Métis is a more general French term for mixed race, which has generally referred to a person of descent from two different major ethnic groups, such as European and African, European and Native American, or European and Asian. Prior to 1763, when Canada passed into British hands, most traders with the Indians in northern North America were French, thus half-breeds were usually half French. As fur-trading became the province of the Northwest Company of Montreal, and, later, the Hudson's Bay Company, half-breeds were more likely to have fathers of Scottish or Orkney origins. However, trappers were often still French-Canadian or Métis, as they had long been in the business. Their sons, familiar with First Nations languages and cultures, found ready employment with the trading companies. The Métis were so numerous as to create some communities of their own, such as the Red River settlement in Manitoba, and Prince Albert in Saskatchewan.
In popular culture
The villain of Mark Twain's novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is a Native American-European-American man named "Injun Joe"; he is referred to as a "half-breed", often together with a derogatory adjective, such as "stinking," and has a violent and homicidal personality, which is attributed to his heritage.
Several Western films feature characters with both American and Native American blood, who are more often than not referred to as "half-breeds" as an insult; such characters include "Keoma" from the movie of the same name, and "Chato" from Chato's Land.
"Half-Breed" is a song recorded by Cher and released as a single in 1973. On October 6, 1973, it became Cher's second U.S. number one hit as a solo artist, and it was her second solo single to hit the top spot in Canada on the same date.
Hudson, Charles. Red, White, and Black: Symposium on Indians in the Old South, Southern Anthropological Society, 1971. SBN: 820303089.
Perdue, Theda. Mixed Blood Indians, The University of Georgia Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8203-2731-X.