Desconstructing a conversation regarding identity.
The Act to “Encourage” Gradual Civilization of Indian Tribes in the Province of Canada
How the Indian Act of 1867 determined who was Indigenous
Also a complicated question. Did I mention that I was almost at the half-century mark?
Over the last 3 or 4 years, my father became more interested about the focus of my genealogy research. We began talking about who we were and he talked quite a bit about his early life and he started helping me with my genealogy research (my favorite Winter pastime).
His uncle had devoted the early years of his life recording the names and collecting information of our male ancestors. The family tree was pretty complete. Except that the women were almost footnotes!
I’m certainly not going to place blame here. I love my great-uncle dearly and at almost 97 years old young, I have only great admiration for this virtuous man!
My goal in building our family tree was to focus on my female ancestors and develop and highlight their existence.
We never questioned our Métis identity. Whether it was through my dad’s talks with his grandmother about the “cousins” Dubois, Beaugrand-Champagne and others that settled West, or having met my grandfather’s cousins from Odanak and Manawan. We just were.
Then my dad passed away, very suddenly. It was a year ago today.
I identify as Métis from Québec or Kébec*. Not métis. Here’s why:
The same reason why I go back and correct Indigenous, Aboriginal, Inuit, First Nations, Atikamekw, Abenaki, etc…
The same reason why we write Canada, Quebec, Canadian, Peter, Marie…
Who I am is not an adjective, it is a Proper Noun – there’s nothing common about me!
Adjective: I am the product of métissage. Proper noun: I am Métis.
*Algonquian ”Where the river narrows”
Québec counts 11 Indigenous Nations and 54 Indigenous Communities
In my previous post, I showed you where I was born. I am definitely a product of my geography. Here’s why:
For 365+ years, my
French Colonial Settler ancestors stole shared (maybe?) land along the shores of the Saint-Lawrence River with several Indigenous Nations. In my family, they intermarried. They mixed. A lot. I’m not sure why, I wasn’t there at the time. They still do!
I hate some of the narratives of conquest and theft of the Indigenous women. I’d rather not think too much that I may be the product of forceful coupling and the other horrors Settlers have done to Indigenous People. The sum of my parts is appalled by it.
I’m so privileged to have known my Mémères (great-grandmothers).Neither of them had ever uttered any unkind words about their spouses who were, like them, the product of métissage.
I am the only child of the first-born son. I was very close to my grandparents. My grandfather dragged me along. Everywhere. He farmed. He hunted. He gathered. He harvested. He had a couple of trap lines. He logged. He raised horses. I was there for it and they remain some of my most prized memories of my early childhood. I think I will share some of those memories in future posts!
Well, it depends on who you ask. It’s really complicated, and I’m working my way through that question with this blog. Let’s start with “Where am I from” instead.
I was born in Québec. My mother was an “Air Force Brat”. who grew up in pretty much every AF base throughout Canada. Her parents, my grandmother and grandfather, were born respectively in Grey County, Ontario and Lanaudière, Québec. They met and married while both serving in the RCAF during WWII.
Time for a map. It’s important.
Mauricie and Lanaudière are narrow, long stretched Northward
territories administrative regions.. For a long time, the area that would later become known as Trois-Rivières was frequented by Algonquins and Abenakis, who used it as a summer stopping place. The pin is dropped at Odanak, the only First Nation reserve West of Trois-Rivières and East of Kahnawà:ke. The “lighter” shade of green are cultivated lands. The “darker” shade are forests. This is where my paternal ancestors lived. Notice at the top the “Réserve faunique” and the “Parc national”. Those were our harvesting grounds.