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Preliminary note:

The writing on racism is faced with numerous challenges. Only in recent years and decades scholars have stressed the colonial bias inherent in many of the books and articles on the topic. Today, we understand that many authors who dealt with racism have taken a perspective that was intended to serve political ends and ideological formation. “Race” is still a contested category and in speaking of it one runs the danger of justifying it. However, latest research has shown that even two humans of different skin colour genetically resemble one another more than two persons of Black origin, for instance. Therefore, it is more reasonable to speak of variations than of races. Many authors on "race" and "métissage" are rarely aware of their colonialist and racist bias and one of the tasks of my work was to unravel this. Rewriting it with a distance of twelve years was necessary, because I felt it essential to undo repetitions, to adjust its style and to correct some factual mistakes. My heartfelt thanks go to my critical reviewers who did point at some of the inherent weaknesses with great scrutiny. It turns out that rather than writing a three hundred odd pages, a short essay is sufficient to grasp the whole suject. What remains to be said about the discussion around the category of "race" can be summarized in the statement that it served the goal to cement unequal treatment, to gain political and territorial rights and to build a myth of superiority. The most valid findings are those of Albert Memmi, Franz Boas and Edward Said: there are no races, but a colonial policy designed to create an image of "others" destined to be subjugated and treated as subhumans in order to justify European imperialism and to territorially and ideologically expand at the cost of millions of human losses and traumatized victims who only just started to decolonialise their past experience in the 1970s and 1980s up until today . What we witness today in form of terrorist attacks throughout the world is often the result of this colonial history and policy that failed to address equal political rights and fair economic policies. Canadian history, thus, serves as a case study in order to show how failings in the past resonante into the present.

Métissage in New France and Canada:

French Colony- and State-Building from 1508 to 1886

by Devrim Karahasan


Part I: The encounter of Indians and French in New France

In 1508, Captain Thomas Aubert of the French town of Rouen in Normandy set sail to find a passage to Asia. It was in Newfoundland, however, that Aubert landed, could take captive seven Indians from the Micmac tribe and bring them to Western France. Thus, the French back home made an interesting experience: The Indians were described as lacking religion and it was said that they did not consume any bread or wine or use any money. Furthermore, the French were surprised to see these Indians walking around either completely naked or merely dressed in animal skins. [1] A cultural conflict unfolded that was based on the belief that Europeans were superior to Indians due to the existence of institutions like the state and the church. 

Similar instances of capturing Indians in the colony in order to bring them to France or other European metropolises occurred in the following years, too. From the available sources we know of further such incidences in 1534 in St. Malo, in 1540 in Paris, in 1566/67 in La Haye, and later also in 1826 in Bordeaux and in 1845 again in Paris, for example. Next to explorers, politicians and travellers, it were also priests or painters who took an interest in what seemed to them the exotic nature of Indians. [2] It was hoped to be able to trade Indians as slaves or domestic servants, to display them to a curious French public or to satisfy scientific curiosity. [3] The utmost aim, however, was to assimilate them to French culture and to convert them to the Catholic religion. Yet, the strategy of taking Indians as hostages was not widespread as it bore little success: either because the captive Indians died due to an unfamiliar climate or to diseases or because they refused to comply to the expectations of their temporary masters. Some sources, in fact, report that Indians were astonished that the French described France to be a paradise. Why then had some of them left it in direction of the unknown and dangerous wilderness?

To shed light on the motives of French explorers, travellers, politicians, churchmen and colonists in the early modern period up to 1886 and their outcomes is the aim of this study. Past scholarship had described the French as „reluctant imperialists“ [4], because they were considered to be less successful than, for example, the British with whom they were in constant competition over national glory, territories and spheres of influence. Yet, this point of view heavily depends on how one defines success: the size of occupied territories, the number of religious converts or the amount of alliance-building? When analysing French-Indian relations, therefore, we have to be aware that the British were trying to counteract any tendencies that could lead to friendly, even amicable and successful exchanges or alliances. The age-old British-French conflict on the European continent was exported to North America where both groups were competing over winning the Indian tribes´ favour. However, neither the British nor the French had foreseen how strong many Indian tribes were. Thus, our narrative is told on the background of British-French rivalry and the Indians´ resistance to it and as a description and analysis of how the Metis people emerged. Our story ends with the year 1886 in which the "Act concerning the Savages" declared that Indians and Metis – the latter being the mixed-blood offspring of Indian-European relationships and marriages – were "savages" unless they participated in the land distribution programme that was designed to further divide the land. [5] One of the characteristic traits of modern men was thought to be settledness and the cultivation of land. Therefore, the mostly nomadic Indians were regarded as „savages“, „brutes“ or „beasts“. The psychological projections that the encounters in North America brought about can most probably either be explained with the ignorance of many things that seem familiar to us today or with the fact that otherwise the warfare that was initiated against the Indians could not be justified. It seemed easier to kill animals than fellowmen.

Many authors have made attempts to understand this cultural and racial conflict between Indians, French and British. The literature on the subject is so vast that a new study has – more than repeating what others have written or falling into politically correct traps – to find new ways of contextualizing the topic. In his book „La pensée métisse“ Serge Gruzinski posed the question: „Comment penser le mélange?“ [6] My proposition is to think mixture in its many dimensions and particulars as a complex process and to analyse the interplay of the sexes and races as they evolved from so-called purity to blending of previously distinct parts. Mixture is not only a chemical process, but also a cultural, racial and societal phenomenon that we encounter just about everywhere. Therefore, in the colonial world that I have looked at I have found that the writing of the history of love, power and war has to describe how the conquerors and the conquered formed their own communities, villages and towns and how institutions came into being in order to be used to justify policies that were rarely sustainable, but rather violent and unfair. The occurrence of the „Metis“, thus, heralded the fear of loss of power and status and they endangered the „purity“ that Europeans were seeking so desperately. The latter fell victim to the belief that purity among humans truly existed or could be attained rather than admitting that the nature of man is more complicated than many churchmen seemed to preach them. The presence of mixed-bloods who turned more and more into nationalists revindicating their own territories – as such was the game – seemed to question the supremacy of White colonialists in North America who were rivalling over new lands, positions and women. I.e. Indians and Whites – among them also other Europeans than just British or French – met, mingled and formed a new self-declared and later also recognized nation in Canada: the Metis.

Analysing the process that led to and was inspired by métissage in New France is a journey through the cultures and religions of indigenous tribes and those of Europeans: Indian women, tribal chiefs and medicine men on the one hand, White settlers, colonial officials and missionaries on the other. With the arrival of the latter groups, Indians saw the coming of a new age which radically altered their lives in North America and they were nearly confronted with complete extinction of their race. In numerous dream visions Indians saw what was to come and tried to take precautions. Henceforth, indigenous tribes were faced with the presence of Whites who had hunger for soil, resources and commodities. Robert Berkhofer has explained that the designation „Indian“ was a stereotype and that „by classifying all these many peoples as Indians, Whites categorized the variety of cultures and societies as a single entity for the purpose of description and analysis, thereby neglecting or playing down the social and cultural diversity of Native Americans then – and now – for the convenience of simplified understanding…". [7] The colonialist bias inherent in the term „Indian“ was already obvious in Christopher Columbus´ usage of the word. He had thought to have met the inhabitants of the East Indies in what is today India. The word "Indian" derived from the Spanish word "indio" and was widely used by colonizers and colonists in Central and South America, whereas these Indians had a variety of designations of their own.

In 1539, the Spanish domenican father and theologian Francisco de Vitoria had justified that colonisation endeavours in South America could be carried out with force and claimed that Indians had to be dominated and evangelized. In early modern Europe, there were many agents who discussed the issue of conversion and if and how so-called infidels could be converted at all. Some held that Indians were no humans and could therefore not receive the faith, whereas the social reformer Bartolomé de las Casas (1484/85-1566), for instance, protected the Indians not only at court, but completely condemned the colonisation endeavours in South America as being unjust and unfair. [8] This debate in 16th century Spain reflected to North America and many mistakes that had already been made with respect to Indians on the Southern part of the continent were continued or repeated in New France. Many missionary orders, among them Jesuits, Sulpicians, Recollects, Grey Nuns, Hospitalières, the Order of the Saint Augustine of the Hôtel-Dieu, Ursulines and others arrived in Canada in order to preach the Gospel, cure the old and sick and instruct children. They believed in Christianity as the true religion, had honest intentions and wanted to spread the faith that they held so dear as much as possible in the "New World".

In 1603/04, the explorer Pierre de Gua du Monts, too, set sail for Canada. He is considered to be the first official colonizer from France in the „new world“. This is so because du Monts was authorized by King Henry IV. to use the revenue from the fur trade in order to build up the colony. Samuel de Champlain accompanied him together with Jean de Poutrincourt. The apothecary Louis Hébert from Paris joined them in 1606, when they had arrived in Acadia, as he was interested in exploring the North American flora and fauna and in profiting from the Indians´ knowledge of medicine production. When du Monts lost the monopoly over the fur trade in 1607, they all returned to France. However, Hébert and de Poutrincourt came back to Acadia in 1610 and stayed there up until 1613. They were witness to a violent attack by the British. In official historiography Louis Hébert is considered to be the first French colonist in New France who settled and married there. His wife Marie Rollet died in Québec in the year 1627. Being a descendant of a family of pharmacists it was said that Hébert could cure both White colonists and Native Americans. [9]

This sort of métissage that took place in product exchange was one of the precursors of sexual métissage between men and women. In fact, mostly the unions between White men and Indian women made this product exchange possible, because the former got in contact with what the latter had been familiar with for hundreds of years before European arrival. In this study, métissage is understood as the intercultural heterosexual encounter and biological as well as social mixture, both spontaneous as well as guided, of mostly White men and Indian women – although the reverse meeting of Indian men with White women occured as well – in France´s North American colony of New France.

But what exactly was the colony of New France geographically and historically? It was the North American space that Frenchmen from the metropolis tried to colonize in the years 1524 to 1763. In 1524, King Francois I. had sent an Italian from Greve near Florence, Giovanni da Verrazano, to North America in order to find a passage between Florida and Newfoundland to the Pacific Ocean. He arrived in what is today North Carolina on March 1st. Over Maine, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland he then returned to France. In the sources „New France“ is often also named „Canada“. While the former was a designation coined by incoming French colonists who wanted to design the colony in the likeness of their homeland, the latter derived from the Iroquois expression for „village“ or „settlement“. Today´s city of Québec was called Stadacona and Montréal´s name was Hochelaga. [10] In 1534/35, Jacques Cartier reached the St. Lawrence Valley and planted a cross in Gaspé peninsula in order to spread the Christian symbol of faith. In maps dating from 1547 all areas situated north of the St. Lawrence River came to be named „Canada“. In 1663, New France officially received the status of a royal colony. Towards the end of 17th century, Canada was divided into „Pays d´en Bas“ (Lower Canada) and „Pays d´en Haut“ (Upper Canada). In 1682, Louis XIV. issued an edict that declared that the Upper Country was part of the French Empire. In the same year, the French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle called the area that he had reached "Louisiana" after the name of his King back home. Thus, by 1705 the French claimed that New France comprised „…le Canada, l´Acadie, la Louisiane, la Baye d´Hudson et l´île de Terreneuve.“ [11] The colonizers right from the beginning tried to build up administrative structures in order to be better able to control the country. For instance, the Illinois Country, which was named after the Indian tribe of the Illinois, and Louisiana became a joint administrative unit in 1717.

