Flags of Our People
The flag was first used by Metis resistance fighters prior to the Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816. It is the oldest Canadian patriotic flag indigenous to Canada. The Union Jack and the Royal Standard of New France bearing the fleur-de-lis are older, but these flags were first flown in Europe. As a symbol of nationhood, the Metis flag predates Canada’s Maple Leaf flag by about 150 years!
The flag bears a horizontal figure eight, or infinity symbol. The infinity symbol represents the coming together of two distinct and vibrant cultures, those of European and indigenous North America, to produce a distinctly new culture, the Metis. The flag symbolizes the creation of a new society with roots in both Aboriginal and European cultures and traditions. The sky blue background of the flag emphasizes the infinity symbol and suggests that the Metis people will exist forever.
The Metis flag has two variants: the more popular blue flag, and the red flag. Nobody knows why the early Metis chose these two colour patterns for their flags. However, conjecture seems to indicate that the Metis created the blue and white infinity flag because these were the colours of the North West Company, the fur trading firm which employed most of the French Michif speaking Metis. The blue Metis infinity flag bears a striking resemblance to the blue and white flag of St. Andrew, the national flag of Scotland. The blue and white colours of the Metis flag are also the traditional colours of French Canada, as seen on the provincial of Quebec. That the creators of the infinity flag may have had some Scottish and French Canadian input when creating their flag is not surprising, because these two groups dominated the North West Company and had the most Metis descendants. However, the flag was uniquely Metis and was recognized as such.
The red Metis flag may have been created by Metis employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The traditional colours of the fur trade giant were red and white. Neither the blue and white, nor the red and white flag was used by the Metis during the two great resistance movements of 1869-70 and 1885. During this period the Metis used flags which contained French Canadian and Catholic religious symbols. The Metis infinity flag was temporarily forgotten, and remembered only in oral tradition. With the rebirth of Metis pride and consciousness the flag was brought back. Today the flag remains a potent symbol of Metis heritage.