You’re Métis? So which of your parents is an Indian?

In a previous post, I described what it is like as an Alberta Métis to come to Quebec and realise that ‘Métis’ does not mean the same thing here.  I’m not a shut-in…I realised that there were different definitions out there, I simply hadn’t lived where I was defined by them before.

In another post, I talked about Pan-Indianism, and also Pan-Métisism.  What this post and those previous two have in common, is that they are about identity.

The topic of Status was a much easier discussion, because I avoided delving into identity issues in order to give you the bare bones legislative context.  Trust me, there are much larger identity discussions yet to be had on ‘who is an Indian’.  More important, I’d argue, than just knowing the state of the categories right now…but you have to start from somewhere!

“May Tea?” Painting by David Garneau, from the series Cowboys and Indians (and Métis?)

However, there is no real legislative context I can focus on when discussing who we are as Métis.  I’ve no choice but to get all ‘identity’ on you.  This is probably going to leave you with more questions than answers, but I do hope that your perception of the question itself will have shifted.

If I have any academic readers, I apologise in advance for bringing up debates or issues that some academics think are settled, or should be moved past.  Whether or not I agree, the fact is that most Canadians have not been a part of these mostly internal discussions.

So?  Is it your mom or your dad who’s the Indian?

I want to go into the history of the Métis, and talk about Powley and quote some John Ralston Saul (okay I actually have no desire to do that last thing) but this person just asked me a question at a party and his eyes are already drifting over the lithe form of a single neighbour.  I have a hard time not addressing this question so sometimes we don’t get to be linear.

So I say, a little challengingly “neither.  My mom is Métis”.  I’m willing to leave it there.

His eyes snap back and he’s got a skeptical look on his face, “Oh,” he says, sounding disappointed and perhaps a little triumphant to have found a fake, “so you’re like, a quarter Indian?”

I am impressed with your mathematical skills, imaginary pastiche of all the people who have asked me this question since I moved to Quebec, but no.

And here I have run up against the little ‘m’ versus big ‘M’ identity argument. (I warned some of you I’d be rehashing supposedly ‘old’ territory!)

Little ‘m’?  Big ‘M’?  Huh?

If you were to boil down common approaches to Métis identity, you generally end up with two categories, sometimes overlapping, sometimes entirely separate, sometimes with all sorts of anomalies left over and scattered about. You, my egg-nog drinking friend who thinks it’s appropriate to quiz me on my ‘background’ are using the little ‘m’ definition.

“Half Breed” by Dennis J. Weber, commissioned by Richard Gauthier for his album cover.

Little ‘m’ métis is essentially a racial category.  This is the category I’ve encountered most in Quebec.  As a racial category, one is little ‘m’ métis when they are not fully Indian or non-aboriginal.

Obviously the Métis began as métis (Funny fact, the pronunciation of Métis as ‘may-TEA’ is often seen as the proper French way to say it, but the French actually pronounce it ‘may-TISS’.) This is not the only term that was used, we were also called half-bloods, half-breeds, michif, bois brûlé, chicot, country-born, mixed bloods, and so on.  My blogger name reflects that history, as âpihtawikosisân literally means ‘half-son’ in Cree.

On one extreme of little ‘m’ métis identity, one must actually be half First Nations and half not.  On the other extreme, one can be métis with only a minimal amount of First Nations blood.  You can just imagine the range of arguments involved in deciding where along the spectrum of ‘blood quantum’ is supposedly legitimate.

“Riel/Van Gogh” Painting by David Garneau, portrait of Louis Riel.

There are also discussion about connection to culture as a métis, so it is not always focused on blood.  However, the cultural connection referred to is generally First Nations culture, not a distinct métis culture.  This leads us into the big ‘M’ discussion.  Do you want more rum in that eggnog?

Big ‘M’ Métis tends to be an ethnic definition, referring to the blend of First Nations and European cultures resulting in the genesis of a new identity.  There is less focus on “race”, although kinship ties are very much present. While there is no unanimous consensus, scholars generally consider the Métis to be  Red River Métis and their descendants throughout the diaspora.  Others consider any community to be Métis where it was founded by métis who developed their own culture and shared a history.  Following this through,  you could imagine emerging Métis communities, not just historical ones.

So who is really Métis?

You mean, what is the definition I use for myself and thus present as the definition all others must live by?  Oh come on, are any identity issues that easily navigated, even on an individual level?

Yes I am going to get personal, because it’s important that you know where I come from so that you understand why I have the opinions I have, and why others from different backgrounds may agree with me or not.  I am going to ‘get personal’ so that people cannot effectively twist my words later and use them to deny others who feel that they too are Métis.  I am going to speak for myself, not for all Métis peoples.

"Cross Addressing", David Garneau.

“Cross Addressing”, David Garneau.

My understanding of my Métis identity has shifted considerably over the years.  You see, I was only about 5 years old when the term Métis was recognised officially in section 35(2) of the Constitution Act of 1982.  I point this out because although the term Métis predates that official recognition, it was not necessarily the most common term in use.  Often we were referred to in the Prairies as the Road Allowance People.  The term ‘halfbreed‘ still got tossed around a lot when I was growing up and was pretty ubiquitous in my parent’s and grandparent’s time.  You can imagine how confusing it is in terms of forming an identity, to be known by so many ill-defined names.

What I knew but did not understand, is that we were related to pretty much everyone in Alberta, lots of people in Saskatchewan and a bunch of people in northern BC.  Some of our relations lived on Stoney reserves, others lived on Cree reserves, still others had farms near places like Keephills, Smokey Lake, Rivière Qui Barre and so on.  Names like L’Hirondelle, Loyer, Callihoo (spelled a million different ways), Belcourt…those were a dead give away that someone was related to me somehow. But aside from the odd family story that didn’t interest me as a child (but fascinate me now as an adult), I knew very little about our regional history.

So when I stopped being ashamed (a longer story there) and started to feel a part of something bigger, I turned towards the concept of a Métis national identity.  That is when I started learning about a larger history than my own poorly understood, ‘boring-anyway’ regional one.  Lots of talk about how distinct from European settler culture and First Nations culture the Métis are, with our own language (Michif mostly), our own style of music and dance, our own flag, our unique decorative style, our own symbols like the sash and the Red River cart.  Heady stuff after generations of stories of ill-use, prejudice and shame.

Angelique Callihoo and Louis Loyer

Angelique Callihoo and Louis Loyer, circa 1890s, my ggg grandparents.

I still consider all those things important, and I appreciate the fact that the name Louis Riel no longer refers just to  ‘some French guy who the English killed’.  However, the history of my region…the history so many Alberta Métis share, is equally as amazing and rich and worth learning about.  Take this photo for example.  Angelique Callihoo was the daughter of Louis Kwarakwante Callihoo, a Mohawk fur trader, and his second wife Marie Patenaude.  Almost every Alberta Métis can tie themselves to Louis Kwarakwante somehow through their family lines! Louis Divertissant Loyer was the son of Louis Loyer (original, I know) and Louise Genevieve Jasper.

Essentially there were just a few families that settled in Alberta and founded a number of Métis communities.  The history of these families is a major part of the history of Alberta, yet I never learned about it in school.  In fact, I’m still learning about it, and it becomes more fascinating and interesting with each new detail.  My identity as a Métis person is linked to my family history, and the history of the community of Lac Ste. Anne in particular.

Dude, I still don’t get it, just how Indian are you?

*sigh*  I have no idea.  That’s not the point.  My Métis ancestors intermarried with one another over generations, linking me to so many different Métis families that I tend to greet most Alberta Métis as ‘cousin’.  As do many of us, which never ceases to make my partner laugh.

Some of us look very ‘Indian’.  Some of us have blonde hair and dark skin with green eyes…some of us like myself are very pale and can ‘pass’ as non-native.  Some of us are nearly ‘purebloods’ if you insist on blood quantum definitions, and others are clearly ‘mixed’.  What links us is our history, and our present sense of kinship and community.

We aren’t just found in the Red River (though almost all of us have kinship links to it), we are a diaspora that came out of a specific history to form our own communities to become Lac Ste. Anne Métis, Settlement Métis, Smokey Lake Métis, St. Albert Métis and so on…a history of settlement, movement, intermarriage, cultural growth, roots dug deep. Some of us are closer to our Cree and Stoney relations than others.  We all have our own ideas about what it means to be Métis based on our lived experiences down the years.

This isn’t helpful at all, surely there is some definition you can explain?

Sure, but you aren’t going to like it.

You should be asking yourself why it even matters that you have a definition for us.  As pointed out in that link, the concept that the Métis have some (as yet ill-defined amorphous) rights has a whole lot of people asking this question.

Well it wasn’t until 2003 that the question got some serious attention.  The Supreme Court of Canada heard a case involving a father and son who shot a moose out of season and without a license.  Exciting stuff, no?  No!?  Well…it turned out to be exciting.  For the first time, it gave us a basic legal definition besides half-Indian, half-European to discuss.

The Powley Test as it’s now called set out basic criteria for determining who is Métis.  Here I am using the Métis Nation of Alberta’s summary of those criteria, which is pretty similar to what other regional Métis organisations have adopted and use to determine regional membership:

“Métis means a person who self-identifies as a Métis, is distinct from other aboriginal peoples, is of historic Métis Nation ancestry, and is accepted by the Métis Nation.”

Egads!  So much in there to unpack and debate!  So many more questions than answers!  A little bit of ‘calling yourself Métis is good enough’, with some ‘have to have First Nations blood in there somewhere’ and whole lot of ‘other people have to agree that I’m Métis’.

Then there is that whole, ‘distinct from other aboriginal peoples’ part that so baffles the many Cree-Métis and other First Nations-Métis mixtures out there.  You can be one or the other legally, but not both!  That would be double-dipping…or something.

Sounds confusing.

It is, but what identity issues are simple?  I’m going to quote a rather long passage here by Chris Andersen because I think it’s important to keep parts of this passage in its fuller context or else I run the risk of making some people feel attacked.

When I argue for the drawing of boundaries around Métis identity to reflect a commitment to recognizing our nationhood, however, colleagues often object, as many of you might, in one of two ways. The first objection usually takes the form of a challenge rooted firmly in racialization: “If someone wants to self-identify as Métis, who are you to suggest they can’t? Why do you think you own the term Métis?” I ask them to imagine raising a similar challenge to, say, a Blackfoot person about the right of someone born and raised, and with ancestors born and raised, in Nova Scotia or Labrador, to declare a Blackfoot identity because they could not gain recognition as Mi’kmaq or Inuit. Second, I am sometimes asked, “What of those Indigenous people who have, due to their mixed ancestry and the discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act, been dispossessed from their First Nations community? What happens to them if we prevent the possibility of their declaring a Métis identity (some of whom, due to complex historical kinship relations, might legitimately claim one)?”

Such disquiet is often buoyed by a broader question of fundamental justice: What obligation, do any of us – Métis included – owe dispossessed Indigenous individuals, and even communities, who forward claims using a Métis identity based not on a connection to Métis national roots but because it seems like the only possible option? Whatever we imagine a fair response to look like, it must account for the fact that “Métis” refers to a nation with membership codes that deserve to be respected. We are not a soup kitchen for those disenfranchised by past and present Canadian Indian policy and, as such, although we should sympathize with those who bear the brunt of this particular form of dispossession, we cannot do so at expense of eviscerating our identity.

I chafe at the necessity of playing this game at all, where our identities and our rights continue to be defined by the Canadian courts and the Canadian state.  This is an issue that plagues all native peoples so I’m not going to whine about it too much here in the specific Métis context.

I’ve got more questions than answers, what am I supposed to do with that?

You could start with learning more about the history of the Métis, which of course means also learning more about the history of First Nations and the interactions and relationships with European settlers that shaped this country.

This is a good resource, for example, though it is loooooong!  It covers many periods and also includes the author’s particular views on the Métis identity, so keep that in mind.  Now you know a little about those different views, which will certainly help you navigate the wealth of information out there.  Keep in mind too the regional variations in history that you will encounter…there is a reason I refer to us as Métis peoples. You can also read some of the books I linked to above for both contemporary and historical views.  Essentially, you can be interested, and like any topic you are interested in, you can start digging.

Most of all, remember this.  If you ask anyone who they are and what it means to be that person, you’re not going to get a clear-cut simple answer.  Do not assume that the lack of a clear-cut summary means the person you are talking to doesn’t know who they are.  Don’t assume that having a nice clear definition makes things simpler.

Being is a verb, it’s a process.  Being Métis is something you can spend a lifetime trying to understand.  Most of us just live it, however, and when we do reflect on it, we don’t let it paralyse us.

I’m glad we had this discussion, I hope you enjoy your holidays!

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Categories: Aboriginal law, Culture, First Nations, Half-breed, Kinship, Lac Ste. Anne, Métis, Metis beadwork, Michif, Pan-Indian, Pan-Métis, Representation of natives

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220 Responses to You’re Métis? So which of your parents is an Indian?


  1. D'Arcy Rheault says:

    Thanks! You have written what I could never quite clearly express about my Métis identity and my ancestry. Miigwech and merci beaucoup. Happy Holidays to you too!

  2. Geneviève says:

    Thank you for your view. While I myself do not identify as Métis, your points evoke similar feelings with my own mélange of culture.

  3. I think perceptions may change as more becomes public through genealogical research, which has become so simple that almost anyone now can determine ancestry pretty far into the past. There was always a tradition of Indian blood in our family, but no evidence that passed to our generation. However recent research has given us names and dates that confirm a French and Onondaga mix that ultimately spawned some of the pioneers who moved west and founded the Red River settlement as well as others who stayed in and near Quebec.

    • Would you consider this ancestry to be a part of your family history, or a part of its present identity?

      • It’s unquestionably a part of family history. As to present identity, both prior to and since the history was uncovered, a proclivity toward involvement with native culture was clearly evident in a brother, who made it the focus of his academic career, and in daughters who have embraced the northern frontier and (a) partnered with a full-blood Cree; (b) adopted an Inuit child. Recently, I’ve been writing about it. Still, it’s a big family and there are many other communities of interest. I would say we are Canadian to the core and reinforced in that identity by our discovery of Metis heritage. As a corollary, I’d suggest that many are becoming aware of ancestral Metis and First Nations connections due to enhanced record search capabilities and that this enhancement of awareness and understanding presents an opportunity to enlarge the circle

        • I appreciate your response to what can sometimes be seen as a challenging question. I am trying not to trigger defensiveness in people because I have seen it rear up in so many situations, and legitimately so!

          What you are saying about rediscovery and the easier ability to engage in that process is interesting to me, because most certainly I have seen this in my own situation as well. There is a lot about our regional history, for example, that was forgotten or thought irrelevant. And because it wasn’t taught in school, it became even more difficult to access. Delving into family and regional history used to be extremely difficult. Mining older people’s memories and trying to piece together fragments contributed by other family members…even 15 years ago this was an exciting but extremely frustrating exercise. So many pieces missing. So many questions left unanswered. So few resources to access. Hints! A name in a journal or a paper, the names misspelled but birthdates correct and so on. Now, with the work so many people have put into this, there are more accessible records, and more of us can compare what we have learned. It’s truly amazing.

          But my real point here is this…there are people who will be very critical of those who did not grow up in a Métis community. Since acceptance and recognition by a historical community is now part of the legal Métis identity, there is a lot of pressure to be ‘choosy’. I get that. There are people who would claim only the name in the mistaken belief that this would get them some sort of benefits (pardon me while I chuckle as I consider what ‘benefits’ Métis have available to us). It’s offensive to be used that way, I feel it too.

          However, there are many who upon learning more about their family, really delve into it in a respectful and earnest manner. Just like there are First Nations individuals who were cut off from their community and family for so many reasons, and have to struggle to regain some sense of their First Nations identity. I think it’s no less valid for Métis individuals to engage in this. Forget the legal definitions…our communities are pretty good at figuring out who is there to exploit and who is there because they mean it.

          Anyway, a bit of a ramble there 🙂

          • It never occurred to me that there was anything to exploit in being recognized as Metis, nor am I inclined to seek approbation from an historical community. As I understand the four part definition of Metis identity, I qualify on three of four counts and that’s good enough for me. I did look into what is required to gain acceptance by an historical community and found that the paper trail they would have one lay down would challenge the greatest of genealogical scouts. I don’t blame them for setting a high hurdle. I’ve just figured the connection recently and am at least two generations removed from any physical connection to a First Nations community. On the other hand, I share ancestry with Lagimodiere, Gaboury and Riel, so I feel a certain justification in self-identifying, wearing the sash, showing the flag (red or blue) from time to time, and encouraging discussion of issues that I’m just starting to be educated about. I hope this is not considered exploitive by anyone.

          • Liz Chartier says:

            I want nothing but my family Heritage but it seems even though the research I have done claims my husbands family has metis members there are those who lie about it. WHY? I want nothing but my family history to pass on to my children. Who is some Chartier to take this away from others?

    • I consider myself Metis..now. I have Native America Blood in me on both sides. Even though the women are my 10th great grandma, I still feel Metis. In fact- The Grandma on my Mom’s side was the first recorded marriage between a European and Native Canadian http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/prevost_martin_1E.html . Who is Métis?

      Métis are persons of mixed blood – European/Aboriginal blood (Indian ancestry); Someone who is distinct from Indian and Inuit, someone who has genealogical ties to Aboriginal ancestry.
      Note: There is no specified blood quantum.
      http://www.canadianmetis.com/Qualifying.htm

      ..We all come from Africa anyway ;}

      • No. Metis are not simply persons of mixed blood. We are not a definition to be read from a French dictionary. I suggest you read Chris Andersen’s work on why discussing us a simply ‘mixed/hybrid’ basically fails on all levels. http://www.ubcpress.ca/search/title_book.asp?BookID=299174387

        Having some incredibly distant Indigenous ancestor does not make you Indigenous. We, to be quite frank, are not the clearing house for every blood myth and “my gggggggggg-grandmother was native” Settler who wants to appropriate Indigeneity. We made not operate under blood quantum (a colonially imposed measurement), but you cannot simply claim to be us, and be accepted as such.

        • Paul Andrew lemoine says:

          Hi Connie it was my fathers side . Not much known since , So I have given up on this for awhile ,it’s very hard people ether want money to tell ya or they just don’t want to . I was just trying to spend time when I have it on this chapter of my life and family , Maybe I will never know and you are right ,we ALL came from the same place , I hope you find what your looking for .

        • Patricia MacDonald says:

          I agree with you âpihtawikosisân, and it is for this reason I haven’t gotten my Metis card from Ontario – I am not part of a community. My family escaped the reserve system by following a priest down to a then Metis community of Bourbonnais, Illinois. I have 3rd cousins twice removed on Turtle Mtn reserve in North Dakota, but my family did not stay to be imposed upon and headed south in 1850. My mom didn’t use the word Metis, she just said we are ndn. That is what I grew up with. She was the last one to speak our Quebec ‘mechif’. Following my grandmothers home to Canada, I know no community and have never been accepted either by the settlers or by the ndns in any broad way. I have my genealogy with inter-marriages starting in the early 1700s and now counting 5 nations and have thought about getting my MNO card, but haven’t done it. Maybe I will, but it won’t change my reality. I belong no where.

          • Rosaire Roy says:

            My dear Patricia.I like your comment.Do not bother with MNO. The FMC/MFC will welcome you and not treat you like garbage like the MNO does. Contact Karole Dumont at :karoled@live.ca . Tell her that Rosaire Roy sent you !
            Fédération Métis du Canada/Métis Federation of Canada. This Federation is “inclusive” ,not exclusive like MNO. Bonne chance.
            “Grandfather Grey Eagle ” My Elder
            name given to me by David Singing
            Bear, from Sedona Arizona.

          • Yes, despite the fact that the MNO will accept people with no Métis ancestors, muddying the waters between Métis-as-a-People and métis-as-mixed, it is sometimes difficult for people to prove they have “sufficient” First Nations ancestry either. These people have certainly been successful in applying for membership with the MFC.

          • Patricia says:

            Seriously Chelsea, the MNO will accept people with no Metis ancestors? I take it they accept anyone with ndn blood then? (not sure I understand) My family has not lived as Metis for 2 generations now, which I presume means we are metis only. Regarding your last comment, it was difficult to find ndn ancestors initially, many years ago. There was no internet then so I sent postcards to every person I could find whose last name was the same as hers. One of them turned out to be her cousin – he opened my eyes and my heart. It’s possible having membership in an organization will give me the ‘community’ I need, so I’ll check out the MFC Rosaire and consider the MNO as well. Chi miigwetch!

          • The MNO has had issues with people with no Métis ancestors being given membership, yes. Other provincial organizations have more rigorous membership criteria, and the MNO has tightened things up in the last few years as well. The MFC is only a few years old, and does not apply the Powley criteria, nor is an accepted affiliate of the Métis National Council.

            All of these groups are membership organizations, not necessarily communities. Finding out what community your family comes from is a good place to start in terms of the process of reconnecting.

  4. Nokamis says:

    Thanks a bunch for this article and the links – much appreciated.
    Best of the holidays to you too!

  5. Kate says:

    I love the mix of thoughtful analysis and chatty tone on this blog. I’m learning answers to questions I never even knew to ask. Thank-you.

  6. LOVE LOVE LOVE!! Have you ever thought about Métis politics?? We need a strong Métis leader in Alberta, one that will stand up for us when President Clem Chartier and the eastern Métis try and cram their sash’s and Michif down our throats (strong words, but yes, I believe that’s what has happened to me.)

    I was chosen as one of 25 Metis youth chosen from across Canada to attend a conference hosted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the MNC. Don’t get me wrong, that conference was life-changing and I’m so thankful to have been given the opportunity for learning, however….

    I don`t speak Michif and no one in my family does. I had never known the history of the sash until I attended this gathering. I never knew the ins and outs of Gabriel Dumont. I actually left that 4 day gathering thinking to myself, I must not be a TRUE Metis…I mean, how could I be if I do not know about these things?

    It seems that the MNC chooses to ignore the fact that Metis living in Alberta have a distinct history from the Metis of eastern Canada. Because Mr. Chartier is a lawyer, he understands that to have land rights, hunting rights and the rights of a distinct minority, Metis need to have an official language (Michif) and distinct culture. He’s got his eyes on the prize, and that is aquiring assets for the Metis people at all costs (including siding with the unjust former Peavine council earlier this year, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion). So with the allowance of the rest of the MNC, he has developed a framework and a definition of what a Metis person SHOULD be in regards to their traditions and language. I believe this has happened without adequate input from our western Metis reps.

    A little bit about myself: My grandfather is Metis and my grandmother is Status Indian. So subsequently, I had the choice to be Metis or Bill C3. Lucky me, some might say, because people before me fought very hard battles for me to have this choice. However, my point is this and it’s what I presented this to Mr. Chartier in a letter earlier this year: Why must we choose? I am both. Same as a child born of an American and a Canadian can apply to be a dual citizen, why can we not have a dual citizenship within our own country?

    From my grandfathers side: I jig along to fiddle tunes, I play spoons, I’ve attended many a kitchen party, I’ve felt the discrimination and the confusion as to being sometimes too “Indian” and sometimes not “Indian” enough. On the other side, my grandmother is on the C&C of a northern reserve, and we use traditional medicines to pray and heal. I’ve been to medicine men and ceremonies. I’ve learned First Nation values, and I’ve begun learning Cree. How can I choose which identity I hold more dear to my heart, when I am BOTH.

    Mr. Chartier’s reply at the time was that he leads in a way that represents the majority. He stated that he polled the Metis Nation of MANITOBA (ha! case in point) and they voted against the idea of dual citizenship. I’d really be interested in seeing how that poll would play out here in Alberta.

    Anyway. I wanted to thank you for this post. Since attending the youth conference in Batoche, I now have Metis friends from across Canada, and I know some of them are the leaders of tomorrow. I hope they will read your post and understand where we as western Metis come from, and why it doesn’t make me any “less” Metis.

    • The thought of going into any kind of politics gives me hives! Despite the delightful internal bickering that goes on within any group, I think the MNA does a good job of advocating for our particular histories. Focusing less on pursing hunting test cases in court, and more on capacity building and education would be a nice shift for the MNA but that’s going to take pressure from membership in the province.
      I understand what you’re saying about doubting whether you pass muster as Métis when confronted with super Métis nationalism. My way of dealing with that was to pay more attention to my family’s history and the history of our region. I can accept the sash and the flag as national symbols. Red River history is important to us too, because of how the entire situation impacted federal and provincial policy towards all Métis. It helps explain why so many people went ‘undercover’ after 1886.
      For me, the trick is in recognising that we have regional variations as Métis peoples, much in the same way that there are regional divisions among non-native Canadians. The history of Newfoundland, for example, is quite different from that of Alberta. The national history of Canada needs to reflect that better than it does, to be honest, but there is at least a recognition that regional differences can be quite vast and actually help shape the national character. I believe there is room for that within a Métis national identity as well.