Administration was a major concern and, thus, this geographically scattered state in the making was ruled by bureaucrats, politicians, royal and ecclesiastical agents and colonists who often took on various roles at once in order to advance colony- and state-building. It was in this early modern period that the state as an entity became ever more important: censuses were initiated, positions for the sole purpose of controlling the colony were set up (such as governors and intendants) and the church, too, helped in creating state structures. Lucien Bély has proposed that New France could be grasped as follows: it consisted of Canada (1524-1763), Acadia (1604-1713), Newfoundland (1627-1713), Louisiana (1682-1763) and Île Royale (1717-1758). Furthermore, he has differentiated three phases in which this colony- and state-building took place: The phase from 1524 to 1663 was that of explorers and first settlers, from 1663 to 1713 further expansion took place and administrative structures were more and more built up and from 1713 – the year in which the British took over Acadia – to 1763 the colony was stabilized. [12] Most of the population was initially in the St. Lawrence Valley as it was close to the sea. It then continued to stretch towards the interior of the country. The French mostly settled close to where Indian villages were in order to facilitate trading activities. Trade happened on a seasonal basis and, thus, temporary trading posts were vital for co-operation. These later turned into the first towns in North America such as Detroit or St. Paul. Isabelle Perrault has claimed that relations between Whites and Indians served two goals: to further commercial alliances in order to render the colony fruitful and to find survival techniques by using the local potential. [13]

Yet, French officials complained that the French more and more assimilated to an Indian way of life. Samuel de Champlain, who is considered to be the founder of Québec city in 1608, openheartedly admitted that the Indians´ lifestyle was superior to that of the French. Several quotations from his own writings suggest this view. [14] If such a central agent of French colony-building was convinced of the Indians´ superiority, how then could assimilation to French culture succeed? Furthermore, central agents were so divided over the question how and with which means assimilation was to be carried out that the French project in North America rather seemed like a chaotic endeavour. Several modern authors have tried to describe the process as orderly and systematic, but the reality was that it was far from being so: competition, ignorance and in many cases violence hindered the French colonizing mission. The "Jesuit Relations" which were written in order to inform the general public and the Church in Rome vividly reported of many violent occurences in which missionaries and colonists were attacked or killed. [15] Some politically correct authors, however, have held that Indians never intended to kill anyone. [16] Yet, the danger was quite real for many and it was, in fact, the underestimation of the warfare skills of many Indian tribes that led to most of the failures within the colonisation schemes. Therefore, the Jesuits came up with the idea of „missions volantes“, i. e. rather than being concentrated at one specific place the missionaries were instructed to travel around the country. [17]

Furthermore, diseases were a big concern: much of the decimation of the population in the early modern period was due to the fact that no proper remedies could be found on time. The incoming Europeans had brought viruses and bacteria with them to which most Indians - there were approximately 250 tribes - were not immune. In fact, missionaries even intentionally infected them with dangerous illnesses in order to kill them. The „microbic shock“ was probably more effective as direct warfare, but the exact numbers of killed Indians are controversial. As to the statistics, one has to be aware that not everything could be recorded and that they may be incomplete. Any discussion on numbers, therefore, is often heavily biased and the debate over the extent of métissage in general shows this, too. Those who were or are in favour of mixture exaggerate the numbers of mixed unions and mixed-bloods; those who were or are against it talk of lesser numbers. [18]

First encounters between Frenchmen and Indians took place in Acadia, la Hève, Newfoundland and Île Royale and they continued at the trading posts in the Great Lakes region, particularly in Saulte St. Mary, Green Bay, Michilimackinac, Detroit and Chicago. It was especially in the fur trade that Indians became indispensable as intermediaries. Noblemen and women in Europe were heavily interested in acquiring furs, mostly from beavers, in order to produce hats and coats considered to be luxury items. As there was great competition with the English and the Scots within the fur trade, the French tried to find more co-operative ways and to influence Indians with solemn words such as these: "Our sons will marry your daughters and we shall be one people." [19] De Champlain had spoken this sentence in 1633. This date can be taken as the starting-point of the official French policy of intermarriage with the Indians. This does not mean, however, that there had been no sexual contacts between the two groups before that date. In fact, the censuses are incomplete because priests often refused to record French-Indian marriages or because the couples did not necessarily marry. When New France became a royal colony in 1663, its population comprised six to seven white men for each white woman of marriageable age. [20] This ratio indicated that there were indeed not enough white women who could marry colonists and, thus, help to augment population numbers. Therefore, from 1663 to 1673, the "filles du roi" were sent to the colony in order to marry them to Frenchmen there. [21] The census of 1666 showed that a total of 3.418 families had settled in New France of which 555 were in Québec, 584 in Montréal, 678 in Beaupré and 461 in Trois-Rivières. In the same year, the number of men from 16 to 50 years of age and capable of bearing arms was said to be at 1.344. [22]

