Course:ARST575K/LIBR539H/Gabriel Dumont Institute Museum and Archives

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Founded in 1980, The Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) is a Métis-led organization dedicated to Métis cultural renewal and development. Based in Saskatchewan, Canada, the GDI has three main areas of focus; Programs and Courses, Career and Employment Services, and Métis Culture. The GDI Publishing Department is responsible for the Institute’s information services, including a virtual museum, a library, and a quarterly publication titled The New Nation: La noovel naasyoon magazine. The GDI’s digitized archival collections are publicly accessible through one of their online resources, the Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture.

Mission and Values

The various departments within the GDI share the same mission, to promote the renewal and development of Métis culture through research, materials development, collection and distribution of those materials and the design, development and delivery of Métis-specific educational programs and services[1].

The values that guide their programming and services are Culture, Quality, Respect, Responsiveness, and Accountability. Ongoing programs and services led by the GDI Publishing Department include:

  • Artifact Repatriation Program
  • Michif language revitalization
  • Co-hosting community events
  • Library reference services
  • Métis Cultural Development Fund


The GDI’s digitized archival collections are publicly accessible through the Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture. Released in 2003 as a website, the virtual museum was developed by the GDI in partnership with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, the Department of Canadian Heritage's Canadian Culture Online Program, the Canada Council for the Arts, SaskCulture, the Government of Canada and the University of Saskatchewan[2]. The virtual museum provides access to the GDI’s digitized collections, which includes archival materials, oral histories, artworks, and learning resources. The website contains over 14,000 files, which are grouped into the following collections:

  • Archival Collection
  • Art and Artifact collection
  • Biography and Essay Collection
  • Bungee Collection
  • Community Events, Music, and Dance Collection
  • Michif Collection
  • New Nation-New Breed Collection
  • Oral History and Traditional Stories Collection

Archival Collection

The archival collection includes materials collected and created by the GDI and the Métis Nation—Saskatchewan, as well as materials related to Métis elders, veterans, activists, and authors. The GDI’s physical archives are stored and maintained in their office in Saskatoon and are not available to the public. In addition to material held by the GDI, the virtual museum also provides access to materials related to Métis history and culture that are in the possession of families or held by institutions such as the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan. In this virtual space, dispersed belongings and documents are brought together in various exhibits.  

The archival collection is grouped into the following categories:

  • Antique Book and Magazine Collection
  • Gabriel Dumont Institute Annual Reports and Documents
  • Gabriel Dumont Institute Awards
  • Gabriel Dumont Institute Catalogues, Resource Covers, and Posters
  • GDI Communicator/Gabriel Dumont Institute Newsletters
  • Métis Community Builders
  • Métis elders and Veterans
  • Métis Nation—Saskatchewan Documents
  • Métis Society of Saskatchewan, Batoche Local Minutes, 1929-1949
  • Métis-Specific Archival Documents
  • New Breed and New Nation Cover Collages
  • New Breed Magazine
  • New Nation Magazine
  • Pigott Document Collection

Some archival documents appear in multiple collections. For example, some interview transcripts are accessible in both the Archival Collection and the Oral History and Traditional Stories Collection. The integration of materials which are often separated in western institutions and understood as separate professional domains (archives, libraries, and museums) reflects an approach more common in community-led archives[3], where the materials’ significance to people, places, and events determine their arrangement or presentation, rather than physical characteristics of the object or where it has been stored[4].

Métis Culture and Communities

Otipemisiwak is a Nehiyaw (Cree) word meaning 'the people who own themselves', and is used to describe the Métis people[5]. Because Métis communities are diverse, and connected to territories across Canada and the United States, there is no easy definition of Métis culture and identity. Post-contact unions between First Nations women and European men developed into communities with their own economies, a distinct land base, and original language (Michif). Definitions such as the one adopted by the Métis Nation—Saskatchewan, which governs the GDI, serve as a guideline for applying for citizenship with the Nation: “a person who self identifies as Métis, is of historic Métis Nation ancestry, is distinct from other Aboriginal peoples, and is accepted by the Métis Nation.”[6]

Archival Representation

Métis scholars, researchers, and activists have recognized a significant lack of representation of Métis experiences in colonial documentation, particularly after 1885, the date of the Northwest Resistance[7]. A history of dispossession and dispersal by the Canadian state and changes in legislation that have defined and redefined Métis identity over time, has contributed to the marginalization of Métis people[8]. These absences and inconsistencies in colonial records have had an effect of denying the contemporary reality of Métis people. A central goal of the GDI’s founders was to promote Métis culture and history by documenting and preserving community histories, belongings, and language[9]. Community contributions to the virtual museum’s collections are acknowledged on the site:

GDI would like to thank all the Métis community people, who are too numerous to name, for submitting photographs, writing support letters, donating archival material, providing encouragement, writing, editing and preparing files for the website, and for preparing audio and visual files. This project is very much community-oriented, without their efforts there would be no Métis Virtual Museum.[10]

This type of community collecting and documentation addresses the lack of Indigenous self-representation (or any representation) in government archives and academic scholarship, reconstructing previously hidden or invisible Métis histories. Community-led archival work builds a sense of 'representational belonging', where a community's history, lived experience, and envisioned future may interact[11]. This link between past and future is particularly present in a collection such as the GDI’s where community-created and collected archival materials are presented alongside artifacts, artworks, and published materials in an inclusive space[12].


  1. "Mission and Values". Gabriel Dumont Institute. 2021-10-07.
  2. "About". Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture.
  3. Flinn, Andrew, Mary Stevens, and Elizabeth Shepherd (2009). "Whose Memories, Whose Archives? Independent Community Archives, Autonomy and the Mainstream". Archival Science. 9 (1): 71–86.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. Duarte, Marisa Elena and Miranda Belarde-Lewis (2015). "Imagining: Creating Spaces for Indigenous Ontologies". Cataloging & Classification Quarterly. 53 (5-6): 677–702.
  5. "Lesson 2-Fur Trade". University of Alberta. 2021-10-07.
  6. "Who are the Métis?". Métis Nation Saskatchewan. 2021-10-07.
  7. Hogue, Michel (2020). "Still Hiding in Plain Sight?: Historiography and Métis Archival Memory". History Compass. 18 (7): n/a.
  8. Logan, Tricia (2015). "Settler Colonialism in Canada and the Métis". Journal of Genocide Research. 17 (4): 433–452.
  9. Bird-Wilson, Lisa (2011). An Institute of our Own: A History of the Gabriel Dumont Institute. Saskatoon: Gabriel Dumont Institute. p. 63.
  10. "About". Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture. 2021-10-07.
  11. Caswell, Michelle, Alda Allina Migoni, Noah Geraci, and Marika Cifor (2017). "'to be Able to Imagine Otherwise': Community Archives and the Importance of Representation". Archives and Records (Abingdon, England). 38 (1): 5–26.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. Hogue, Michel (2020). "Still hiding in plain sight?: Historiography and Métis archival memory". History Compass. 18 (7): n/a.