The Chair in Métis Resaearch contributes to the development of a unique Metis research capacity at the University of Ottawa through teaching, research, community outreach, and scholarly engagement. There are significant gaps of knowledge in Metis history in eastern Canada and in particular Ontario Metis history. Therefore, within the Metis Family and Community Research program are several distinct but interrelated research projects that seek to understand the historical realities of Metis families as the basis of Metis society and culture. With Dr. Nicole St-Onge of the Department of History, she has pursued research projects are all united methodologically by a digital humanities approach.
Thus far, the Metis Family and Community Research lab has employed over forty undergraduate and graduate students and has amassed over 10,000 digital images (photographs taken of documentary sources in public archives) from a series of archival repositories, representing the largest collection of sacramental (baptismal, marriage, death) records from Roman Catholic missions established between Michilimakinac (in the Great Lakes region, which encompassed for a time fur trade villages on the north and south shores of those lakes) and Fort Edmonton (contemporary Edmonton, Alberta) near the North American continental divide in the late eighteenth and throughout the nineteenth centuries. Furthermore, records from Sault Ste. Marie (after it split from Michilimackinac), Wikwemikong, Garden River, Lafontaine, St. Croix, and Manitoulin Island missions, as well as St. Anne’s mission in Penetanguishene and Detroit and the mission at Drummond Island, have now been obtained and are currently being databases for inclusion in the Digital Archival Database Project (DADproject).
From 2014-17, the DADproject was funded by the Métis and Non-Status Indian Relations Directorate branch of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) with the intention of creating and maintaining a focused, contextualized, and integrated digital archive. Over the past decade, scholars have conducted publically funded Métis-focused research to determine the nature of Metis society and community historically in order to better understand the contemporary Metis nation. One of the by-products of this research has been the creation of databases of transcribed archival documents. The original records captured within the databases are housed in a variety of Canadian and American archives, making them difficult to access for those not trained in archival research or unable to travel to these repositories. Consequently, the DADproject makes available primary, transcribed data related to Metis society by creating a platform that is efficiently searchable, and, importantly, readable for non-specialists. The Chair, along with Dr. Michael Evans (UBC-Okanagan), Dr. Chris Andersen (uAlberta), and Dr. Nicole St-Onge (uOttawa), have created the DADproject and worked with web-developer Dr. Ramon Lawrence (UBC-Okanagan) to build a web-platform that integrates these databases into a digital archive, bringing together a number of historical-content databases. The goal is to ensure that these historical-content databases are publically available to anyone pursuing policy, legal, genealogical, religious, or scholarly research-related projects.