      The problem is that we aren’t aware enough of the regional differences yet. That is going to take people in the various regions rediscovering and teaching their history and the differences that exist. I understand that some people believe we need to be careful with that sort of thing because we must remain ‘distinct’ (from First Nations and Europeans) or risk not being a rights bearing community…but if we try too hard to fit into the Powley mold, I think we risk losing our histories as younger generations learn only about the Red River.

      I definitely agree that Western Métis have not had enough input into the discussion of Métis identity. I wonder how much of that has to do with the fact that so many of us have grown up as I described…first just ‘being’ Métis without much awareness of how to define it, then exposed to the national Métis identity? Without digging, it can be an easy identity to accept even if you feel uneasy and left out. Taking the time to really evaluate why you feel uneasy and left out is difficult when you’re paying attention to living your life. Not all of us have the time or space to do that kind of thinking.

      I am not going to panic, however…I think we are very much at the beginning of a journey, no matter how it seems that we must finalise a definition now for all time. I don’t care how we all end up being ‘defined’. It won’t change history, it won’t change my kinship ties.

      I think Michif is worth revitalising and I would even support its spread to communities that do not necessarily have a strong history of its use…as long as I did not have to ignore my own Cree language in the process in the name of being ‘distinct’. There are Michif speakers in Alberta (though some of them will insist they are speaking Cree 😀 ). Our histories are rooted in multilingualism.

      We will have to address dual-citizenship at some point. There are so, so many Cree-Métis and other First Nations-Métis mixes. Right now, you are forced to choose a legal identity…you’re either First Nations or Métis, and not both. Of course this does not change your dual identity…but it can interfere with aspects of it when that legal identity is conflated with real identity. If you have people excluding you because you ‘chose’ one legal identity over the other, then there is a problem. I see that as another example of divide and conquer. Yes, it would be complicated to figure out what rights could be exercised by which people when they hold ‘dual-citizenship’…but it would not be impossible. We’re all scrabbling after an ever-diminishing ‘pie of rights’ baked by Canada, wherein taking a slice for yourself means removing a slice from someone else. The whole thing is set up to divide us and make it impossible to work in solidarity with one another as aboriginal peoples.

      I too would be interested in how Alberta Métis would react to the idea of dual-citizenship.
      In terms of having other Métis understand where we come from, and who we are, I think the best thing to do is to continue to tell our stories to one another. Hmmm. That would be a cool project, wouldn’t it? Some sort of website for Métis to connect and share stories and so on? How I wish I was more technical minded!

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful post. It’s really important I think to know that other people are thinking similar things, and have similar questions. I have found that it makes me feel more certain that who I am and where I come from is relevant.

    • Brenda Seesequasis says:

      Love your response, gave me lots to think about….

    • Anne Marie says:

      Great article. My grandfather was Metis. His mom was Algonquin and his dad was French so I guess that would make me 1/3 Metis but I dont indentify has Metis, I just feel wrong doing so since I am not full.

      • It would more properly make you Algonquin.

        • aschwab01 says:

          Not sure if this forum is still active. I just came across this site as I am searching for my own identity. My grandmother is Metis.All of her children self identify as Metis except for my mother. It hasn’t been until recently that I have come in contact with the question of my own identity. Am I Metis? Should I explore this part of my family heritage. I never had the opportunity to because my mother and grandmother were never close and I did not spend much time with my aunts as a child. I am also afraid of exploring this part of my identity because of judgement from people given that I am only 1/4…

          • Debby Curry says:

            I hope you get positive response, I waited too long,my grandmother is long gone as well as anyone else I could ask, I wish I pursued this when I was your age. Remember your feelings are yours to explore, and yours only. I wish you good luck in your journey

        • A. Amikons says:

          Just curious. My grandfather from my father’s side is Algonquin from Golden lake reserve in Ontario. He has full status. And my Mother is Metis from Gaspe QC. I just recently received my Meti card. Would I still be able to apply for a status card? Thanks

  7. Josee Patry says:

    Finally, someone who explains this well. I get so many questions on how Metis or Aboriginal I am. Thank you for this article.

    • Kelsey says:

      I stick out like a pale sore thumb next to my brother and my mum. I just point people to this article now. I got tired of answering questions. Especially if I wasn’t actually my mum’s daughter and from a possible previous marriage my Dad may have had. >_> Because that wasn’t insulting at all.

      • Ouch.

        My daughters have gotten used to having kids at school tell them they aren’t Metis because they don’t ‘look it’. As though the people making these declarations have a clue.

  8. Chris Andersen says:

    hey homie – great article. You have a very welcoming writing style (far more so than mine!). If you are interested, I have some stuff around ‘peoplehood’ that pushes the ‘big M’ Metis discussion a bit farther than I think it has been…having said that, You seem to have a pretty good handle on these issues already…

    • Tan’si Chris:) If you have any suggestions for further reading on the big M issues (especially that could be read online), it would certainly be welcome so people can pursue it if they are interested!

  9. Thank you for hosting such an intelligent discussion on a subject that many of us don’t really talk to others about. I’m starting the discussion in my own family by sending links to your blog to my siblings.Don’t know how interested they will be…will be interesting to find out!

    I like what Tony said in an earlier post: “I would say we are Canadian to the core.”

    Here’s what I’d like to share. From 1990 to 1995, I lived in Mexico with my husband and our young son. Almost EVERYBODY there was of mixed blood–mestizo! I felt so much at home, especially because my mother’s ancestry is Spanish. Learning Spanish in Mexico gave me a link to her ancestors–one that was severed when her parents decided that voluntary assimilation into Canadian culture was the way to go during the 20th century. My mom does not speak Spanish, although she heard it being spoken when she was a child in Sudbury, Ontario.
    Learning bits of Ojibwe from the songs we sing at a women’s drum circle in Ottawa links me to that part of my ancestry. I’m happy to have these ways of relating to my ancestors. The personal becomes political! Looking at my great grandmother’s photograph (the Ojibwe link to a First Nations’ community in Ontario), I know that her blood is strong. I see my father in her face, and his sisters, too. Having the freedom to understand and explore all of who I am makes me immensely rich.

    Being firmly planted in this land we call Canada is such a glorious thing. I missed Canada terribly when I lived in Mexico. I missed the clean air, the cold lake water on a summer day, the smell of the pine trees in northern Ontario. If I could have one Christmas wish it would be that the type of apartheid that the Canadian government has perpetrated against aboriginal peoples would end. It’s time to unravel that pattern of oppression. May strong leaders from the aboriginal community emerge to take on that task. May the shining examples of resilience that exist in so many healing and healed First Nations communities be our guiding light. And may the voices of the women be heard so that the children will know the path home.

  10. CBELCOURT says:

    Love it! (As usual cousin). I will be happy when the question is not asked any longer. How insulting it is to hear my least favorite question in the world “so…what IS a Metis, anyway?” Has anyone ever heard anyone ask: “what is an Irish?” “what is a Cree?” “What is a chinese?” “what IS an Ojibway anyway?” why do the people asking the question about who we are not realize the question itself is insulting. I’m working on a painting right now fueled by this very subject. so, again thank you so much for writing your thoughts…can’t wait till the next blog post!

  11. Very nice. We halfbreeds have to stick together. Wait…

    😉

    Love the blog. I thought i was a one time visitor but I keep coming back for more.

  12. Brad Turton says:

    The definition of metis being a person who is accepted through their participation seems to be similar to the Australian aboriginal. The big ‘A’ aboriginal is someone who participates in the culture and community but may be able to ‘pass’ as white.

  13. Ella Mayer says:

    Having grown up as an “Alberta half-breed:, being recognized as Metis for 45 years and then moving to Manitoba and being told for 15 years that I wasn’t Metis because I wasn’t from the Red River Valley, it was a joyful experience to come back to my home province where WE know where we came from, who our families were and how we lived. We didn’t need to wrap our selves in a sash and fly the Metis flag to show just how Metis we were. We just WERE. We lived the life, passed on our stories, raised our children to be proud of who they are. Thank you my girl for putting out those good words, in a good way. I too think that you would be a fine voice for Alberta Metis. Your logic and way of saying the important things in such a good way would cause the Clem Chartiers and David Chartrands of the old boys network to hang their heads.

    • To be honest, hearing stories like these, I’m pretty happy I was so insulated from Red River purism. What I wasn’t insulated from was the question of whether Métis are legitimately aboriginal or not…but what was so interesting about that was the people asking these questions were First Nations people from the east mostly. (I’m talking internal discussions mind you, not discussions with non-natives) Some of the people who were the most staunch defenders of the Métis-as-aboriginal-peoples were First Nations people from Alberta! These were in person discussions at conferences, or on-line discussions btw.

      Obviously the historical and cultural contexts are different depending on the region you come from. I have yet to meet an FN from northern Alberta or NWT or the Yukon who was not very familiar with the Métis (which makes sense given how intermarried we are). So I didn’t get challenged about being Métis very often. When it did happen, it was often on a blood quantum level…a discussion that I think may be more common in the east?

      Anyway. I have only once experienced someone claiming I couldn’t possibly be Métis since my family is so rooted in Alberta. To that sort of thing you just have to assume that the people making such claims don’t understand our context.

  14. N. Bertin says:

    Fantastic post and coincidentally an issue I’ve been dealing with! There is another side to this “blood percentage” story I’d like to touch on, if I may. After learning about my own Metis ancestry, I set off on a journey of self-discovery that resulted in the creation of art work that I was able to exhibit and speak about at a number of cultural centers/galleries. Each and every time, I was confronted with two types of people: those who were or were married to Metis (and therefore understood what I was talking about), and those who had never really heard of the “term” other than a vague memory about some short-lived rebellion. I live in southern Ontario and our grade/high school education didn’t really include much about First Nations history at all let alone Metis history so probably why there was so little recognition among those who didn’t know what a Metis was, regardless of big M or little m. What I find interesting though, is that scholars now claim that 40-60% (!!!!) of French Canadian families in Ontario and Quebec can easily trace First Nations ancestry within their lineage, hence technically making them Metis if you consider the “blood” aspect. I don’t know about you but I find that astounding. What I find even MORE astounding is that if there are so many people in Ontario and Quebec with First Nations/Metis ancestry, why aren’t we teaching/leaning about Metis history and the Metis experience of Ontario and Quebec as well? Why have I had the impression that if you weren’t from Manitoba, Saskatchewan or Alberta, you couldn’t possibly be part of the Metis club? (This question isn’t being asked to put anyone on the defensive but rather an honest-to-goodness desire to know why the Metis experience seems to have been made irrelevant in these provinces.) My own Metis lineage began in the 1600s in Trois Rivieres when an ancester married a Mi’kmaq woman. That was just the first instance of several mixed-marriages in the line but the point is that none of my ancestors continued the westward migration beyond northern Ontario. Still today, the majority of my fam live around the Sudbury area, speak a form of Michif (which I used to call a twisted Frenglish before I knew what Michif was), all practice some cultural form of artistic expression that is distinctly Metis when you look at/listen to it, are avid hunters/trappers and display many — if not all — of the distinct traits we learn about from the Red River/Saskatechewan Metis as naturally as if they had come back from the west. In a sense, I feel robbed that some academics or beaurocrats or who-have-you have denied me my family’s history. It annoys me to have to defend myself about my identity let alone take a bunch of time to re-educate people on Canada’s accurate social history. I feel – and am – just as Metis as a Riel or Dumont even though my family never lived west of North Bay – except for the odd temporary stray. All that said, I appreciate that you are reopening the identity discussion. (And you do it so completely articulately and eloquently!) I’m sure I’m not the only Ontario Metis who feels that it’s high time our ancestors were counted in Canadian history books. We are proud to be Ontario Metis, proud to be a part of an important heritage and want to be included within the definition (if we MUST have one). Finally… thanks for providing me the opportunity to rant about it.

    • my2cents says:

      Well said thank you!

    • ACADIANPRIDE says:

      Unfortunately for us, the British Crown had more manpower to really conquer Acadia and made sure that most documents were burned all for the sake of ensuring people bow to a crown of their decision. the documents on microfilm that I am able to find look so damaged that the ink is hard to read. They killed off and deported many, creating a system of shame/fear that had people keep quite about native roots, and make their names sound English.

      I am guessing that the main reason metis rights are denied on the east coast is because the gov’t and the recognized bands on the east coast know that our history dates back even further than the west of Ontario Metis, which would probably triple the current names they have on their lists.

      I really wonder why our cousins deny us, as Acadians were not about conquering and status. they just wanted a place to have really big families, and they were not afraid to embrace Mi’kmaq as new family members.

  15. Yvonne Poitras Pratt says:

    What an interesting discussion. I am Metis from both my mother and father’s side, and trace my paternal family lineage back to 1640s (does that make me more Metis??). I have just earned my PhD at the University of Calgary where I based my dissertation work on working with the community members from the Fishing Lake Metis Settlement (my home community) in collecting collaborative narratives from youth-Elder pairings on stories of survival.