Part II: The Metis people in Canada

Some of the earliest marriages between Indians and French that we know of were recorded in 1644, 1649 and 1657, for example. In 1644, Martin Prévost married Marie-Olivier Sylvestre Manitouabeouich. In 1649, Pierre Boucher, Governor of Boucherville, took the Huron Marie Ouebadinskoue as wife after she had converted to Christianity. In 1657, Pierre Couc dit Lafleur de Coignac decided to marry Marie Mitromigoucoué. The Indian women were often named "Marie" in remembrance of the Virgin Mary after their either forced or deliberate conversion to Catholicism. 1657 was the year in which a royal decree had declared that Frenchmen were allowed to marry Indians under the condition that the latter had indeed accepted the Catholic faith. [23] In 1664, the Company of the West Indies joined in the colonization project. It stated in its charter that traders "principally look to the glory of God, in procuring the salvation of Indians and whom we desire to make known the true religion." [25] In 1666, the then intendant of the colony, Jean Talon, wrote to the French Minister of Finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, that he wanted to take measures with regards to police regulations for Algonquin and Huron Indians and to punish them in case of disobedience. Talon regretted that the Indians had failed to learn the French language which posed an obstacle to good communication. [26] In the same year, Colbert stressed the urgency with which assimilation policies should be undertaken in order to increase the population numbers in the colony. [27] Talon, for instance, thought that the breast-feeding period of Indian women should be shortened in order to expose Indian babies less to Indian influence. He thought that their mother´s milk transmitted certain specific characteristics and hindered them from acquiring French manners. [28]

In 1667, Jean-Baptiste Colbert made clear that good commercial relations heavily depended on intermarriage. In the same year, King Louis XIV. had issued an edict which declared that the spouses had both to consent to the marriage, that their parents allowed this union, that an official ceremony was necessary, that the local priest gave his blessing and that the marriage was registered. In 1707, the marriage between Dubord dit Latournelle with an Indian woman on 27th August was declared illegal, for instance, because the mother of the groom had not consented. [24]

In 1669, the "présent du roi" was introduced in order to monaterily reward men who were willing to marry at age twenty, while punishing those whose sons were still unmarried at this age. It was issued that their daughters should marry at age fourteen. [29] In the same year Colbert promised to send 150 "filles du roi" from France in order to marry them to colonists. [30] Indian and White women, too, should receive some money, but Governor Joseph-Antoine Lefebvre de la Barre complained that no one had accepted to take it: either the Indians were warned, had no usage for money which was unfamiliar to them anyway or corruption among local agents in the colony occurred. However, it was reported that suicides among Indian women were frequent, because they had married White men they were not in love with. [31] In 1687, the French King allowed marriages between militarymen or soldiers with Indian women. [32] Strategically, this was an important move as many encounters took place not only at trading posts, but also at military posts.

In 1698, the then intendant of the colony, Jean Bochart de Champigny, sent a lengthy report to the then colonial minister in France, Jérôme Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain, in Paris and asked that the sum of the monetary reward should be increased in order to enable sixty poor girls to marry and become sedentary. [33] In 1699, King Louis XIV. reiterated his tolerance of mixed marriages in a letter to the explorer Pierre d´Iberville and repeated that conversion to Catholicism should be made a precondition. [34] 

At the turn from the 17th to the 18th century, the tide turned against mixed marriages and racist views came to the fore. With the growing rise of disapproval at the face of counterproductive results as far as assimilation was concerned, intermarriage came to be subject to stricter rules and even complete prohibition. "Libertinage" and "concubinage" were seen as adding to the anarchic conditions in the colony and, therefore, the official policy of intermarriage was more and more regarded as an obstacle to assimilation and colony-building. On 30th April 1702, the Jesuit missionary Étienne de Carheil described the encounters between soldiers and Indian women and wrote that he was ashamed to admit that prostitution was on the rise. With the growth of the importance of money in commercial relations, some women had discovered that they could sell their bodies to men who were not interested in marrying, but in finding opportunities for sex. [35] In 1706, Governor Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil proved to be an absolute mixophobic, to use the terminology of modern-day author Pierre-André Taguieff. [36] Vaudreuil instructed Officer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac to prevent intermarriage between Indians and French and argued that the quality of blood of Indians was inferior to that of the French. However, some local officials in Louisana, for instance, held that this was wrong and rejected any biological arguments. [37] In 1709, father Lamberville, the Superior of the Jesuits in France, claimed that the success of the British with respect to population policies was due to the fact that they, too, had started to allow intermarriage with Indians. [38]

Yet, in October 1710, an initiative was launched which asked for a complete ban and prohibition on intermarriage. [39] In 1715, an official from Lousiana, Pierre d´Arguiette, complained about the instability of mixed marriages and the fact that Indian women left their husbands or partners "au moindre chagrin" (at the least bit of sorrow). Their free spirit proved to be a problem in the eyes of Europeans who were at pains to install their rules and customs. [40] "It happens (...) often that they leave their French husbands and go remarry in other villages of the Savages." [41] Duclos was the successor of D´Artaguiette and joined in the racist discourse by talking of the "impurity" of the blood of the Indians. Therefore, it was reconsidered to send more "filles du roi" from France to Canada. King Louis XIV., too, could be convinced and changed his mind on the question whether intermarriage was useful. He finally turned out to be an absolute mixophobic and insisted that the local authorities should rigourously enact his prohibition of mixed unions and marriages. [42] Yet, in 1713, he agreed that naturalisation letters should be issued to foreigners who were willing to become French citizens. It was said that "they shall be allowed and free to remain in New France." [43] In 1717, clandestine marriages were therefore prohibited (and were difficult to control anyway) and many churchmen critized that young people despised of any civil and ecclesiastical laws. In February 1716, Vaudreuil repeated his complaints and told the Duc d´Orléans that the Bishop of Québec was still marrying officers and soldiers to Indian women without asking permission from the governor general. [44] He again expressed the same complaint in January 1719. The "Conseil de Marine" in the metropolis reacted with an edict on 16th May 1719. [45] 

