"The primary importance of marriages between the Indians and the French was not genetic but cultural. In early Canadien society the women, overwhelmingly, bore the brunt of child rearing and the passing on of the culture, beliefs, and manner of speaking. Native-American women, their Metisse daughters and women arriving from France all contributed to the makeup of the emerging Canadien society. Historians, many of whom were overly influenced by medieval European concepts of 'race' and 'racial purity,' have vehemently argued about the degree of Indian 'blood' flowing in the veins of the Canadiens. The more outwardly racist ones claimed that no intermarriages occurred, while apologists identified Metisage as a class phenomenon, stating 'that hardly any family in the lower ranks of original settlers in Canada is without some Indian blood.' (John Reade, "Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada," 1886) Regardless of the specific number of marriages between colonists and Natives, they formed only a part of the Metisage of the Canadien people. The many elements of Native herbology and curing practices in Canadien folk medicine, as well as the use of Algonquian and Iroquoian words in their language, all reflect the influence the Indian wives and husbands and neighbors had among the French Colonists." ("A New Nation in Their Hearts, The Historical Evolution of the Metis People" by Richard Kees, in Gone to Croatan, ed by Ron Sakolsky and James Koehnline, 285-6)
"While most of the Canadien and Acadien people were meeting their Indian nieghbors on mutual ground, they had no more control of the colony than did the tribes. France had created a three-headed monster to oversee its exploitation of New France - the colonial administration, the merchants and the Church. Within their own cultural contexts they (the church fathers) must have thought they were fulfilling some sort of mission here, but they usually only produced dissent and division among the tribes. For the Canadiens and neighboring Natives, there was an escape from the Church and the colonial officials by joining the Fur Trade and moving to the west or north of the core of the colony along the St. Lawrence River. Those people who permanently left the French colony became the first generation of the New Nation. The Metisage of their Canadien roots smoothed the way for their economic, social and genealogical acceptance among the Native nations of the west." (ibid, 286-7)
"The process of Metisage that had begun in Canada became more dominant in the Pays d'en Haut (like Illinois, Michigan, etc), where small French settlements were intermingled among Native villages. Among the Canadiens of the west, kinship ties to one or more Native nations were vitally important to their economic and social survival. These western Canadiens quickly became culturally and politically distinct from their eastern relatives. While they continued to define themselves ethnically as Canadiens, their primary loyalties were to the western lands and their Native-American relatives. (ibid. 289)
"(When) the fall of New France had begun, the English armies first gobbled up Acadie, and in 1760 forced the capitulation of Canada. To deal with the 'Acadien problem' in newly conquered Acadie, the British rounded up the French-speaking inhabitants, locked them up in stockades until they could be deported or sold in slavery in the American colonies or the West Indies. Some of these deportees escaped to Louisiana, being the ancestors of the modern Cajuns, while others fled into the woods, surviving for decades under the protection of their relatives in the tribal nations." (291)
I include these passages on my weblog because I think there are probably many people, like myself, who do not know the history of their own people, and might be interested in thinking about the processes described here.
Also, I think most of us are not aware of 'what happened' to the native peoples. At least, not the whole story - not nearly the whole story (!), but at best just a few selections from it. I would guess that most of us are aware of the various Indian wars and the epidemics that decimated the Native American populations especially after the advent of Europeans and Africans. (The wars were heated up and complicated by the presence of the new peoples and there was huge movements of people fleeing their ancestral homelands only to encounter trouble wherever they went.) And the hardships of the Indian Removals, especially of the Cherokee, seem to be well known. But the blending of the Native people with the newcomers and the cultures that emerged from those blendings (which by now have changed further) seem to be less considered. For whatever reason, this subject seems to have captured my imagination, so I'm continuing to post on it now and then.