Michif

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The Michif nation (from the french "m├ętis" meaning "mixed") is an ethnic group living in a number of villages mainly in Ontario and the unincorporated lands of the North American League but also in New Francy. They currently have no distinct territorial representation of their own due to their unusual past, their ancestors being a mixture of european (mostly French but also Scottish) and Amerindians (Cree, Ojibway and Saulteaux).

Contents

History

They originaly were the sons and daughters of european fur traders who had married native wives in 17th and 18th century New France. Both due to lack of acceptance in their respective nations and for protection during the hunting seasons, the parents (and their children) often joined together with other families as ad hoc hunting bands. With time, some of their offspring married one another and a distinct culture emerged that amalgamated elements of european and amerindians traditions.

The bands lead a nomadic life, spending only the winter months in their homebase. With time, these became permanent village where the elders, pregnant woman and other non-hunter would stay during hunting season. The train of distinctive Michif carts (with their unique all-wooden frame and resulting noises) became a familiar sight on the plains of north-america.

With the dwindling herds of buffalo in the 19th century, michif bands were forced to look elsewhere for their livelihood. Some took up contracts with the large chartered companies while other hired themselves as teams on farms and logging camps.

Status

For a long period of time, the michif found themselves outside the protection treaties signed between the europeans and amerindian nations. Because they often had no "legal" existence, it became common for those who had left their band to pass themselves off has either a native or a european (depending on their physical appearance) and leave behind their culture.

It was only in the early 20th century that a recognition of sort was given to the michif. A joint resolution signed by various North American legal associations stated that while none of the villages were recognised as "treaty Bands", their ancestry (which due to a strong catholic tradition was easily traceable through baptismal sources) prevented from them being considered "subjects of a given king" (in NAL) or "of a given ethnic descent" (in New Francy). Although the preceeding didnt't apply to legal protection but mainly to cultural entitlement (such as education subsidies), this grey area, they argue, was legaly untenable and thus legislations needed to be passed that would clearly determine what were the rights and responsibilities of the michif. The resolution went to suggest the form which the treaty could take based on past government practices and similar circumstance in other jurisdictions.

Some politicans followed up on the recomandations and in 1938 was passed the Michif Betterment Treaty signed by most north-american countries. While not given the same recognitions as "treaty bands", it did give them the right of free passage across national borders (for work purposes) and allowed their villages a certain amount of autonomy (mainly cultural). Although this was not the recognition of sovereignty over their land some wished, it did allow them to maintain to a large extent their traditional culture.

Culture

Language

The michif language has only recently been studied in a formal way. Linguist having analysed it have determined that it is gramaticaly linked with the cree family of language with a large import of basic words from northern french dialects (norman and francian especialy).

The extended language's lexicon however has been largely influenced by the location of a given village. Those in ontario for exemple have adopted many english loanwords just as those near New Sweden have taken in some scandinavian ones. By and large though, the nomadic habits of the bands (and thus inter-village contacts) have prevented the appearance of truly divergent dialects and various members are still fully capable of communicating with one another.

Follow a traditional prayer given at cultural meeting with its Francian and Standard English translation:

Li Bon Jeu la direksyoon miyinawn, itayhta chimiyouitayhtamawhk, li shmaen chee oushtawyawhk pour la Nawsyoon dee Michif ota dans not Piyee.

Bon Dieu pointes-nous dans la bonne direction et donnes-nous l'inspiration tandis que nous construisons un chemin pour la Nation des Michifs dans notre Pays

God provide us with direction and inspiration as we build a road for the Michif Nation in our Country.

Music

Michif music was heavily influenced by their european ancestors and was mainly used as accompaniment for recreational dancing. Violin, concertina and hand drum are favourite instruments.

Folk Dress

Michif are renowned for the intricate beadwork on their clothes and by the woven sash they wear around their waist. Unlike its similar Neofrancian counterpart, the michif's sash is tied at the front.

The men tend to wear dark coloured half-leggings (mitasse) with brightly coloured beadwork over pants. A cotton shirt and buckskin jacket (decorated with small leather fringes and more beadwork) tied closed with the sash complete their costume.

The women on the other hand wear long grey, brown or black dresses with puffy shoulders and a sash. Interestingly, these dresses were inspired by those worn by nuns who in the past often set up schools in the michif permanent villages.

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