History & Culture
Our Way of Being Métis – Storytelling
Every Métis family and community has their own unique way of telling stories. Through oral tradition, our Métis worldview, history, and cultural teachings are preserved for future generations. Our stories give us our identity and a sense of belonging.
Old forms of Métis storytelling often incorporate cultural teachings to emphasize behavioural expectations or codes of conduct. Métis storytellers use humour to teach standards of right and wrong and through trickster characters such as Ti-jean or Weesakejac, we learn about the consequences of our choices.
Métis worldview and spirituality are embedded in our stories. In her book, Stories of the Road Allowance, Métis author and Elder, Maria Campbell shares her insights on traditional storytelling. She introduces readers to Rougaroos, traditional Métis shapeshifters, and the lessons they provide. She examines colonialism and its effects on the spirits and minds of Métis people and emphasizes the value of humor in Métis culture. Laughter has always been an important element of Métis life and by protecting our traditional Michif language, we also preserve a particular style of humor that cannot be translated.
Maria Campbell, Métis author, playwright, broadcaster, filmmaker and Elder (CBC Radio, November 2, 2019)
“There are different ways of telling stories. Some people would get up and they would recite really long stories; they would almost sing or chant them. Then there were stories that people played with fiddles and were part of fiddle dances. There were the stories that were told in the evening in the winter — and there were stories that had laws and and taught us how to live good lives.”
Storytelling is a widely used practice throughout Indigenous cultures, and Métis storytelling in particular has important protocols to guide how a story is told. Certain Elders and storytellers have certain protocols they follow, each as diverse as the stories they tell. Before engaging a particular storyteller, it’s important to seek guidance from their community to learn acceptable protocol.
Contemporary Métis storytellers are keeping the spirit of storytelling alive. Every Métis person has a story to tell about their own lived experiences. Returning to the traditional circle is a common narrative in contemporary Métis society. After experiencing disconnections due to the intergenerational impacts of colonization, land dispossession, and assimilation policies, many Metis have found their way back to their culture.
Modern Métis writers like Jesse Thistle are courageously telling inspiring stories of survival, resilience, and healing. Writers from across Canada use prose, poetry, biographies, spoken word, and other forms of personal expression to share Métis perspectives through a new form of storytelling.