    In fact, when our primary blogger admonishes: “In terms of having other Métis understand where we come from, and who we are, I think the best thing to do is to continue to tell our stories to one another. Hmmm. That would be a cool project, wouldn’t it? Some sort of website for Métis to connect and share stories and so on? How I wish I was more technical minded!” — I was compelled to respond, “But we have.” The 19 digital stories (3-5 mins long) are so amazing so I am so looking forward to the day when the Fishing Lake folks are ready to share them.

  16. Nokamis says:

    My ggg grandmother hailed from Wisconsin, and in her later teens journeyed with her kin up the Great Lakes to N. Ontario where they eventually settled in Ojibway territory. En-route they wintered in Grand Marais Minnesota where it was arranged for her to marry a French fur trader upon reaching their destination in Ontario. They married and brought my gg grandmother into this world who in turn married an Ojibway man. Then came the birth of my grandmother who birthed my father out of wedlock. She was enfranchised at that time and later married a French man which doubly sealed her fate in the scheme of no longer being considered ‘Indian’ by definition of the Indian Act and no longer entitled to treaty rights.

    I identify with my early ancestors, our old people’s oral history and my identify as Metis. Bill C3 restores my father’s full status from his previous sub-full status position, and now affords my sibs and I with sub-full status (mother is non-native), nontheless my identification is firmly rooted in my relations with my first kin. Makes sense to me, however not so much to some others no doubt. Dual citizen indeed! Thank you for stirring the pot, and keep the fire burning!

    Thanks you again for the links – very encouraging!

    http://telusplanet.net/dgarneau/metis.htm

    • I was too young when Bill C-31 passed to see the upheaval directly after, though the ripples of that have not yet subsided. The consequences of Bill C-3 aren’t very visible yet. I think it is making a lot of people reexamine categories. The fact that so many First Nations in Alberta (and elsewhere) became ‘Métis’ arbitrarily has muddied the identity waters so much too. Michel’s Band, for example, is a prime example of that. You’ve got Status Indians, and a push to enfranchise everyone, with some members of families taking scrip and becoming ‘Métis’ (literally in some cases siblings from the same family ending up on opposite sides of the identity line)…then all the remaining Status Indians losing Status involuntarily, and then back to having Status.

      So there was enormous outside pressure on which ‘identity’ you were able to exercise. If because of that your family became culturally Métis (or culturally First Nations, which also happened after Bill C-31), then do you stick with the ‘old’ or the ‘new’ identity when given the choice?

      These are hard, personal questions, and I think everyone who is faced with this will have to answer those questions for themselves. Bill C-3 is going to create more conflict in our communities, as Bill C-31 did…and people fought for that, and I’m glad these changes were made…but having so much external pressure still being put on deciding ‘who belongs’ really skews the entire issue. Deconstructing that to get at ‘real identity’ might not even be possible anymore. Our identities are indelibly marked by the machinations of the Canadian state. I think that point can never be forgotten when we discuss identity.

      • Nokamis says:

        I agree apihtawikosisan.

        Sadly Bill C-31 created real conflict and C-3 will undoubtedly do the same.

        My ‘real identity’ is no less than who I am – truly the sum of all of my aboriginal and non-aboriginal parts. That is not debatable at the heart of my ‘real identity’, although the Canadian state’s definition of my ‘real identity’ is imo incongruent and divisive. I agree that this point cannot be forgotten in the course of this discussion – unfortunately.

  17. morehistory says:

    âpihtawikosisân, I was reading through your older blog entries and came upon the “what my children learn in school”, and it reminded me both of my own education and story. One of my family members was born in North Africa. They are of European lineage, but they were educated along side the local arabic population. Now, the school was based on European culture and history, but my family member recalls all the members of the class having to recite that “my ancestors had blue eyes and blond hair …”, even though that the arabic locals hadn’t shared that history.
    Now, I’m not knowledgeable on Metis history (but I’m starting to learn) — but it would never have crossed my mind to ask a person of Metis identification about their parents in this way.
    Anyways, thanks again for a fantastic and thought-provoking piece.

  18. Tim Moore says:

    Morehistory , You seem to be the exception in these parts. Because of termination legislation and a severe inferiority complex within the Metis community itself, we have become quiet content on allowing others to inform us as to whether or not we are Metis! A whittling away of our identity, a cultural anomaly that has created difference’s on both sides of this “Identity Line”. It would seem that our entire identity is in question. A question of authenticity and verification. By those who haven’t the first clue as to what Metis is.
    The only reason we are having this conversation is because the Canadian government has taken it upon themselves (via the “Treaty” or “Status Card”)( as apposed to “Script” or land as it were. To be traded, sold, or cultivated and forgotten into the Canadian fabric) to be able to tell how many Indian’s are actually left. And this has only transcended towards the Metis condition. And a certain protectionism has developed among many non-Aboriginal Canadians in fear of even more “Claims” whether it be land or sovereignty. Only this time by the Metis! Who love to ask the question ” So how much Indian do you have in you anyway?”.
    I am not an Indian. I am Metis. Like my Father and my Grandfather. And my Great Grandfather and his Father. You see this could go on for another generation or two for all anybody knows. The Metis have been a “Distinct People” for many generations now. It’s time we stop confusing Aboriginal politics with the Metis identity. and start to figure out what it means to be Metis in a modern canadian context.
    What did the Metis do for Canada?
    Maybe this is more the question we are after.
    Tim

    • The Metis represent in their persons the Canadian ideal. Here’s a story. My first European ancestor born in Canada was Anne Mouflet, who was among those taken by the Iroquois in their invasion of Lachine in August 1689. She was released and in 1697 married René Tsihène, an Onondagan. They were not wed in Nouvelle France. The marriage took place in Iroquoisie. These two were both in the thick of it in August 1689, on opposite sides, his people killing her people, and terrifying her. But survival in harsh conditions — conditions could get harsh indeed in 17th century North America — require a practical turn of mind. After a while the hurts healed. Cooler counsels prevailed. No more war. War no more. Peace. In 1701 the great peace treaty of Montreal was signed by Governor Hector Callière and the chiefs of all the Amerindian nations of the Great Lakes region. Anne and René weren’t the first mixed marriage between white and aboriginal although it was early in the origins of the distinct Métis population in Canada. Most of the unions that produced the 400,000 Canadian Métis alive today began in the 18th and 19th centuries, between Algonquin, Cree, Ojibway or Mi’kmaq women and Canadien voyageurs and Scottish traders on their travels east and west from Montréal. But René Tsihène was the man of Anne’s house. It must have worked well enough. After a few centuries, every genealogical list reveals dozens more cousins from the same stock. Unusual it was for her to be Canadienne and he Onondaga. How much more unusual that they had set aside the hate from the day of infamy when they had been on opposite sides. Despite furious provocation, this early willingness to “bury the hatchet” — Callière and the Chiefs threw war-axes irretrievably into a “pit so deep that no-one could find them” as a symbol of good faith before the Great Peace meeting of 1701 — has become, after germinating all these centuries, a quasi-genetic Canadian trait to consult, to compromise, to accept and welcome different peoples, to mix, to keep the peace. That’s my opinion. The fact is that out of the ashes of Lachine Anne and René began to populate the nation that in time would become Canada. I reckon 1/1,024th of me flows directly from these two. There are probably more links to First Nations and Métis to be found. But even if this is the all of it, it’s enough. It’s starter for a unique breed that gains strength from diversity.

      • While I understand what you’re trying to get at, I do find that the language suggests that the original ‘breeds’ were somehow weak. The whole discussion of ‘breeds’ and ‘stock’ doesn’t sit very well to be honest.

        • The language doesn’t suggest anything of the sort unless you bring a preconceived interpretation to it. I understand that someone who has been called a half-breed might be offended by my use of the word breed. If that’s the case, I apologize. But If the discussion hangs up on words that are in common and non-pejorative use to describe genealogical relations of human beings, I don’t have the patience to pursue. It’s been interesting to participate. I think the work you’re doing is very useful.

        • ‘halfbreed’ is still used at the Museum of Man in Ottawa for ya’ll. I actually think the problem Métis people have with the term may not actually be etymological but actually other associations with the word.

          ‘halfbreed’ is often used (especially historically) to describe someone who is shifty, cheating, sneaking, or otherwise marginal. Societally, ‘halfbreeds’ exist on the edge – out in the shack in the woods with their illegitimate children, selling chopped wood for poverty wages or stealing what they need, etc., and getting dragged into court for ‘not properly feeding and clothing their offspring.’ I ought to know – ‘halfbreeds’ is what I come from. (And I’ve just described their actual lifestyle ca. 1900.) It now has been transformed into the more broad ‘white trash,’ I think.

          The Métis, many of whom were/are devout catholics, etc., obviously take issue with this implication. They are not ‘marginal’ people. At least not anymore. It would be like calling them ‘road allowance people’ when they don’t live on the edges of roads, but rather in settlements or in major metropolitan areas.

      • Elizabeth Hollands Kokkonen says:

        I’ve spent some time last week reading about my first mothers in my tree (The filles a marier and the filles du roi) which brought me to hearing of that kidnapping in lachine. Our forefathers were resilient and as you say it’s ingrained in us. my non native connection comes from Rose Otis who was but a few years old when her whole village was killed and destroyed. She along with many other children were marched from the states to Quebec. Many went back but she stayed and married a québécois then some of her kids married Metis. It’s too bad that the Metis of Quebec who go way back to the 1600’s have not had the benefit of an acknowledged way of life. The families of northern Ontario and Quebec life. I am glad there is “un retour au source”.

    • morehistory says:

      Hi Tim,

      Excuse the delay, I didn’t hit the checkbox to follow comments on this entry, and was just casually reading through the discussion when I saw your response.

      Some of the problem that non-aboriginal people have is simple ignorance — the lack of education with regard to the history of Canada prior to settlers. When “chapter one” of your book starts when Europeans settlers show up, there is a lot of things lost. Also, the narrative of many books relegates aboriginals to support roles, and after Canada becomes “settled” the mention of Aboriginal people trails off.
      Some of the issue is protectionism with regard to land claims, and a bunch more is the willful ignorance of treaties and “rights” not well explained, which have people believing that any money that goes to any Aboriginal group is a “hand out”.

      I think some of it is the fact that the whole thing isn’t black and white. Like most things in life, there are lots of shades of grey, and it takes some time to learn about, process, and understand. It’s easier to stick to the preconceptions and prejudices, since they feel much more black and white.

      I have more to say on this, but I need to indulge a little in the Holiday season. Happy Holiday time to all. 🙂

  19. Chris Andersen says:

    One thing that strikes me about these responses (intelligent responses as opposed to much of the dreck out there), is that very little of them are built in the context of discussions about attachment to a CONTEMPORARY Metis community. It’s become a genealogical discussion. But while genealogy in itself is an important component of claiming a Metis identity, it shouldn’t just be about genealogy (i.e. it is necessary but not sufficient). Otherwise, instead of working in concert to build a better collective future for Metis, we become mired in discussions about proving our (more or less authentic) connection to ancestors (again, without much discussion of which community/nation/people THEY were attached to). To make my own stance explicit, I have become a fairly hardcore Metis nationalist over the past decade of being in academia. To me, Metis identity was and is about a connection to some type of community (whether a nation, a people, or whatever). There are good reasons (both academic and otherwise) to prefer this stance to individualistic ones (and good reasons to prefer a link to a nation or people rather than a community, but I won’t go into them here) – suffice it to say here, they largely relate to avoiding the kind of voyeuristic “I am Metis” responses these discussions often turn into.

    Of course, an immediate question that stems from this is “when do Metis people ‘start’?” For me, it’s not about the fur trade, or intermixing, etc. (again, necessary but not sufficient). Instead, I start where Metis self-consciousness arguably started – the Battle at Seven Oaks in 1816. All historical memories relating to nationalism are arbitrary but this seems as useful as any and more useful than many others. Lots of “intermixing” occurred in the upper Great Lakes but their status as “Metis” relates to their kinship connections to Red River (instead of mere intermixing). This is not to suggest they have to be FROM Red River or even ever had to have been IN Red River (in fact, most Metis spent most of their time away from that metropolitan core).

    In (m)any other instances, people of these various kinds of intermixing were…well…whatever they called themselves. For example: Seminole Indians, Lumbee, Comanchee – are all ‘post-contact’ Indigenous peoples, the result of intermixing between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. That doesn’t make them Metis, anymore than people in the upper Great Lakes are ‘Metis’ as a result of their intermixing (as opposed to regional connections to Red River).

    None of these kinds of conversations can be had in individualistic conversations about how “I” am Metis or how “I’ am related to so-and-so, who was the result of intermixing between so-and-so and so-and-so. People often complain about boundary making (as in, why do we need to define ourselves) – partly, this is because if we don’t, the state will: and their definitions have not been kind to our own definitions or ways of seeing the world.

    That’s why I’m not so much interested in why individuals (think they) are Metis but rather, which community claims you, and why are THEY Metis?

    I realize this isn’t a popular opinion and I don’t mean this in anyway to disrespect anyone. Just giving my two cents with respect to the brilliant blog post that Chelsea began this conversation with.

    • Fair points, and I’ve been deliberately avoiding pushing things in this direction, hoping it would go there itself, so woohoo!

      Being ‘part of something bigger’ is where my political consciousness began and what made my specific family and community history more meaningful. Individual kinship ties keep me rooted in my individual identity. However, wider ties and connections to people from many different communities (historical and contemporary) and the similar goals and aspirations (not always apparent during the muddled in-fighting of politics) of the Métis (all of us as opposed to just us individually) is what moves us beyond just ‘family’ and into ‘nation’.

      A nation does not have to be homogeneous, and there is space within a nation for regional differences. To me, being more aware of your regional history merely means that you have a richer tradition to draw on in order to address new issues as peoples, working together. There is a lot of resentment about Red River purism, but I think we could get beyond that fairly easily when we have those ‘national’ versus ‘individual’ discussions, so I’m glad you’ve brought this up. The history of the Red River is not an attack on individual identity, it is a socio-political context that is extremely relevant to discussions of nationhood.

      But I’m interested in both discussions 😀

    • I agree with this and also with the moderator’s response. But what most interests me is the Métis as personification of a Canadian ideal. It’s not just the blood mix, but an interweaving of disparate cultures. It’s a core Canadian value.

  20. Perhaps you could explain how the approach is going badly. In what way? Going badly for whom? Does it somehow make things worse?

  21. From my perspective, Tony (and it’s just a perspective), there’s two fundamental issues with multiculturalism discourses more generally. First, the part that the ‘multiculturalism’ discourse misses in a Canadian context is the tremendous amount of physical and symbolic violence enacted historically in order to produce it. That is, the Canadian state was able to expand west only on the territories (and in many cases, the lives) of those who lived and owned them before the expansion. Multiculturalism is based fundamentally on a tolerance of difference – whether linguistic, ‘visible’, etc. But that tolerance is only possible because the Canadian state destroyed the viable alternative polities that stood in its wake.

    Secondly, making the argument that Metis (in particular) are “mixed” or multicultural in a way that all First Nations are not, flies in the face of about three hundred years of First Nation involvement in similar sets of social and economic relations to those of Metis. All First Nations today are equally the result of disparate cultures and yet, they aren’t hosted on the same petard as Metis are. Our ‘mixedness’, while celebrated at a very facile level, in effect delegitimizes our Indigeneity as merely ‘post-contact’ (and as such, not as authentic as those of First Nations).

    Anyway, that’s my issue(s) with it.

  22. JaimeK says:

    Thank- you for writing this. When I first moved to Ottawa from northern Alberta, people (mostly FN) didn’t understand why I just wouldn’t identify as being First Nations. I have darker skin so no one ever said why don’t you just identify as being White. In any case – I realized that Many people “out east” understand Metis to be “wanna be” First Nation peoples. Although I admire and respect the diversity of First Nations in Ottawa – I am very much a Metis person. I’ve mostly enjoyed teaching people about Metis and I think that for those out there who are willing to share their thoughts on being Metis will solidify that “meaning” that we know to be true and accurate. ekosi.

  23. Joyce Bolton says:

    This is a fascinating discussion. I wrote a paper about a similar topic last year and I’m so happy to read so many other perspectives on it. Chelsea, from now on, any time anyone asks me that question, I’m sending them to this article! Chris, have you written or published more about Metis identity lately? I’m a bit out of the ole UofA/FNS loop these days, but if you have, I would love to read it!

    • Hi Joyce,

      I have but its mostly been on the idea of ‘peoplehood’ and why thinking about Metis collectivity in terms of peoplehood is preferable to ‘community’ or even ‘nation’. I can send you some articles if you give me an email address. They’re pretty academic, though – I don’t have Chelsea’s ability to explain complex concepts in non-academic language (I wish I did!).

      • Maybe you just haven’t had enough practice talking about this stuff in rural bars 😀

        • ha ha…i wish I had that excuse. I just got tired of translating for people who had no interest in learning. One of the truisms of colonialism is that non-Indigenous people can choose when and how they engage in relationships with Indigenous people – and those who continue to ‘engage’ through racism, ignorance and stereotypes simply bored me to the point where I now write for those I think I have a chance of swaying. But giving up isn’t the answer (obviously) and your blog has made me aware (again) of the hard work but the vital necessity of doing so.

          • This blog came after a very long bout of being fed up for exactly the reasons you’ve described. The energy it takes to ‘translate’ for people ebbs and flows…with more ebbing than flowing unfortunately. However, I find academic spaces to be nearly as hostile as non-academic spaces. Less obviously so at first, but perhaps also less honestly as well. I think my approach is a reaction to that, because I received the training too…I can max out the syllables and use jargon that excludes and pepper my writing with trite latin phrases, but colonialism is still colonialism regardless of which philosophical excuses are used to perpetuate it. I think I object to being forced to engage that kind of dialogue at all. So, like many things, my reaction is to be ornery and do it differently 😀

      • Joyce Bolton says:

        Hey Chris! I am just reading this reply for the first time here. I would love to read your articles! Email at joycenathan@gmail.com. I hope you are well!

  24. CBELCOURT says:

    Its 5:30am on Christmas eve and I really should be sleeping ha! Ha! Good morning. I’m just wondering what would happen if instead if Metis Nation we instead made the full and official switch to Michif Nation? I’m not advocating for that. Just that, for example, Ojibway language is Anishnaanemowin and people call themsleves Anishinaabe. My grandma conversed in Cree and Michif so my question here is not cut and dry, only wondering if It would be easier on me if I could just answer the questions I get with “I am Michif” .. “an Indigenous nation in Canada” …rather than trying to explain to those that dont understand that I am Metis who are from Metis who are from Metis who are from Metis. Ha ha! Just wondering. Would we cut down on confusion between big and small m convos? K gonna have some coffee. Hope all of your holidays are Merry.

    • Christi – interesting that you should suggest that – awhile ago, a Maori friend of mine (Indigenous person from New Zealand) were talking about writing an article on this exact issue! A lot of people suggest that Metis were first ‘metis’ (i.e. small m and big M) but I don’t necessarily agree (this isn’t a dig at you, Chelsea, this distinction is a very common way to understand the issues and makes it very simple). The ‘wrinkle’, of course, is that while people self-identified as ‘Metis’, i doubt their ancestors self identified as ‘metis’, first. Metis – as all identities – begins with self-consciousness. Metis versus metis is simply a category of analysis used by Jackie Peterson and Jennifer Brown in their New Peoples text (who took it from the MNC’s own original differentiation) – it doesn’t reflect actual categories of practice. And I think, whenever possible, its prefer to use actual automymity (a fancy word for self-identification or categories of practice).

      Hence, when I’m in western Canada, I self-identify as Metis. When I am anyplace else, I self-identify as Michif. Again, I don’t mean to offend anyone, just my perspective!

      • That’s an important point about the difference between what people thought of themselves versus what other people categorised them as…and how those categories have shifted (and become retroactive) over time. We use terms now that were not necessarily in use ‘then’ nor had the same meanings as they now do. It can make historical investigations more confusing if we don’t take this into account, and more complicated if we do try to understand the shifting terms and identities over time.

        Btw, Chris, I’d like to read those papers if you don’t mind! I’ll email you so you have my contact info.

  25. Yeah ‘Métis’ confused the heffers out of me when I came to Cree studies in Canada all those years ago. As an American, I knew nothing about all this, because the American system worked hard to eliminate the possibility of ‘Métis’ existing as a ‘people.’ Australia worked hard at it, too, as I recall.

    As I understand it, in the U.S., the categorization worked like this: If you were on reservation, you were an Indian. Hence, you were not counted on any census. If you were off, you were either (a) black or (b) white. Sometimes, they allow for a ‘mixed’ category of black/white. Usually marked M on the census. There was no recognition of any other group – under any circumstances.

    Everybody got funneled into ‘white.’ I actually tracked the ‘whiteness’ of several of my family on censuses – it was entertaining. ‘Black’ in 1850, ‘Mestizo/Mixed’ in 1860, and ‘White’ in 1870. It had to do with how close they were to ‘white’ lifestyle, essentially. For a woman, marrying a ‘white’ male was a guaranteed ticket to ‘whiteness.’ For a man, it would take more time. The ‘black’ men in 1850 weren’t ‘white’ until 1900.

    So, the funny thing is that, in most ways, my mother’s father’s family are classic ‘métis’ people. But there is no consciousness of that as a possible concept. Hence, they see themselves as ‘white.’ Just darker-skinned, rural whites who happened to do a bunch of weird things that white people didn’t generally do. Most ‘métis’ people in the U.S. got lumped with ‘white trash.’ Which is, I guess, what we all are. 🙂

    I think the Canadian situation is actually really quite unique in the acknowledged existence of a Métis group. That’s largely thanks to Riel and Dumont and the rebellion, in my opinion. You guys earned an identity with your own blood. Hang onto it.

  26. Moira Dunphy says:

    I’ve come back after a busy month to catch up on some apihtawikosisan, and I’m so glad I am!

    I love this discussion. It is, for me, so Canadian. The good part. Discussion, acceptance, willing to have disagreements without stopping the conversation, our history, our present, our future. I can’t quite explain it, but I know I love it.

    I have learned more in this one post about Metis peoples than anything schools have taught me. I always feel cheated of my country’s story when I learn how poorly it is taught. I only learned about Riel and the Red River Metis in school. Thank you all for continuing my education, I am thirsty for it

    • ha ha…someone more cynical than me might suggest, Moira, that it is typically Canadian, also, in the fact that we talk about it but do little or nothing concrete about it. 🙂

  27. Ted Norris says:

    Tansi – I am coming into this conversation a little late as I see from the dates, however, what a pleasant suprise to see so many of my michif cousins (I like that word association, Christi) sharing views and making so much sense of this issue!
    âpihtawikosisân – you are a wonderful writer and like one of the other comments here, this may be one of my first times to your site but it will not be the last. I am proud to say that your Blog will help move this confirmed Luddite (half-Lud?) into the 21st Century so thanks for that.
    Although I live in Ottawa now, I am originally from the Edmonton area and growing up in the 1950’s and because this is Alberta we are talking about, I was definitely known as a half-breed. Hurtful at the time perhaps due to some of the more colourful invective also thrown in for good measure, but the term is one that I pretty comfortable with now actually. However, I am careful where I use it, in describing myself and will often use, “Je suis michif” in polite company 😉

    You have given me more to chew on in regard to this issue so thank you for that!

    • Using ‘michif’ instead of ‘metisse’ (for myself) might be a good idea when talking to francophones. I think it would prevent the common misunderstanding of what I’m saying:)

      • Ted Norris says:

        Hi – perhaps I will discover references in other parts of your blog to the Lac Ste Anne pilgrimage, but since you grew up in the area, did you participate – either willingly or by force of nature – meaning usually a Mom or Grandma ;-)?
        My grandmother, Louise Berard, would take me. And I have pretty vivid memories – visual, aural, smell, taste – of the time spent there. For example, the Cree / Michif women singing “Amazing Grace” in the church, in that high nasal way. Eating dry meat and bannock with lard in the smoky canvas tent. I could go on and on, but will not. But more curious about your experiences.

        • I finally got to go last year after two years away from home…I haven’t missed many years I’m happy to say:) It’s always awesome to see people you may not have seen since the last Pilgrimage, and the smell of the muddy grass and the smoke and the water and the constant music…yes. I think I posted some pictures in an earlier blog post…ah yes, here we go!

          I’m usually there the day the Driftpile wagon train gets in, and when the Alexis and Paul Band pilgrims walk in barefoot. Last year it was so muddy I got my mom’s crappy truck stuck and when I finally got us out, I went back home and got her to drop us off instead.

  28. Ted Norris says:

    Thanks! Now, THIS is identity.
    Great photo’s as well – took me a minute to clue in on the priest’s buckskin vestment – very cool.
    You mention the water, which of course is the primary significance of the place and that brings me one more memory of being my grandma’s little crutch as she waded into the water for cleansing and to retrieve small bottles of the holy water. I meanwhile being freaked out by the slimey weeds around my legs and imagining leeches – but hey, je suis michif, no matter how young, so no complaining!