The debate over the legality of mixed marriages reoccurred in the 1730s. In 1732, an anonymous author wrote that they led to corruption. [46] In 1735, it was also reported that mixed unions and marriages were frequent in the Illinois Country, i. e. in Lousiana. [47] In 1738, the Jesuit father Tartarin proved to be a moderate mixophile, i. e. he wished that priests should celebrate marriages when the partners lived together in concubinage for longer than three months, especially in case that they had children. Furthermore, he asked that the slave trade in Missouri should be brought to a halt. And finally, he reported that in the Illinois country the Indians would more and more marry endogamously anyway. Yet, he held that the Indian women should be protected, because otherwise they would remain "sans foi, sans loi, sans bien" (without faith, without law, without property) and would be exposed to public scandal. [48]

1738 was also the year in which Charles Hamelin had married a woman from the Saulteaux tribe. In 1746, one year after his wife´s death he decided to remarry "according to the fashion of the country" and had a child with his second wife who also belonged to the Saulteaux tribe. [49] On 14th May 1749, Governor Roland-Michel Barrin, Comte de la Galissonière, however, wrote a letter to the Bishop of Québec, Jacob Mountain, in which he stated that mixed marriages were harmful to state-building and ineffective as far as the spreading of the Christian faith was concerned. [50] On 24th November 1756, the Marquis de Montcalme expressed his approval of mixed marriages, but thought that the spouse should be disinherited if the parents had not consented to the marriage. [51]

Finally, in 1760, the year of British take-over of Montréal, the advice of jurists at the Sorbonne was sought: they thought that a marriage celebrated by a Protestant minister should be considered nil and void and as being "concubinage" and only marriages enacted by Catholic priests should be accepted as legal. [52] Frenchmen´s fear was that under a British government the mixed unions between Catholics and Non-Catholics would become a clandestine affair. By this time, however, first metis communities had already emerged and the project of French assimilation and conversion had led to the rise of a new people. It was mostly in the area of the Great Lakes and the Hudson´s Bay that Metis lived and increasingly married endogamously in order to increase their own population numbers. Many Frenchmen had had "illicit sexual relations", as it was told, and had fallen in love with Indian women. Metis offspring was the result of many of these unions and the Metis more and more took pride in being different from both Indians and Whites. In the literature, métissage as a socio-anthropological phenomenon of peoples belonging to different cultures, religions, tribes, bands and nations has been described for numerous regions. In fact, on the whole territory in which is today the state of Canada, such encounters happened and led to the birth of mixed-blood children. In Europe, cultural and racial mixture had already taken place back in the Antic period in which Iberians, Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Jews, Arabs, Berbers and Gypsies, for example, had been involved in "strange mixture between savage warfare and pacific exchange, including miscegenation, between intolerance and tolerance in interethnic relations." [53] In the Antic period, most strangers were stereotypically called "barbarians". The dynamics of these mixing processes have led to such vast miscegenation that it can be called an all-pervasive occurrence. In Canada, however, the Metis revindicated their own status and, thus, furthered a language of race and racism. Being entangled between Europeans´ struggles and combats in North America they were seeking for their own right of existence which extended to the sphere of language ("Mitchif") and that of religion (syncretism). Many different rituals were mixed and out of the Metis emerged their own leaders and chiefs, they had their own specific nutrition ("pemmican" which was some kind of dried meat) in the fur trade and folkloristic dresses. The racial discourse in Europe, thus, reflected upon the North American continent and influenced speech, mentalities and convictions. [54] In France, the term "race" had been most prominently used by Joseph Artur Comte de Gobineau who believed in the superiority of Whites. [55]

The Metis historian Martin Dunn has analysed the occurrence of Metis communities and holds that the first Metis community was set up in Acadia. As Indians were mostly migratory peoples they often met and fighted over territories, built up alliances where necessary in order to combat Europeans or encouraged marriages with brides from other Indian tribes. Indian tribes chose with which side they wanted to co-operate: some were on the side of the English and some on the side of the French, and they changed their loyalty many times according to the vagaries of combats and battles. In the 18th century, the militaryman Louis-Antoine de Bougainville mentioned in his writings the presence of a Metis community. [56] The Upper Great Lakes region during the 18th and 19th centuries, in fact, showed a "sizeable Metis population" with growing villages and towns in which mixed-bloods were seen as "economic middlemen, intercultural brokers and interpreters linking tribal peoples and Anglo-American patrons interested in the fur trade". [57] One of the Metis characteristics was their attachment to the soil and the memory of their different ancestries. [58] The answer to the question why Metis did rarely go "with the tribe" (that is with Indians) is that many Indian tribes did not tolerate them. Therefore, it is astonishing that Indians, too, did believe in purity and tried to preserve their customs which they had inherited from their ancestors. Cultural purity was thought to be able to preserve communities and act as a border against enemies. The variety of terms with which Metis came to be called shows, however, how widespread the phenomenon and, thus, the desire to delimit oneself was, in fact. John Foster brings the examples of "Native", "French", "English" or "Scots". These terms were used in order to identify the Metis with one side of their ancestry rather than admitting that they had acquired both cultures, that of the Europeans and that of the Indians, probably because the danger that they would form their own communities was realised quite early. "Halfbreed" was the denomination for mixed-bloods from the English tradition, and "Métis" that for those with French ancestors. [59] By calling all mixed-bloods simply "Metis", it became clear that they were different from Indians, French and British.

In the 19th century, the Red River was the stronghold of the Metis who even there were divided into English-speaking and French-speaking ones. Therefore, some were Protestants and some were Catholics and they had their own priests. They acquired foreign language skills quite quickly and became intermediaries in commerce. [60] In 1816, Metis defended their territory at Seven Oaks. As one of the preconditions for being accepted as a nation was and is still seen in the defense of a territory, one can date the beginning of the Metis as a nation with this battle. They saw themselves as the "new nation". [61] Further struggles occurred at Batoche and at the Red River and Louis Riel became their greatest and most admired leader who was executed, however, on 16th November 1885.

