Scholars have long noted the central place of racialization in the last five centuries of colonial rule and likewise the crossracial encounters and eventual colonial intimacies regulated in its shadow. In the conceptual terrain posted by these demarcations, this article explores how, in the absence of extensive documentation on historical self-ascriptions, contemporary ethnohistorians examining upper Great Lakes fur trade settlements have attempted to come to terms with the historical social ontologies that long preceded official attempts to regulate them. Specifically, we examine the racialized logics governing the retrofitting of these settlements as “métis” and “Métis” and, secondarily, the recent creep of juridical logics into ethnohistorical conversations. Rather than challenging ethnohistorical conclusions that these settlements were/are Métis, this article challenges how they are ethnohistorically imagined as such, and in doing so it appeals for a Métis “counter-ethnohistory” alternatively anchored in an analytics of peoplehood.

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