Religious Beliefs of the Metis

by Dan Ketchum
McKay's contrasting portrayals of America and Jamaica characterize many of his poems.

McKay's contrasting portrayals of America and Jamaica characterize many of his poems.

The Metis are an aboriginal -- or "First Nations" -- people of Canada named for the French word “miscere,” which means to mix. With the advent of colonization, Metis culture began to combine French and English influences with its Native American roots. As a result, the religious beliefs of the Metis incorporate a highly distinct blend of Christian ideology and traditional aboriginal spiritual views.

Nature and Connectedness

Like many Native American customs, traditional or aboriginal Metis spiritual beliefs focus deeply on nature. The Metis believe in the interconnected nature of the land and all of its living creatures, a worldview known as ecological spirituality. The Metis consider every part of the world around them as a living, sentient spiritual being and they focus on living in harmony with their fellow humans as well as the natural world.

Spirits

The Metis' spiritual culture focuses heavily on the idea of spirits. Traditionally, Metis believe that spirits provide human beings with life; if your spirit is not kept healthy, its poor state can lead to your death. This translates roughly into the Western concept of “keeping high spirits” -- with gaiety, courage and inner strength, the Metis believe that the spirit is able to survive and even lend physical strength to the body. Some Metis believe in communicating with an all-knowing spirit known as Kitchi-Manitou.

Catholic Influence

Canadian colonization brought Christian customs to the Metis. From the late 1700s to mid-1800s, Catholic missions and schools converted many of the Metis, who incorporated practices such as Catholic Mass and feast days into their existing spiritual beliefs rather than replacing them entirely. Other French Catholic customs adopted by the Metis include traditional prayers, the use of the rosary and the belief in saints -- in fact, St. Joseph of Nazareth is considered the Patron Saint of the Metis people. Alongside Catholic customs, aboriginal customs survived. These customs include the use of sweat lodges, medicine wheels and sacred pipes.

Further Considerations

Traditionally, Metis women pass spiritual customs on to new generations. Although this gender focus may have waned in modern times, the passing of religious beliefs through family is still an important part of the Metis lifestyle. Modern people of Metis heritage, however, practice religions ranging from Catholicism to Protestantism to New Age spirituality and everything in between.

About the Author

Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.

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