If one were to summarize the French experience with métissage, one can hold that on a state and church level métissage was sometimes derived from a humanistic ideal of intercultural coexistence. For the most part, however, it was a pragmatic policy and a discursive and material practice in the interests of French colonial, i. e. above all economic, nationalistic and religious aims to which cultural aims were subordinate. Furthermore, métissage was not only an instrument of state and church power, but it also fulfilled sexual, cultural and economic needs of the parties involved, mainly Indians and Whites. Power and specific desires were at the centre of the process and there was reciprocal exchange in which all participating agents systemically depended on each other. Métissage served the goal of assimilation to French culture. Thus, métissage and assimilation were at times congruent, but sometimes also heavily contradictory concepts. Colony-building was led by assimilation processes which were not necessarily motivated by métissage ideals of true mixture and tolerance (in the sense that the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne would have consented to). To the contrary, métissage ideals were often realised despite of the politics and interests of many state and church agents. The concept of métissage was pushed to the background at the expense of the category of "Metis", i. e. the politics of métissage unintentionally resulted in the creation of a new social and judicial category for mixed-blood individuals (with all the complications of definition that this brought about). This implied a differentiated social standing of the parents and it therefore stigmatised the mixed-blood as being the product of unequal partners, of being impure and unreliable.

Métissage as envisaged by the French was mostly a failure, because agents changed their minds constantly and their opinions often depended on the course of action by the British. Thus, the process was heavily influenced by the French-British rivalry on the North American continent. Policies were chaotic, contradictory and showed little effective results other than village, town and parish formations. Family policy very much depended on monetary incentives, but many local agents refused to accept them. As to the aim of assimilation to French culture many Frenchmen aquired rather an Indian lifestyle, because they were fascinated by exoticism, free mindedness and the romanticism of nature. French customs could only be spread among Indians when the latter saw concrete advantages such as in commercial alliances and product exchange. Conversion, language instruction and sedentarization were only welcomed when Indians could be convinced that they would lead a better life than that to which they were accustomed to. Superstitious beliefs were widespread and strict rules of a religious and pious life were rarely accepted or lived. Assimilation to French culture and the creation of a French nation overseas failed, and métissage increasingly led to racial and racist thinking and acting, such as segregation and discrimination. Nevertheless, métissage as a process happened in substantial proportions among Indians and Whites, either because there were accidental encounters or because unions and alliances were willingly and with the consent of both sides brought about for the sake of commerce. This was most widespread in Acadia, the Great Lakes region and at the Red River in Manitoba. In these areas Metis communities emerged and Metis tribalisation was enhanced because the Metis increasingly started to marry endogamously.

In quintessence, Canada as a modern multicultural state would be more credulous if it had completely abandoned race language. By using a language of race, discrimination has led to massive social segregation and differences in status. Embracing all ethnic groups as Canadians would help in undoing the ethnic divide and inequalities much more than the idea of the importance of ancestry. To accept variety is the task of every modern state and therefore the furthering of skills, adaptations to new living conditions and cultural creativity is what modernity and postmodernity is partly about. In 1886, the Canadian state had decided to go the path of ethnic differentiation instead of universalism. If variety is only assured by ethnic division, it is worth much less than a universal equality which tries to preserve cultural diversity by abandoning a language of race. Yet, there is still a long way to go towards an elimination of the category of "race" as we can see in ongoing discrimination of Blacks in the US or in the rise of right-wing groups and parties in Europe and beyond. As long as people refuse to accept that the genetic resemblance of all human beings is so big (about 99 percent) that one can hold that we nearly only differ in appearance, politics has still a lot to do in order to build up juster and fairer societies.

[1] See the description by Henri Estienne made in 1512. Henry Estienne (ed.): Eusebii Caesariensis Episcopi Chronicon (Paris 1512), cited in: Henry Harrisse: Découverte et Evolution cartographique de Terre-Neuve et des pays circonvoisins 1497-1501-1769 (London 1900), p. 162.

[2] Narcisse Dionne: "Les Indiens en France", in: Revue Canadienne, vol. 26 (1890), p. 641. See also Nelcya Delanoe: "Dernière rencontre, ou comment Baudelaire, George Sand et Delacroix s´éprirent des Indiens du peintre Catlin", in: Destins Croisés. Cinq siècles de rencontre avec les Amérindiens (Albin Michel, UNESCO Paris 1992), pp. 263-282. With thanks to Aaron Benavot for having offered me this book during his time at UNESCO.

[3] Jennifer Dyar: "Fatal Attraction: The White Obsession with Indianness", in: The Historian, vol. 65, no. 4 (June 2003), pp.817-836.

[4] See the numerous works on North America by Glenn R. Conrad.

[5] „Acte des Sauvages“, chapter 43, article 9 (1886), in: National Archives of Canada, Ottawa.

[6] Serge Gruzinksi: La pensée métisse (Paris 1999), p. 56.

[7] Robert F. Berkhofer: The White Man´s Indian. Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present (New York 1978), p. 3 and p. 28f.

[8] Reinhold Schneider: Las Casas vor Karl V. Szenen aus der Konquistadorzeit (Frankfurt am Main 2000). See also: Christian Heidrich: Die Konvertiten. Über religiöse und politische Bekehrungen (München 2002) and above all: Ute Lotz-Heumann/Matthias Pohlig/Jan-Friedrich Missfelder (eds.): Konversion und Konfession in der Frühen Neuzeit (Gütersloh 2007).

