The children they sired were the Metis, of whom more than 400,000 now exist in Canada. And they are still fiercely proud of their Scottish heritage which has survived in their fiddle music, the soft bannocks that they make and their own blue and white flag, based on the Saltire but with a looped infinity symbol instead of a cross.3
According to legend, in 832 A.D. King Óengus II (or King Angus) led the Picts and Scots in battle against the Angles under King Aethelstan of East Anglia near modern-day Athelstaneford. King Angus and his men were surrounded and he prayed for deliverance.
During the night Saint Andrew (who was martyred on a saltire cross) appeared to Angus and assured him of victory. On the following morning a white saltire against the background of a blue sky appeared to both sides. The Picts and Scots were heartened by this, but the Angles lost confidence and were defeated. This saltire design has been the Scottish flag ever since.
In 1385 the Scottish Parliament decreed that Scottish soldiers should wear the saltire as a distinguishing mark. The earliest surviving Scottish flag consisting solely of the saltire dates from 1503: a white cross on a red background. By 1540 the legend of King Angus had been altered to include the vision of the crux decussata against a blue sky. Thereafter, this saltire design in its present form became the national flag of Scotland.
Thus, as a symbol of nationhood, the Metis infinity flag predates Canada’s Maple Leaf flag by about 150 years. For the Metis, the white infinity symbol has two meanings:
- The joining of two cultures.
- The existence of a people forever.
1. H.B.C.A. B/22/A/19, p. 36.
2 April 16, 1746
3 The Herald, “Sailing on in the bold battle for equality”: May 18, 2007.
4 P.A.M., Selkirk Papers, James Sutherland’s Narrative, pp. 1946-1947.
Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell