The Long Journey of a Forgotten People: Métis Identities and Family Histories.


386 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-88920-523-9
DDC 971.004'97




Edited by Ute Lischke and David T. McNab
Reviewed by Frits Pannekoek

Frits Pannekoek is an associate professor of heritage studies, director
of information resources at the University of Calgary, and the author of
A Snug Little Flock: The Social Origins of the Riel Resistance of


The volume is the outcome of a 2003 Métis Studies conference held at Carleton University. The 13 essays are divided into three sections: “Reflections on Métis Identities, “Historical Perspectives,” and “Métis Families and Communities.” In the end, the collection is all about the discovery and creation of personal identities and their never-ending tension with identities imposed by authority and the colonizers.


The first section has a few provocative essays, one in particular by Olive Dickason, who recounts in a very poignant way the rediscovery and use of her own aboriginal heritage. The second section, on historical perspectives, lacks theme, but the essays themselves are extraordinarily insightful. Of particular importance is Karl S. Hele’s “Manipulating Identity,” which deals with the complexities of Métis identity in the Sault Borderlands. It has applicability to any study of identity. Heather Devine, in “New Light on the Plains Métis,” tantalizes us with the potential discovery of new evidence of Riel’s missing years in the United States. But of particular interest is section III and Virginia (Parker) Barter’s “Searching for the Silver Fox” and Donna G. Sutherland’s “The Kokum Puzzle.” Both are intense reflections on personal searches that found connections with extended fur trade families—the Sinclairs and Spencers. If anything, both prove that Canada’s Métis people, despite where they might live, are interconnected in a complex web of multiple identities that is uniquely Canadian. Perhaps that web of relationships is the real fabric that has held us together.


This book will be key to any Canadian who wants to understand the complexity of Canada’s Métis history. It explains so very well why there are many Métis identities, but more important how these identities are connected. If there is one essay that will be a primer for any student interested in today’s complexities it is Jean Teilet’s “The Winds of Change: Métis Rights after Powley, Taku, and Haida.” It alone is worth the purchase price.


“The Long Journey of a Forgotten People: Métis Identities and Family Histories.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 18, 2024,