationhood on well-recognized international principles. This includes having a unique language of our own. In July 2000 the Métis Nation General Assembly adopted a Métis Nation Michif Declaration recognizing and declaring Michif as “the historical and official language of the Métis Nation”: Michif si la lawng di li Nawsyoon.
Michif is unique among world languages. Linguist Peter Bakker, among the earliest academics to make an in-depth study of Michif, said that the Michif language emerged in the early 1800s as “the Métis started to see themselves as a separate group, different from both the French and the Cree.” Unlike trade languages, where elements of two languages are merged to allow communication between people who are not fluent in each other’s language, Michif is understood to be the creation of a people who were fluent in two languages, a distinct regional dialect of French and Plains Cree. Michif was the language for the members of the emerging Métis Nation to speak among themselves: it was, as Bakker wrote, “the utmost language of solidarity for the group members and a distancing language for non-group members.” In this way, Michif is an inseparable and foundational part of Métis national identity. Michif is part of the story how the Métis Nation came to be and the long struggles that have been fought for recognition and respect of Métis Nation identity and rights.