Songs Upon the Rivers raises the curtain on a story waiting more than a century to be told. The authors force us to reexamine certain mythologies and theories that define American historiography
Dean Louder, coauthor of French America: Mobility, Identity and Minority Experience Across the Continent
Songs Upon the Rivers is a valuable contribution, illuminating areas of North American Canadien & Métis history that have lingered too long in the shadows of larger national narratives.
Jennifer S.H. Brown, author of An Ethnohistorian in Rupert’s Land: Unfinished Conversations
I have co-written a book, published in 2016, on the forgotten history of the Métis peoples across the United States, with a particular focus on Métis communities in the state of Oregon, entitled Songs Upon the Rivers. The Buried History of the French-Speaking Canadiens and Métis from the Great Lakes and the Mississippi cross the Pacific (Baraka, 2016, 442 pages). The foreword is by Sam Pambrun.
In this book, we make the groundbreaking argument that Métis ethnogenesis has to be understood using a rhizomatous model whereby nodes of identity would emerge linked by networks covering thousands of miles and tied together by a shared culture (that is without a unique center of origin).
We suggest the existence of a Métis diaspora culture connected from a continental standpoint through different regional expressions, made visible primarily through the historical presence of Indigenous and French métissage in the context of the fur trade and ongoing colonial conflicts (Review by Jennifer S.H. Brown here).
In Songs Upon the Rivers we also address the danger of current neo-nationalist Métis ideology, which, we argue, conflates a single ethno-nationalist discourse on the historical origin of the “Métis nation” with the condition of the possibility of Métis ethnogenesis elsewhere in Canada and the United States.
Our contribution thus challenges recent chauvinistic attempts to reduce the plurality of Métis cultures in Canada and the United States only to the Red River nationalist historiography (or some plain-centrist origins via the formulation of different primordialist theories), arguing that “other Métis” across Canada would have lacked the historical conditions to produced an equivalent “collective consciousness” akin to what we would find among the descendants of Red River Métis.
Songs Upon the Rivers was the top-ranked book on Canada’s History Top Ten Bestsellers list for over two months. Having sold out the first print-run, a new revised edition was produced correcting some errant typos.
Songs Upon the Rivers includes specifics of Métis life in the Walla Walla Valley and on the Umatilla Reservation that surprised me. The authors found and recorded minute details of Métis presence, character and humor that I’ve observed in my family and other Reservation families. […] The story they tell of the Canadiens experience in the Pacific Northwest, to my knowledge, has never been told in such detail and with such accuracy.
Sam Pambrun, Songs Upon the Rivers, p. 17.