  29. Guide Fleury says:

    I have metis cousins in Alberta. I am a plains cree %100. I am from a reserve called Hobbema and when I told my metis cousins this, they never contacted me again, emabarassed to know a person from the Hobbema. Why is it the metis colonies in Alberta are bigger than the reserves and did the metis people consult the Indians if they could take their land? No, they asked the government and they gave it to them.

    • I’m Métis, and I know (and keep in contact with) people from Samson Cree and Ermineskin. I can’t speak to the actions of your cousins. As for the Settlements, this is the only landbase the Métis have, anywhere in Canada or the US. I have heard some people speak out in resentment against them (and against Métis people in general), but most of what I have heard is supportive of the Settlements, and it was hardly as easy as ‘asking and receiving’.

  30. Ted Norris says:

    âpihtawikosisân — I agree totally with your last statement and I would urge Guide Fleury to read, “The One-and-a-Half Men” by Murray Dobbin. The book tells the story of Jim Brady and Malcolm Norris both of whom were instrumental in the establishment of “L’association des metis d’alberta et des territoires du nord ouest” which of course is the forerunner to the Metis Nation of Alberta Association, and also speaks to the establishment in 1934 of the Ewing Commission: An Inquiry into the Condition of the Half-Breed Population of Alberta. One of the outcomes of this commission was to set the stage for the creation of the Metis Settlements – Page 118+ for specific reference, but also Page 73+ for reference to the cooperation of key First Nation political leaders of the day, which goes to the heart of the criticism from Guide Fleury, I believe.

    The book also talks about the other key figures at the time, including Pete Tomkins, Felix Calihoo and Joe Dion – collectively know as the Big Five for their activism and their wide sphere of influence. Malcolm Norris also helped to establish the Indian Association of Alberta, along with William Morin, Dan Minde, Albert Lightning, John Callihoo, Henry Lowhorn, Ben Calf Robe, Bob Crow Eagle, Dan Wildman, Sam Minde, Joe House and John Laurie. Many of these names are well known in Alberta.
    And marcee Guide Fleury for the spark which will lead me to re-read this excellent tome.

  31. Pingback: Voice, power, inspiration « Urbane Adventurer

  32. Carl Savard says:

    Hi,

    I don’t know if you know about the Métis in Saguenay area. I moved away from there about 25 years ago. I never felt like I was totaly like other Quebecers.

    Then one day I found out that my family comes from a Metis nation that lived in Saguenay from approx 1625 to 1839. We had an economy, a governement, traditions, a justice system, until the settlers arrived in 1839 and made sure to erase everything related to metis people. Later the government put natives in reserves and that was it.

    But our metis families kept on living our own ways, mostly near or in the woods of northern Saguenay all the way up to Labrador. Quebecers were making fun of our families, and that includes myself, because we where poor, (sometimes dirty), and away from civilisation. Some were calling us “jigons”. I know my mother was very affected by this throughout her school years. Me I was called “cawish”, which was the name we used for old native women (I never corrected them, it was useless).

    Learning about this metis lineage way a delivery for me. I finaly understood myself. No, my family was not extra-terristrial… but simply Metis.

    Now we are just like the french people in Louisiana that tries to “relearn” their lost traditions, which might sound weard for some but makes perfect sense. Putting the crumbled blocs back is necessary to rebuild a strong fondation and a sense of pride after so many years of mocquery and planned assimilation.

    I’m just writing to you knowing you must surely understand we are living right now… It’s not always easy explaining this to Quebecers… and probably Canadians as well.

    Good luck.

    • Elizabeth Hollands Kokkonen says:

      Hi Carl, I too am from lac- st – Jean and have experienced a similar thing. I finally had the time to apply for my Metis card with CMDRSM. I was amazed to find out that I understood and spoke the French/ Michif.. I was always embarrassed of my patois du lac. I never knew it was an official language and something I should be proud of.

  33. Jen says:

    I really enjoy reading your blog. I love history and you always seem to weave some into the topic. I am of European descent so please excuse my ignorance, it comes from lack of knowledge not disrespect. Something popped out at me from this article, that I feel compelled to ask. Do you identify yourself as Canadian in that mix? or Métis who lives in Canada? or is Canada a dirty word? I can’t imagine having so many cultural identities but I feel that is what makes us Canadian, that each individual can celebrate their own culture. Perhaps that is a naive assumption. I am going to continue to read your blog as I find it very enlightening. (i.e. I never realized using the term First Nations could be a potential landmine.) Thank you for sharing!

    • I do not identify as Canadian, no. I am Metis, from Lac Ste. Anne. That is how I identify. I cannot identify myself by a nationality that has built itself on colonising and marginalising my people. I don’t accept Crown sovereignty and ownership of these lands, and so I do not accept the Canadian label either.

  34. A Laperle says:

    Great article!
    I found this today on You tube.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu4hy19sFBM

  35. Nancy says:

    i am thoroughly confused. I understand the rule about the “indian grandmother marrying a non indian, but my grandfather was Metis, and married a Scottish woman. He was given scrip. And my mother never had status. Can i now get indian status or at least Metis status??

  36. Nadia says:

    This is interesting history but you all know metis just means mixed right? because I live in Canada French people always call my son metis because he is mixed black mother originally from Haiti and a white father that is Irish,Scottish,English,Welsh,German,Austerian,American and Canadian. Also metis in Europe just means mixed it is used allot all over Europe.

    • The word just means Metis in French, but the point of this article was to explain that ‘mixed’ is not what it means in the Canadian context. Section 35 of the Constitution does not recognise any ‘mixed’ people as Metis. The term here has a specific, historic meaning different from its linguistic origins.

  37. my2cents says:

    I have to say I’m tired of hearing some “Western” Metis believe themselves to be the only “Real” Metis people. The MNC (Metis National Council) is just a group of mostly Western Metis (mainly Red River) and does not speak on behalf of all Metis in Canada. I suggest you familiarize yourself with the very large group of Metis people who reside in Quebec and other Eastern provinces. Your problem is that the translation of Metis means mixed in French. Many people who speak and reside in Quebec are not of Canadian decent thus they wouldn’t know the historic meaning. It is a well known fact that the Northwest company employed French “half breeds”. Metis people still reside in historical community’s today throughout Ontario, Quebec, and Eastern provinces. The sash that was adopted to represent the Metis people was created in Quebec.

    On another note:
    I believe CAP (Congress of Aboriginal Peoples) to be a non-discriminate organization that represents all Metis and Non-Status Indians throughout Canada.
    The recent “Daniels Decision” was won in supreme court by CAP not MNC! (Though the MNC jumped on the bag wagon of course)

    This is directly from OCAP (Ontario affiliate of CAP)

    Gary Lipinski (MNC/MNO) does not speak for all Métis in Ontario. Nor does he speak for any more than a very small minority of those Métis. As a Métis, I am appalled that Lipinski should issue a press release talking about Ontario Métis now having a companion in Manitoba when Ontario Métis, the vast majority of us, have never had our hunting and fishing rights upheld.

    Ever since the Powley decision, the Ontario government has been blind to the intent of the case. The Ontario government has chosen to interpret Powley in the narrowest of ways possible, leaving Métis all across Ontario in a legal mess, should they decide to exercise their hunting rights. The Ontario government seems to have drawn an arbitrary line which, basically, removes our rights to hunt and fish if we live below that line (French River area and southern Ontario).

    The Ontario Coalition of Aboriginal People (OCAP) has and continues to fight for the rights of all aboriginal people in Ontario, Métis and “off-reserve” status and non status Indians alike.

    The Coalition continues to work with the provincial government towards recognition of our rights across all of Ontario, not restricted to the far north and not restricted to Lipinski’s group.

    My 2 cents thanks.

  38. Nancy says:

    If my grandfather was Metis, and was given scrip, but my grandmother was “white”, can I still get status??

  39. Seb says:

    I tend to concur with my2cents here. Although many members of our Metis Community here based in Ontario/Great Lakes has ties to RR, I see no reason why this should be an argument to exclude de facto the possibility of multiple co-emerging nexus of Metis ethnogenesis (including in Quebec), with their specific –yet in many ways intersecting– political and cultural manifestations. I don’t see Metis diversity and pluralism as harmful in my book.

    To be honest, I don’t buy for one second the argument making only RR Metis the receptacle of some overnight “national enlightenment” that now give them the permission to look down at the so-called peripheries of their Metis Empire. The political consciousness one sees manifesting in the RR events was not crafted ex nihilo, but rather throughout many events, kinships, relations, discussions, and a sense of cultural and political distinctiveness already formed within the Voyageurs communities, without which RR would have never existed the ways it did.

    The segregationist move claiming the sudden and quite metaphysical birthing of what would be a clear and transparent national political consciousness only in Red River is a fiction that tends to reproduce the sad logic of Re Southern Rhodesia, according to which some White folks decided one day that Indigenous folks were too low on the scale of social organization to be political aware in the same way the Europeans were (hence no political rights, but cultural rights solely were to be discussed and granted). Sounds familiar? I see some people replicating the same logic here, only with a new Metis/metis canvas and different parameters.

    Personally I don’t get it. Although I appreciate the great heroic chapter that is Red River in the ongoing Metis book, I don’t see that chapter as being holy verses giving me the authorization of slaying the identity of my Metis brothers and sisters I may yet not understand fully. I truly need to be persuaded and reassured at this point that this is not dangerously verging on fanatical nationalism of the worse kind.

    North Slave Lake Metis, to take an obvious example, are Metis: not because they have RR ties, but because they have gathered all the ethnogenesis factors and the cultural specificities that made this community a full-fledge Metis community.

    To say otherwise, I find, is extremely disrespectful.

    Al in all, I personally don’t find that I need to negate any part (FN or European) of the beautiful heritage that made me who I am. I for one appreciate its irreducible complexity.

    But this is just my opinion, my two cents.

  40. Okamis Buzoku says:

    I am a American Metis (Parents are originally from Mexico) but look full blood or 3/4’s Native. I look like a full blood Athabascan or even Inuit (this is what I have been told by Inuit when in Alaska).
    I can pass for Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Mongolian, Kazakh. I often get spoken in Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Kazakh by the before mentioned goups. I guess it’s the original Mongolian genes in their full manifestation in an Athabascan descendant (me).

    My dissapointment with many, many, many Metis is their lack of interest in Indigenous American Affairs, Issues throughout North & South America. Many who do look on the white side (not all, so please don’t tar me with a brush) are total sell outs. They look down on us Natives and are so pro-White, pro-European.

    For many Metis in the U.S, many times it’s a convenient flavor of the month, when it suits them to tell you that they are Native. But, many of them will make disparaging remarks against Natives (e.g., they are so uneducated, drunk, so poor, so dumb, so dark). I’ve seen my parents and other Metis make this comments. It disgusts me. Many Metis who are sell outs will emphasize their European side as who they are (e.g., French, English, Scotish, German, Spanish, Portuguese).

    I lived in Japan and Korea and have seen the benefits of emphasizing one’s true Native roots (e.g., preserve the Native language, culture and adopt Western science, principles and methodologies).

    I recognize I am a 1st Nation Aboriginal because I look Aboriginal. I pay attention deeply to Aboriginal issues across the Canada, U.S., the Americas

    I realize that we have to take a new, different approach to fully restore aboriginal pride throughout Canada, U.S., the Americas.

    What we need all as First Nation Aboriginals is to try to unshackle the chains of colonialism and restore the Native roots through indigenous language and cultural restoration and encourage all First Nation aboriginals to pursue higher education, wealth, abstinence of illegal drugs. if we achieve the goals stated we can become very self sufficient, sovereign in our own ways. We really need to learn from the Koreans and Japanese people in attaining such language and cultural restoration. You will feel very complete and very good once we restore our language and culture.

