#Métis in the North-West and their Lanaudière kin

All things considered, there are many people I need to thank.

People who I expected to help me understand concepts that were new to me.

People who I can learn from.

People who would possibly one day teach my own child 

People that have been so focused on pursuing an ideology I have difficulties understanding.

The first people I turned to were blunt: my Métis identity was akin to fraud.

Worse, it was Indigenous Appropriation.

But, and very importantly, they never asked me what I thought I knew about where I come from, who my ancestors are, what oral history was passed to me. 

I have written in past posts about such experiences, and have Storified some, Here are a few examples: 

Discussion on rights to (re)claim Métis identitypart one and part deux

And there were more…

We have a hard time shedding Colonialism when speaking to each other, and request – nay – DEMAND empirical proof. Oral history? Pfft.

Anyways, here’s what I found, explaining the relationship between Métis of Lanaudière and Métis of the Red River:

The page above is from a book published in 1889 about the Parish of Berthier. Page 105 is a review of the Church records during the tenure of Jean-Baptiste-Noël Pouget, between 1777 and his death in 1818. It explains that during this period, a great number of baptisms of adults, *savages* and métis from the North-West territories. 

The author’s explanation is the confluence of the many rivers surrounding Berthier, which is situated fairly East of Montreal – which would have been much closer to the Métis coming from the Red River area. 

But genealogical records can show that the North-West Métis had kinship living along the rivers leading to Berthier: first cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents. 

A stunning example of a well-known family from Manitoba, the HENRY, who came to Berthier to have a daughter baptized. The record clearly indicates that she is Métis:

Although Pouget seemed sympathetic to Métis, the Church discouraged mixed unions, which may explain why the parents were never named. The baptisms were entered in the records as born of a Canadian father and an Indigenous mother. Almost two dozen of such records have been located so far in the Berthierville church records.

So, there it is. The empirical proof of a link. 

Because the oral histories weren’t enough.

Because the Métis sash made in L’Assomption wasn’t enough.

Because the kinship memories weren’t enough.

But again, thank you. This experience has given me the opportunity of meeting people that do care, who I can learn from. And who I hope will be around my daughter for years to come.

All Our Relations.

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Not all Québecois are #Métis.

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For some time now, there’s been discussions about the ethnogenesis of the Métis People of Canada. There are many opinions, and many people have much to gain for people currently not included in the definition of Métis as described by the Métis Nation of Canada.

I won’t speak about other narratives and I won’t arrogate an opinion on others. Although I benefit of the Privilege of being a White-passing Métis, I strive to decolonize my mindset every day.

I have written in past posts (here, here, herehere ) the reasons behind this blog. (which I describe as ”where I come to ponder about MY Métis identity and what it all means for me and for future generations) I feel the need to document my memories, the memories of my dad, my grand-parents and my great-grand-parents. 

Why? Because I heard them them first-hand, they were oral and when I’m no longer here, I want it documented. It’s important to me for my children, my future grand-children and my future great-grand-children for so many reasons, and “oral narratives” are discounted. So I’m writing them down, here. Nobody else need to agree with me. I’m not the Courts and it’s not a debate.

Identity is a moving target, and I’ve seen many Indigenous groups having to resort to historical documents because their identity relies on Court decisions. To me, it is the most Colonialist gesture enabling the erasure and assimilation of Indigenous minority groups. To me, it’s like a little bit of Indigenous Persons living on the fringe gets cut off every time the numbers of that group gets small enough not to benefit from research or pecuniary interest.

I have serious doubts on whether my own “small” community will ever be recognized as historical either. Because it’s in Québec, and because my community’s narrative is too often hijacked by Québec Nationalists to strengthen an argument of French as “Original Peoples” – i.e. here before British Colonialism for the purpose of Sovereignty…

Sigh. I’ve got so much to say about that. But, to be brief: not all people from Québec identify as Métis, have ancestors who were *Indians, are from a historical community. And last, but not least, not all Métis of Québec identify as Québécois. 

Again, only speaking for myself here: I don’t, nor have I ever, identified as Québécois. The ways in which I have understood my family’s history has always led me to understand that my identity was more *fluid* (for lack of a better word) than just Québec. My ancestors and their kin were travelers. Voyageurs. They were impervious to borders that shifted so much prior to Confederation.

They came and they went. They traveled for the fur trade. They came back. They eventually settled. They didn’t settle along the Red or the Assiniboine Rivers. They chose other rivers: Saint-Maurice, Mastigouche, L’Assomption, Bayonne, Ouareau, moving up the rivers away from the population growth along the Saint-Lawrence.

Many assimilated, like First Nations did, I’m sure. How else would the province with the second largest population has the second smallest population by percentage in Canada

Less than 40,000 people identified as Metis in Québec. That’s:

9.1% of Canada’s total Métis population

Less than 2.9% of the total Indigenous population identify as Métis in Québec

Less than 0.5% of Québec total population

Less than 0.12% of Canada’s total population

It’s gonna be hard to prove to the Courts that Lanaudière and/or Mauricie are historic communities, because there’s nothing to gain. No oil, no natural gas, no bituminous sands. Just water and forests and farmland. Representation needs money (I’m hearing Kevin O’Leary yelling this), and money expects a return on its investment.

For #Métis and Non-Status *Indians

By Prof. Sebastien Malette

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The Métis Federation of Canada intervened before the highest court in the country on October 8th to suggest that all Métis and Non-Status Indians* are included as “Indians” under section 91 (24). The Métis Federation of Canada sought to do justice to all Aboriginal People regarding the responsibility of the Federal plan on the division of powers between the provinces and the Federal, section 91 (24) of the 1867 Constitution.

