Michif...and other languages of the Canadian Métis




Papen, Robert

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Historically, the Canadian Métis have always been multilingual, speaking a variety of Indigenous languages, learned from their mothers and either French or English, learned from their fathers. Unfortunately, this is no longer true today and the vast majority of Métis now speak only English. In this talk, I briefly discuss the difficulty in defining who exactly are the Métis in Canada and their current political situation. After having detailed the etymology and the various meanings of the term ‘Michif’, I go on to briefly describe some of the unique features of the four main language varieties developed and spoken by the Plains Métis : Michif French, (Heritage or Southern) Michif, Northern Michif, and Bungee, the now defunct dialect of English, once spoken by many Métis in Manitoba. I then point out some of the unfortunate consequences of the ambiguity of the term ‘Michif’ as well as some of the myths and misunderstandings about the Michif language. To conclude, I discuss the current politicization of Michif, taking as example the efforts of the Métis Nation of Ontario to ‘michivize’ their variety of French and the Métis National Council to make Michif the historical and official language of the Métis.