[9] Ethel M. G. Bennett: „Louis Hébert“, in: Dictionary of Canadian Biography,

[10] Jane F. Pendergast: „The confusing identities attributed to Stadacona and Hochelaga (Canada, NF)“, in: Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue des études canadiennes 32 (4), (Winter 1998), pp. 149-165.

[11] „Anonymous Pamphlet“, in: Archives Nationales, C11A, vol. 26, f. 89v-90r.

[12] Lucien Bély (éd.): Dictionnaire de l´Ancien Régime. Royaume de France XVIe au XVIIIe siècle (Paris 1996), p. 907.

[13] Isabelle Perrault: Le métissage en Nouvelle-France (Montréal 1980), p.79.

[14] Henry P. Biggar (ed.): The Works of Samuel de Champlain: 1608 to 1620 (Toronto 2013).

[15] Luca Codignola: "L´Amérique du Nord et la Sacrée Congrégation "De Propagande Fide", 1622-1799. Guides et inventaires", in: Revue de l´histoire de l´Amérique francaise, vol. 33, no. 2 (1979), pp. 197-214; ibid.: "Rome and North America 1622-1799: The Interpretative Framework", in: Storia Nordamericana, vol. I, no. 1 (1984), pp. 5-33, and ibid.: "Competing networks: Roman Catholic ecclesiastics in French North America, 1610-1658", in: Canadian Historical Review, vol. 80, no. 4 (December 1999), pp. 539-584.

[16] Franz-Joseph Post: Schamanen und Missionare. Katholische Mission und indigene Spiritualität in Nouvelle-France (Münster 1996), p.160.

[17] Camille de Rochemonteix (éd.): Les Jésuites de la Nouvelle-France au XVIIe siècle d´après beaucoup de documents inédits (Paris 1895); and Reuben Gold Thwaites (ed.): The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France 1610-1791, 73 vols. (Cleveland 1896-1901).

[18] Authors who have entered the debate on numbers are Cornelius Jaenen, Olive Dickason, Richard White, Gilles Havard, Martin Dunn, Jacqueline Peterson, Mario Boleda, Marc de Braekeleer, André Vachon, Isabelle Perrault, Lachance/Savoie, Francine Decary, Tzevan Todorov et. al. Among the more dated authors, there are Edme de Rameau de St. Père, Faribeault-Beauregard, Gustave Lanctot, Benjamin Sulte, Lionel Groulx and Marcel Trudel who have discussed the extent of Indian-European métissage.

[19] See in the Jesuit Relations 5:211 and 10:26.

[20] Gilles Havard: Empire et métissages. Indiens et Francais dans le Pays d´en Haut 1660-1715 (Paris 2003), p. 596.

[21] Gustave Lanctot: Filles de joie ou filles du roi. Étude sur l´émigration féminine en Nouvelle-France (Montréal 1952) and Yves Landry: Les filles du roi au XVIIe siècle (Ottawa 1992).

[22] See in: "Census of Canada 1666", in: Brodhead O´Callaghan and Fernow (eds.): Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York (New York 1969), p. 57-58 and "Census of Canada 1667", in: ibid., p. 61.

[23] See mentioned in: William L. Grant (ed.): Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, 1604 to 1618, p. 323 (New York 1917) and "Édit du Roi pour l´établissement de la Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France" (Paris 1657), article XVII, p. 13.

[24] See in: Archives Nationales de Québec, 03Q_E1, S1, P282: "Ordonnance de l´intendant Jacques Raudot, 27 août 1707".

[25] See cited in: Saliha Belmessous: D´un préjugé culturel à un préjugé racial: la politique indigène de la France au Canada (Paris 1999), p. 12-13.

[26] See in O´Callaghan/Fernow (eds.):  Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York (New York 1969): "M. Talon to M. Colbert. Extracts of a Memoir on the Condition of Canada, addressed by M. Talon to M. Colbert, 13th November 1666", p. 55.

[27] See in: O´Callaghan/Fernow (eds.): Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York (New York 1969): "Memoir of the King to serve as Instruction to Sieur Talon proceeding to New France as Intendant of Justice, Police and Finance", 27th March 1665 in Paris, p. 24.

[28] See in: Public Archives of Canada, C11A, vol. 2, f. 355: "Mémoire sur l´estat présent du Canada, 1667"; see also in:  Pierre-Georges Roy: Rapport de l´Archiviste de la Province de Québec pour 1930-1931 (Québec 1931), p. 63.

[29] See in: Archives Nationales C11A, vol. 3, f. 26-29: "Arrêt du Conseil donné en faveur des habitants de Canada qui auront dix ou douze enfants vivants non (sans?) prêtre, religieux et religieuses", 3 avril 1669.

[30] See in: O´Callaghan/Fernow (ed.): Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York (Albany 1853 to 1887), (reprint: New York 1969), vol. 9: "M. Colbert to M. de Courcelles, 15th May 1669", p. 322.

[31] See mentioned in Bruge G. Trigger: Les Indiens, la fourrure et les Blancs. Francais et Amérindiens en Amérique du Nord (Québec 1992), p. 57.

[32] See O´Callaghan/Fernow (ed.): Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York (Albany 1853 to 1887), (reprint: New York 1969): "The King to Denonville and Champigny", 30th March 1687, p. 322, and in: Archives Nationales C et B, vol. 13., f. 16-34.

[33] See in: Archives Nationales Paris, C11A, vol. 16, f. 102-126, "Champigny to Pontchartrain", Québec 14 octobre 1698, and in: Jospeh L. Peyser: Letters from New France. The Upper Country 1686-1783 (Chicago 1992), pp. 69-70.