  41. jeryy says:

    Hi every one..I live in quebec and originally born in Saskatchewan a few miles from the great battle of ‘Battle of Batoche ‘ and other historic Metis villages and towns. You know what is really frightening is that the Quebec educational system and most people dont have a clue about the contribution Metis people have given the French for the development and sovereignty of quebec and its people, including Metis. I was in French language class with many immigrants from other countries and we were given a chance to draw our flags on the Black board. One by one we all drew flags , there was a Mexican, Iranian, Palestine.and of course our teacher had asked me to draw the ” Candian flag ” but instead of the the Canada flag I drew Metis flag with Blue and white colors and wrote above it ” The Metis nation of Canada ” in French wrote the Metis standard battle theme ” Maisons autels ” “Sourtout Liberte ” ( homes, altars , above all freedom ) and then I drew the Canadian flag..I told the teacher and the class our flag was inducted in 1816 and the flag of infinity meant our endless culture for those liberties of language, dress, dance ,and that we have a great connection with the French people and the French should be proud they had a beautiful spiritual connection with the aboriginal fist nations people of upper and lower Quebec. I also said the Quebec flag was not introduced until 1948 and that Quebec sovereignty has not been established yet. I also mention that in 2013 the supreme court of Canada had exemplified the Metis nation as a sovereign and independent cultural consortium(The right of association and companionship with ones wife , meaning the marriage between French and aboriginals dating back to the 1600’s ).
    My Quebec French language teacher took the ” liberty ” to erase my flag in front of the students. the next day i wrote a journal in French about the history of the Metis and the ” French connection ” in great detail and gave it to her in French and she looked at it and two seconds later she put it down and then gave it back to me. Dont worry , I made many copies and put one up on the public board and handed many out to the immigrants and they thanked me for my presentation.
    If quebec ( no capital letters because I dont recognize quebec as sovereign ) wants to establish its independence you would think they would take their head out of their ass and fuse the bond between the aboriginal people so we can too back them up in parliament, but they are stubborn and arrogant and refuse to recognize us because they are AFRAID ! The Bloc Quebecois in quebec refuse to dignify Metis contributions that originated in quebec and filtered as far as Alberta ! If the quebec governmnet had any knowledge they would use the ” axis ” of these two powers to over throw the federal governmnet into giving quebec its true status and give aboriginal Metis a bigger and brighter future across Canada and many may choose to come to Quebec to live because of its dynamic sharing of ideas and values.
    When quebec acknowledges Metis people with more dignity and respect, I will stand up for quebec, and one day may give the their capital ” Q ” which they then will deserve to have !

    Meena kawapimitin

  42. jeryy says:

    Hello every one,

    I see a lot of bantering about Metis people not wanting ” sashes ” and eastern Metis delegations run down western throats..I am from Saskatchewan not far from ” Ile a la Cross ” Saskatchewan,
    where Louis Riel father was born.
    Louis’ mother was Julie Lagimodiere. Her father was Jean Baptiste Lagimodiere. He was a FREEMAN, that is, a fur trader who did not work for any fur company. Jean married Marie-Anne Gaboury in Quebec and brought his new wife to the North West where they had their family. In the settlement the Lagimodieres lived like the rest of the freemen and their Aboriginal wives and children.
    ” Metiers” means ” trade in French in modern means it is a job or profession in French.
    Metis were ” traders’ , their trade was doing just that. When the French explorer Jacques Cartier arrived in 1534 they used the natives to help them get around and they started trading with them by giving the natives, kettle, knives and blankets to start the friendly relations.
    The French eventually married native women and they taught the French men how to cook , hunt, gather as well as make canoes and get around the landscape. YES !! The women !
    The Men and women combined their languages and it became ” mitchif ” the modern day metis language. The metis culture was derived from the ABORIGINAL women being bred by FRENCH MEN ! These aboriginal women were very skilled and knowledgeable like their fathers and mothers..so be PROUD of our mothers ! If it was not for the trade and skill of the Metis families originating on Quebec and as far South as the Mississippi, there would be NO WEST METIS !!!

    Learn, teach your children, be proud and love your mothers ! Be proud of the spirit of the land and be proud of Jesus Christ whom the Catholic Church embraced its Metis people !

    Meena kawapimitin

  43. Shannon says:

    I know that this blog post was written a while ago, but I wanted to thank you for it. I consider myself metis – though I am still in the process of discovering my heritage. My mother did the best she could to tell me about my father’s family, who are from Quebec and are Cree (or so I thought), though I didn’t meet my father until I was 17. When I met my father, he showed me some papers, one of which was a certificate made out to my great-grandfather mentioning him as a “half-breed” which was written in English. At the time, I didn’t pay too much attention but I now wonder if one part of my father’s family had resided in Manitoba (or somewhere else out west) at one point.

    For some of us, who are not fortunate enough to have a strong connection to our heritage, the feeling like something is missing can be very strong. Because my father ran away from home when he was very young and my grandmother spent her life attempting to deny her heritage (to the point of not allowing her children to meet their aunts, uncles, or grandparents), I could probably never gain membership into a Metis organization – but I still consider it a huge part of who I am. It has influenced my family, my world view, my identity, and even my childhood. I can pass for non-aboriginal – until you stand me next to anyone else on my mother’s side of the family; growing up, I never felt like I belonged.

    Because my father had an unhappy childhood, he will rarely talk about his parents or his family. This makes it very difficult to find out who they were, where they were from, or what their lives were like. While I don’t think that people like myself need to be included in Metis groups or organizations, our lives have still been impacted by our ancestry and our lack of access to our heritage. Assimilation was a harmful thing – and some of us are still feeling the impact of our parents and grandparents shame.

  44. Pamela Gadbois Hubbs says:

    Hello everyone and Happy New Year!

    I read over several posts on this site and I’m definitely metis, however, I’m not Metis because my immediate family moved to the US and not only was there no real talk about my French Canadian history (which spans 300 years at least) and culture, but the metis culture and native background would has gone unnoticed with the exception of my mother. She had a necklace that I happened to ask about, made of heishi-type shells that she got from her grandmother whose mother made the necklace. The actual native canadian seems to be Cree. (There are other tribes depending on which ancestor I’m talking about) That’s where some of my metis background comes from. So my maternal great grandmere left Quebec with her family and went to live in and around St. Albert’s, Ontario, Canada. Her husband, my great grandpere was also metis and came from St. John’s Lake I believe in Quebec. Great grandmere and pere spoke a “patois” my mother called it, turns out is was michif, and she talked about being called “half-burnt-wood people”. I believe the land they bought in Ontario was obtained through scrip. This is just one line of mine that has metis, infact both of my lines have metis and in several places in my family tree.

    What I mourn is that no Metis culture was passed down, and most likely out of fear, and later, neglect. Are there resources and books that can help me revive this tradition within my family? Is there anyone who has encountered being left out of a culture, how do I become part of the metis/Metis family in Canada?

    Thankyou Everyone,
    Pamela Gadbois Hubbs
    pam.hubbs@gmail.com

    • g.181 says:

      I know it’s been a while since you’ve posted this, but I feel we may be related! My family came from Québec and settled in St-Albert, Ontario, we are still in the region and I was also told they obtained the land through scrip.

      Recently an association for Metis/Francophone native who lived in the region was created. The article is only in French though.

      http://ici.radio-canada.ca/regions/ottawa/2015/06/25/005-creation-association-autochtones-francophones-prescott-russell.shtml

    • Patricia says:

      Hi Pamela ~ my family did similar, and moved to a Metis town in Illinois in the mid 1800s, on land a fur trader had purchased from the ndns who were to be shipped west. My mom’s generation was the last to speak ‘Michif’, but she also called us ‘half-burnt’! She trained me somewhat in gathering medicines, she would dance a jig when the player piano was going and she tried to get me to play the accordion, LOL… but that’s pretty much the extent of my Metis culture as well. Talk about fear, mom had married a military man and she whispered to me that we were half-burnt ndns when I was about 10 in a hallway at our house. She spoke very little more about it. Where did your family settle in the US? Mine moved to Bourbonnais, Illinois.

  45. Carl McKay says:

    Thank you âpihtawikosisân for your clarification on 6(1) and 6(2) Status. I was not aware of the formula used by officials.

    In 2001, my Family discovered genealogical lineage derived from Rupert’s Land and the N.W.T. which is referred to as the prairies in present day Canadian geography.

    My question is, “Why are Metis not granted status Indian?” Our ancestors possessed the criteria for present day status Indian. My ancestors were counted in the August 1, 1889 U.S. Indian Census as Indian(Ojibwe); but when my ancestors are counted in the Canadian Census, they are identified as French-Speaking Scottish citizens. Are we Indian or are we European? I understand that I am both. I call myself Metis, but was not raised with any Metis culture or lifestyle. I guess my question is similar to your question of, ‘How Indian are YOU?’

    I believe that all Aboriginal Communities (within Canada) are (in my opinion) First Nations people.
    We (Metis) adapted the cultures of First Nations and Europeans and made a culture of our own. This culture we created is comprised mostly of First Nation Societal behaviours and beliefs (in my opinion).

    Please accept my apology in advance if I am incorrect with what I have posted. I still have a lot to learn about what it is to be Metis!

    There is strength in UNITY!

  46. Karen says:

    Well however you look at it , I am a PROUD METIS with an incredible Ancestry going directly back to the Great Man “Louis Riel” !

  47. Keith McKoy says:

    Gaspe Metis. (Quebec) I am mix of Micmac Indian and Scottish/Irish. You helped me a lot. I have only known for a year and a bit. You cleared things up and confused me as well.

  48. Loyer says:

    My last name is Loyer and I was born in Ohio, as well as my Dad and my Grandfather Armos (Amos) Loyer. My great grandparents Eustace and Anastasie Loyer died in Ohio. I saw their names listed in an online book “Western Canadian People of the past 1600-1900”, along with a reference to Paul Band and USA/OHI. I saw the name Louis Loyer listed as well. Can you tell me something of the Loyer history in Alberta, and maybe something about them?

    • Oof! Well the Loyers are a big, big family and many Métis throughout Alberta are related in some way to the Loyers. In the article I mention the original Loyer family line that came to Alberta, and there are Loyers who are Métis, who are status Indians (Cree or Stoney) or who are non-status. I haven’t ever seen the Ohio link, but a lot of the materials I’ve looked at have been pretty Canadian centric, so who knows? There are sooooo many Loyers in Alberta so I don’t see why there wouldn’t be elsewhere as well. Paul Band is a Nakota Sioux (Stoney) reserve west of Edmonton. What else, well, we rock!

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  50. trevor says:

    Despite being years late I feel the need to chime in, and talk specifically to the origins of the Metis nation.
    The first distinctly metis communities arose on the waterways (aka. Trading routes) of southwestern quebec and souther ontario aswell as around the greatlakes. Over time metis from western quebec and ontario spread with the fur trade across the praires into bc the nwt and northern usa. Many people especially the RR metis believe that quebec metis are completely seperate even though they share a cultural and genealogical bond through michif jigging etc. One nation, one peoples! On another not i am strongly agaist people who calime to be “acadian” metis and it angers me when theyvuse ourfag and claim our rights because they are 0.001 micmag or onondaga or innu. The true metis are from the fur trade based diatinct communities along the traade routes from southern quebec to the nwt to bc!

    • There are no Acadians that are 0.001 mi’kmaw. Many of our grandparents show up as much as four to six times in our branches. I get equally angry when our people who were also scalped and mistreated are told not to fly the metis flag. The government does not respect us because our catholic faith which grandfather Sachem Henri Membertou envisioned prior to french arriving would not accept the British church. A British church that has a different head and the fact that the conquering of our people was vicious and evil, so we took the longest to sign onto their crappy treaties and agreements.

  51. Joe McKay says:

    Interesting I came across your blog now. I am working on a documentary called”The last Metis”. The film chronicles the identity issues of two semi-urban Metis children and how they retain their Metis identity while being so removed from their Sask roots (they live in Banff).
    One major step is to attend “Back to Batoche” in a few days (2014). registration for Metis cards. Spring 2017 they will be canoeing the lower fur trade route to Thunder Bay from Banff. Their ages will be 7 and 9 at that point. Enroute they will visit the sites and sounds of their Metis ancestry.
    The film questions many of the identity issues your blog describes and I hope to ensure that in this process I ensure that I am not “The last Metis” in my family.
    I would love to add a interview with you to the film. Let me know if you would be interested. You obviously have given this some thought.
    Joe Mckay
    Banff, AB
    From Regina Beach Sask.

  52. Monique says:

    Hi
    I have been reading your blog, very interesting and sure learned a lot. I have been trying to get my Metis card for myself and daughter but their is so much red tape to this. My question is I did genealogy on Louis Berard (my greatgrandfather) (son of Louis Berard and Marcelline Chatillon dit Godin) married to Alphonsine Chamaillard (daughter of Benjamin Chamaillard and Antoinette Robillard). They are all from Pontiac County, Calumet Island, Quebec. I have tried to find anything on them that says METIS with no luck..I would like to know which tribes they would be connected to..or where do I go to find out this information? I understand this may not be the right site for these questions but won’t get answers it I don’t ask.

