The History of “Metis”

special edition– Louise Lapierre

There are three main theories that try to explain the origin of the name Métis. These can be summarized in three words: moitié, Mitisk and Mitioui (pronounced Metiw).

The first of the three, moitié is a French term meaning half. Some people believe that the first French explorers of the region gave it that name while navigating. This is thought to be because Metis is located halfway between Gaspé and Quebec.

The second theory refers to the name Mitisk, which means birch tree in Mi’kmaq since there are a lot of birch trees at the mouth of the Mitis River, which is the river’s traditional native name.

river

“Meeting place” – where the Mitis River joins the St. Lawrence Photo: Jennie Hurwood

But the most probable explanation is given in the third theory, which explains that the name comes from the word Mitioui, native for ‘’meeting place’’. The area located at the mouth of the Mitis River was an important native meeting and trading ground. Tribes met there to trade with each other and with the “white men”. The natives also fished for salmon in the Mitis River in the spring.

Early settlers of the region thought Mitioui (meeting place) sounded like Metis, so what is now known as Grand-Métis (as far as the Reford Gardens) was then known as Metis.
The Seigneurie de Mitis was originally granted to a French nobleman, the Sieur de Peiras, in 1675. By the late 1820s the new Seignior, John Macnider has successfully started to develop the Seigniory he was granted in 1818.

Even though there were no official roads built at the time Mr. Macnider erected farms, a sawmill, a corn mill and a shipyard, stores and quite a few dwelling houses for his settlers.  He also was instrumental in the development of Kempt Road, which eventually connected Chaleur Bay with Grand Metis. Encouraged by Macnider’s settling policy in which he provided new families with two years of provisions and free rent, about 40 families, mostly of Scottish origin, had settled on his land by 1832. Descendants of these founding families and their names can still be found in Metis today.

After John Macnider’s death the Mitis Seigniory was divided into two distinct parts: Grand Metis and Little Metis. Both of these names come from the same root name: Mitis, and Little Metis eventually renamed Métis-sur-Mer, even though most English speakers have traditionally called it Metis Beach.

Metis has attracted visitors for a long time because of the air, its rich geological composition, the presence of the river, the beach, fishing, hunting and boating, among others. In 1876, a railway was built through Metis. At its economical and touristic peak, from 1860 to 1960, Metis had many hotels, motels and mansions, creating an aura of grandeur. That aura still haunts our historical town, bringing admiring gazes towards the wild roses, grand hedges and old houses. “It’s a small town for a lot of history,” says fellow citizen Miranda Smith.

The first municipal fusion that included Metis, happened between Baie-des-Sables, Les Boules and Métis-sur-Mer. It happened in the 1940s, right in the middle of Metis’ economical and touristic peak, but the fusion did not last.

In 2002, there was a fusion between Metis-sur-Mer and Les Boules. These two towns have always had much in common. The only main difference is the language. On the “Metis Beach side” it was more of an anglophone community and on the “Les Boules side” it was more francophone. For a short period of time, before Metis Beach School and L’Envol school made efforts to connect, there was very little understanding and collaboration between the two schools. Now, both schools collaborate on a constant basis and share facilities, programs and projects, helping kids from both schools connect with each other and have access to local resources.

Did you know that Metis has a total of 417 homes and there’s 644 people living in only 288 of these houses? The textbook “Issues and Territories; Student Textbook A” states that a small town is a municipality numbering 3000 to 10 000 residents, but with only 644 inhabitants, Métis-sur-Mer does have an official town status!

“People know each other, so it helps create connections that a big city would not have,” said Helen Sim, resident of Metis.

Because of its small population, the town is not found on all regional maps, but it still has a rich history, strong community values and local traditions. This town is a tight-knit community; small, yes, but very strong.

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