[34] See in: Archives Nationales Paris, B vol, 20, f. 7-280, "Instructions à d´Iberville", 22 septembre 1699.

[35] See in: Archives Nationales Paris, M 204, doss. 4, no. 3, Michilimackinac 30 avril 1702, "Étienne de Carheil à Monseigneur", pp. 4-5.

[36] Pierre-André Taguieff: La force du préjugé. Essai sur le racisme et ses doubles (Paris 1988), pp. 339-340.

[37] See in: Archives du Séminaire de Québec, Lettres R83, p. 20, "La Vente to Brisacier", 4 juillet 1708.

[38] See cited in: Yves Zoltany: "New France in the West", in: Canadian Historical Revue V (XLVI), No 4 (1965), pp. 301-322.

[39] Charles Edward O´Neill: Church and State in French Colonial Lousiana. Policy and Politics to 1732 (New Haven 1966), p. 85; Jean Delanglez: The French Jesuits in Lower Louisiana 1700-1763 (New Orleans 1935), and Carl A. Brasseux: "The Moral Climate of French Colonial Louisiana 1699-1763", in: Louisiana History, no. 27 (1986), pp. 27-41.

[40] See in: Archives Nationales C13A, vol. 2, f. 545, "D´Artaguiette au Ministre", Fort St. Louis, 20 juin 1710.

[41] See in: Archives Nationales C13A, vol. 3, f. 819-822, "Duclos au Ministre", 25 décembre 1715.

[42] See in: Archives Nationales Paris, B, vol. 38, f. 334, "Mémoire du Roi", 28 octobre 1716.

[43] See in Archives Nationales du Québec, Rambouillet juin 1713: "Insinuations du Conseil supérieur", vol. 4, f. 10. See also André Vachon: L´enracinement. Le Canada de 1700 à 1760. Les documents de notre histoire, in: Archives publiques Canada: Ministre des Approvisionnement et Services Canada (Ottawa 1985), p. 55.

[44] See in: Archives Nationales C11A, vol. 36, f. 124-141v., "Mémoire de Vaudreuil au Duc d´Orléans", février 1716.

[45] See in: Archives Nationales C11A, vol. 124, f. 396-397v., "Délibération du Conseil de Marine sur une lettre de Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil", Québec, 16 mai 1719.

[46] See in: Archives Nationales Paris, F3, vol. 24, f. 236, "Mémoire concernant les Illinois, 1732", and in: Olive Patricia Dickason: "Amerindians in the French New World", in: ibid., Canada´s First Nations. A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times (Toronto 1992), p. 172.

[47] See in: Archives Nationales Paris, B, vol. 62, f. 88v: "M. l´abbé de Brisacier", 8 octobre 1735.

[48] See in: Archives Nationales Paris, C13A, vol. 23, f. 240-243, "Mémoire sur les Mariages des Sauvages avec les Francais", Louisiane 1738.

[49] See in Laurence J. Burpee (ed.): Journals and Letters of Pierre Gaultier de Varennes de la Vérendrye and his sons (Toronto 1927), p. 340.

[50] See in: Archives du Séminaire de Québec, "Archevêque de Québec", G III, 102, and in: Honorius Provost: "Mariage entre Canadiens et Sauvages", in: Recherches Historiques, no. LIV (1948), pp. 46-61.

[51] See cited in: Abbé Casgrain (éd.): Lettres du M. de Bourlamaque au Chevalier de Lévis (Québec 1891), p. 136f.

[52] See in: Archives Nationales Paris, M 75, no. 51, "Cas de Conscience proposé en Sorbonne au Sujet des Mariages au Canada, et Consultation des Docteurs sur ledit Cas", délibéré en Sorbonne le 21 avril 1763, signé de Culture Bruget, pp. 1-10.

[53] Magnus Mörner: Race Mixture in the History of Latin America (Boston 1967), p. 14; for the Roman context see Frank Tenney: "Race mixture in the Roman Empire", in: American Historical Review, vol. 21 (1916), p. 705; and Judith Evans-Grubbs: "Marriage more shameful than adultery: Slave-Mistress relationships, "Mixed Marriages" and Late Roman Law", in: Phoenix XLVII, no. 2 (Summer 1993), pp. 125-154.

[54] Jean-Luc Bonniol: Les paradoxes du métissage (Paris 2001).

[55] Joseph Artur Comte de Gobineau: Essai sur l´inégalité des races humaines (Paris 1835-55).

[56] See in: Cornelius Jaenen: "Colonisation compacte et colonization extensive aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles en Nouvelle-France", in: Alain Saussol/Joseph Zitomersky (eds.): Colonies, territoires, sociétés. L´enjeu francais (Paris 1996), pp. 15-22.

[57] See in: Jacqueline Peterson: "Prelude to Red River: A Social Portrait of the Great Lakes Metis", in: Ethnohistory 25, no. 1 (1978), pp. 41-67.

[58] See Jean-Loup Amselle: Paradoxes du métissage (Paris 2001), p. 12.

[59] See in John E. Foster: "The Metis: The People and the Term", in: Prairie Forum 3, no. 1 (1978), p. 83f.

[60] See Gerhard Ens: Homeland to Hinterland. The Changing Worlds of the Red River Metis in the Nineteenth Century (Toronto 1996); William Eccles: The Canadian Frontier 1534-1760 (Albuquerque 1983); and Marcel Giraud: Le Métis Canadien (Paris 1946).

[61] See in: Olive Patricia Dickason: "From "one nation" in the Northeast to "new nation" in the Northwest: A Look at the Emergence of the Metis", in: Peterson/Brown (eds.): The New Peoples. Being and Becoming Metis in North America (Winnipeg 1985), pp. 19-36.