We suggested a test in three parts, namely:
1) proof of Aboriginal ethnicity (including culture, and not only “race” or blood quantum that are outdated concepts)
2) self-identification
3) acceptance by a community (without defining it first, following this case law of the Supreme Court)

We hope that this test would allow to extract ourselves from competitions on identity (between Western and Eastern Métis for example), and leave everyone the freedom to join the community best suited to each (in mutual agreement with the community).

I must clarify that  Métis and Non-status Indians* will not be “Indians” under the Indian Act which is an Act of Parliament (whereas Parliament has discretion to abolish). The Supreme Court recognized Inuit as “Indians” in 1939, but not Indians within the meaning of the law of 1876 Indians, or even as First Nations (if we assume that the term “Indian” first refers to “First Nations”).

Nevertheless, this judgment has important consequences for Métis and Non-Status Indians* and will thus set the standard on identity, rules and powers to negotiate.

I hope this allays fears that First Nations would be forced to accept more members within their folds or loose “paradoxical" privilege gained by a 19th century colonial law,

If First Nations choose to accept non-Status Indians*, according to the ancient customs of adoption that once restored the power of multiple Nations, it will remain at their collective discretion (at least I hope).

Regarding the Métis of the East and West and First Nations, we hope for the best negotiations and relations between us, by focusing on what are our shared values ​​and kinship.

For Métis, it will be a balance between cultural survival, autonomy, and the restoration of alliance with First Nations who share  territory and Spirit.

This being said, a positive resolution for Métis and non-Status Indians* will have consequences in the sense that the Fed will see its responsibility to Métis and Non-status, described by the Chief Justice as being prisoners in a constitutional "no-man’s land”.

This Supreme Court ruling is therefore an important part in future negotiations to establish a fairer treatment for the Indigenous Peoples across Canada (which – even if we include all people with Aboriginal descent – represent less than 5% of the total population of Canada).

* the term Indian is used here only to align with the language of the Parliamentary Act.

This article was translated from the original French version available here

Pour les #Métis et les Indiens Non-Statués

par Prof. Sebastien Malette

La Fédération Métisse du Canada a intervenu devant la plus haute Cour du pays

le 8 octobre dernier afin de suggérer que tous les Métis et Non-Statués soient inclus comme “Indiens” sous l’article 91 (24). La Fédération Métisse du Canada cherchait ainsi à rendre justice à tous les Autochtones au sujet de la responsabilité du Fédéral sur la plan de la division des pouvoirs entre les provinces et le Fédéral, soit l’article 91 (24) de la Constitution de 1867. 

Nous avons suggéré un test en trois parties, à savoir: 

 1) une preuve d’ethnicité autochtone (incluant la culture, et non seulement la “race” ou le blood quantum qui sont des concepts désuets) 

2) auto-identification 

 3) l’acceptation d’une communauté (sans définir celle-ci au préalable, suivant en ceci la jurisprudence de la Cour Suprême) 

Ce test nous permettrait, il est espéré,  de sortir des compétitions définitionnelles (entre Métis de l’Ouest et de l’Est par exemple), et laisserait à tous/toutes la liberté de joindre la communauté la mieux ressentie (en accord mutuel avec celle-ci). 

Je dois être clair: ce règlement advenant, les Métis et Non-Statués ne seront pas des “Indiens” au sens de la loi sur les Indiens qui est un acte parlementaire (dont la discrétion et l’abolition revient au Parlement). Ce jugement est néanmoins important pour ces possibles conséquences pour les Métis et non-Statué qui auront l’heure juste sur l’identité de qui est d’abord responsable des négociations et des règlements concernant possiblement les Métis et les Non-Statués. 

Une référence semblable a d’ailleurs été rendue par la cour Suprême au sujet des Inuits, qui furent reconnus comme des “Indiens” en 1939, sans toutefois être des Indiens au sens de la loi sur les Indiens de 1876, ni même comme “Premières Nations (si nous assumons que le terme "Indien” réfère d’abord aux “Premières Nations”). 

Si certains membres des Premières Nations craignent suivant ce jugement l’introduction forcée de membres, ou la perte de privilège “paradoxalement” issue d’une loi coloniale datant de 1876, il est de mon opinion que ces craintes sont pour l’instant non-fondées. 

Si des Premières Nations veulent accueillir des Non-statués, selon les anciennes coutumes de l’adoption qui autrefois restaurait la puissance de plusieurs Nations, cela demeurera à leur discrétion collective (du moins je l’espère). 

S’agissant des Métis de l’Est et de l’Ouest et les Premières Nations, nous ne pouvons espérer que des meilleures négociations/relations entre nous, en mettant l’accent sur ce que nous partageons comme valeurs et souvent comme liens de parenté. 

Pour les Métis, il s’agira d’établir un équilibre entre la survivance culturelle, l’autonomie, et le rétablissement d’alliance avec les Premières Nations avec qui ils partagent le territoire et son Esprit. 

Ceci étant dit, un règlement positif pour les Métis/Non-statués aura des conséquences en ce sens que le Fédéral devra voir à sa responsabilité envers les Métis et les Non-Statués, décrits par la Juge en Chef comme prisonnier actuellement d’un “no-man’s land” constitutionnel. 

Ce règlement représente donc une pièce importante dans les négociations à venir afin d’établir un traitement plus juste pour l’ensembles des Peuples Autochtones du pays (qui – même si nous incluons toute les personnes ayant une descendance Autochtone – ne représente que moins de 5% de la population totale du Canada)