    • Debby Curry says:

      Hi Monique, Just read your Oct 2014 comment. I too am trying to trace my heritage and have been for many years. My grandmother Anna Florida Derouin born 1900 Otter Lake quebec area. Her father Joseph Derouin and mother Matilda Dubeau. Her grandmother was ester Robillard. I have a lot of history on the family. Pierre Dubeau who was married to Ester Robillard came from lake of two mountains/St. Eustache. According to info I have gathered, His father Pierre Dubeau was killed in the 1837 rebellion. I know they were granted land on Calumet. I have been to Shawville archives. I also have had Louise Paul do a research on families. I just found out that there is a Metis “office” on Derouin road which is very close to where I believe my ancestors lived. The families left the St eustache area around 1850 to Ilse du grande Calumet and then moved to the Otter lake area before moving to Arnprior. I know the Robillards history if you are interested..I was told my grandmother was Cree, but I have no proof. Would love to hear from you. Debby

  53. Bill says:

    Not really sure how I found this blog but very glad that I did. My family worked very hard to keep their ties to Old French Acadia and their Metis ancestral ties with the Mi Kmaq well hidden. In do so they were allowed to settle first in Illinois and then homestead in Kansas. If their mixed blood had been know or made official they certainly would have lost all.

    Like I found described in a earlier statement, my family is made up of a very interesting mix. Blue eyes, blonde hair, with high cheek bones in some, others have dark skin, black hair, and dark eyes all within the family unit.

    Today we can claim ties to the past without issues. But once stated out loud it sure creates confusion as to what it means. But it is a laugh when the discussion gets down to blood percentages.

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  55. Meaghan says:

    I am grateful for this post and the many thoughtful comments. I am also your cousin, my third great grandmother was Archange L’Hirondelle. After many years of living in the west and travelling across the country with her husband, Hyppolite Brissette, who helped to build Red River, they settled in their old age in Ontario. Their family was scattered from Georgian Bay to the Rocky Mountains and their great grandchildren moved to urban areas to find work in modern times; I grew up in Toronto, does this make me not a Métis? No! I walk with my ancestors everyday and I am grateful to my grandfather for giving me a place to go in our (Brissette) homeland of the Georgian Bay where I could grow my connection to the land and feel my roots that grow deep into the rocky shoreline. For me to ignore my history would be a dishonour to my grandmothers and grandfathers.

  56. Rachel says:

    A wonderful article. Good to know that I am not alone in not only trying to define myself as a Metis but explaining what makes me a Metis to others.

  57. Paul Andrew lemoine says:

    My name is paul lemoine my grandfather was from the manitoba river winnipeg . His name was fred victor Le moine, he fought the war in 1914-1918 with the little black devils , My father would not talk about him it was like taboo were he came from ,both parents are gone now so I am looking up heritage for my to boys so they can see who there greatfather was i pictures and things but can not find a thing about him ,anyone out there know or help on this matter , I thought this is were the people would know thank you all for this is were we all started from we can not lose it .

  58. Roderick Dixon says:

    I identify as fifth generation Metis (thats with the big M ) but while my father ,,when he was asked by me and my brother , told us Shhhh , we never pesued it untill his death ,Family history leads us back to Norway House Indian band ,Red River ,,(Selkirk Manitoba) and Saskatchwan .
    Our Grandmother came from a large family ,three boys and 7 girls who hid their liniage from public view ,,My great grand father was at Batosh during the supression of the resistance and was shot in the leg for his part Question If my gggrand mother my ggrand mother my ggrand mother and my Grand mother ,,who i lived with for a while ,,were indian and the other half was Scottish am i realy and truly METIS
    Roderick Malcolm (Shith) Dixon (look up Roderick G Smith for history )

  59. Mary says:

    I agree with many of these comments. I am an urban, adopted Metis woman who is searching for answers for myself and my adult children. I find though, in many circumstances, that according to some I am neither enough of one or the other group to be accepted by or to be classified as either: European/white or Cree/Metis. I am glad I am not the only who has label issues. I am simply a woman on a path of discovery.

  60. Connie Kulhayv says:

    My Third read through. I have shared on my FB page. Thank you.

  61. Devon Delorme says:

    Wow. Just wow. Here is my story.

    I grew up in Winnipeg in the northwest area tyndall park. I grew up in a prefominatly native community. I my self am mixed race My mother is half polish/ukranian and half Novascotian (black mi’kmaq, scottish and possibly other ethnicities. On my fathers side i am scottish/irish french and metis, although i have herd from part of the family that my dads last name was just given too him because my grandmother “made some mistakes. So even though he can prove his genetics through the family tree, there is a chance that he is actually not metis at all. I grew up thinking i was native up until the age 12. I never thaught i was part black. Then again as kids grow up they dont really identifie as anygiven culture they just “are”. my complexion is golden brown with a reddish overtone my hair is dark brown with reddish highlights and now im a grown man i now have a reddish brown beard. many people are intigued by my looks and i often get the question what are you? So i unleash the list with some backround information included about my granpa being a nova scotia black and my dad being metis. During the time my granfather (black) and my grandmother (ukranian) were together it was still frowned apon to have mixing with black and white. But being the stubborn person she is she didnt care and I thank them both for creating my mother. im not sure of my grandparents story but i think at some point they lived in montreal where my grandfather worked with CN rail before they settled in thompsom MB. Long story short i was born with a ethnic backround so diverse that identity has been one of my greatist struggles. My biologic brother being almost born with very suble minority features could be seen as white passing. so here i am Born 1989 and now am 25 and still dont have a clear identity of who or what I am. I battle racisim and struggles with my sexuality on a daily basis. So by age 11 i was told by my stepdad that i was part and it all made sense and then i started to see race as identitie. I began to hate the way i looked. I wanted to be full somthing i wanted to identifie with a culture just one.Its kinda funny that my grandfathers side of the family never really talks about how we are native its one of those things that our family doesnt acknowlege. To them we are blacks we are ukranians. And in reality Natives, blacks, gaelics, ukranians are all people that have suffered great hatred and cultural discrimination, i find it facinating that all of these minority cultures have manifested in me and i feel it makes me a strong person. Now that i am older and told i look “hot”. Iam kinda of proud of being mixed. I still feel more native than anything and although i am a member of the MMF i still dont really identifie with being metis. I feel left out of a culture all culture that i have. I make ukranian food and people ask are you ukranian. I make carribian food and people ask are you jamaican, I had dreads for five years and people assumed i was black. I even wore a kilt and still do on accassion and people ask are you scottish. Its sad that my identitie struggles come out in my fashion music and artistic styles and yet i never can truly say what i am. i try to connect with all of my cultures but still feel left out and excluded when i show interest. People always ask are you that culture that you are immitating? Like it is some kind of joke or prank im playing. Ive been called many names like nigger, halfbreed, fag and manny more, i have suffered discrimination in the public school system and still do. Silent racism is so loud these days that i can feel it when i am treated differently. but now i am working with Native Youth Theater and helping aboriginal teens learn lessons through theater of the oppressed and mask work. i am a mentor, a leader, a teacher for the world. I am a modern day person with steanght and hardship from many of my cultures that have suffered discrimination. I am now a warroir a rainbow worrior. Any ways just a rant about my culture.

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  63. Peter Stubbins says:

    I want to learn more about the history both legal and living of the Metis people. My people were empire loyalists. Briefly we came to turtle Island like many of your ancestors in the 1600 and 1700’s. The rest of your ancestors came from where I came, Africa. My people fought the Americans in America during the war of independence and then during the war of 1812. We were given land grants in Upper Canada. Our family sold their land grant in the 1970’s. We have no special status or constitutional privileges above and beyond that of any Canadian except that english is one of our two national languages. Sure my people had the big advantage of being the winner of war between two European powers. I recognize that, but that was along time ago and now many of my people are poor and marginalized as well. We are not asking for any special recognition beyond that given to means tested impoverishment. Your “nation” will continue to try to get more privileges such as the right to hunt out of season.

    I understand what the 2003 Powley Decisions means. But more importantly I have seen how some of the Metis conduct themselves when hunting. I know that the Metis hunter must have a harvest card here in Ontario. I know that they must contact the hunt captain for permission to hunt and that they must hunt with a sustainable ethic. Do you think that this is the case in fact. I know that local Metis hunters killed 3 moose in my backyard and dragged the dead moose across my land without my permission. I live in the Lafontaine area and the 3 moose represented a significant percent of the small moose population in this area. There was nothing sustainable about it. When I asked a Metis leader about this she brushed me off and said “whatever”. There is no formal Metis captain system that works in my area that I know of, it is a farce and the Ministry of Natural Resources has been told to back off, too sensitive.

    The purpose of this small case study about my personal experience is that it represents the problems of nations within nations.

    Some of my Metis neighbours will not hunt under this harvester card system and instead recognize the need to be part of the Ministry of Natural Resources Managed hunting license system.

    Good luck with your struggle for nation hood. I am proud of my heritage and see the strength and weaknesses of my people but I choose to be just a Canadian

    • “Your people” were given FREE LAND that belonged to First Nations. First Nations who were pushed off their own lands so that the British could shore up support against the Canadiens and the Americans by settling Loyalists. “Your people” were not just given grants of land, they were given provisions and tools and much support in the form of infrastructure and political patronage. Compare that to Black Loyalists who were promised land, but ended up segregated, without provisions or tools, left to starve in marginalised communities while “your people” fomented racial hatred, and even in some cases, engaged in anti-Black riots. A situation so untenable that about half of the Black Loyalists resettled in British North America ended up choosing to depart to Sierra Leone rather than put up with any more abuse. “Your people” subjected free Black Loyalists to indentured servitude lengths no White person was ever bound by, creating a system of de facto slavery among those who had won their freedom. “Your people” brought Black slaves with you, and along with these slaves and the indentured free Black Loyalists, benefited mightily from the unpaid labour of Black people. Where was all that ‘we all come from Africa and are one people’ sentiment when your ancestors first arrived here, hey?

      “Your people” literally had land, support, and human labour handed to them on a platter, and you want to whine and complain now about how you have been marginalised?

      Not here, not today, and not ever. Learn your damn history before coming here and making an ass of yourself.

  64. Peter Stubbins says:

    I did not expect you would get personal so quickly. Let me clear up a few things. I do not feel marginalized far from it. I only refer to some euro Canadians are impoverished and receive no special provisions except that given to any other Canadian in there situation.

    The Brandt family had slaves on the shore of lake Ontario, they tended his estate.

    I am not an ass.

    My family were given a land grant , that was common. Nothing special about that.

    I am fully aware of the atrocities of the slave trade and I am also aware that slavery is a common practice among many people, ask the Olmecs and Toltecs the enemies of the Aztec. This blood feud occurred long before the Spanish came. The Brandt family had slaves on the shore of lake Ontario, they tended his estate.

    I loath the residential school system and the broken treaties. If I understand history correctly the Metis of the red River were promised amongst other things about 1.4 million acres of land. They did not get it and that is not right.

    Many informed people say Metis are not First Nations, reference the Royal Proclamation and British North American Act. It is a complicated history I agree but clearly there is a cultural, legal difference between Metis and First Nation.

    I enter you electronic lodge with strong words but I did not attack you as an individual.

    You mentioned nothing about the hunting issue, which I merely used as a real example of nations living in nations.

    I have listened to the grandfather and grandmothers as well, you do not have a monopoly on their teachings. I have much to learn but informing about the abuses of the english, the french the spanish , the germans, the chinese, the Kmer Rouge is old information.

    • “Nothing special about that”.

      Ah. I see. So to deny your privilege, in order to claim victimhood as you did in your first post, all one has to do is say it was nothing special.

      Got it.

      Supremely not interested in how your justify theft of Indigenous lands and the enslavement of Black bodies. Next it will be the Arab slave trader routine, and the “Africans were enslaving other Africans” song and dance.

      Nope. Take your feelings of persecution and marginalisation to some other ahistorical nook.

      • ryanmbellerose says:

        I am so tired of people lecturing indians about history when they do not have a solid grasp it themselves. im glad you set stubbins straight.

        The Red River Metis (from whom most metis in Alberta actually descend and have direct ties to) were promised well over 14 million acres, we were also told “sign this paper and you become a citizen with equal rights” and thats how they stole our land in St Albert.

        If we are going understand our peoples struggle we have to immerse ourselves in it.

  65. lisa says:

    people should just remember when we die we don’t get to take the lands that the metis and first nations are fighting over. Hello blame it all on the government that’s were all this labeling of all the INDIANS started

  66. Sabrina says:

    It sickens me when people become so obsessed over blood percentages. It is scientific racism created by the government to eradicate us and it’s working. It’s scary how many natives are so intent on abandoning their own kind and further disintegrating their people and ruining their culture. You don’t need to prove who you are and who your ancesters were to anyone. Mixed race people belong to all sides of their ancestry, regardless of what other people think. No one has a right to tell you otherwise. You can be proud of every part of your DNA and honour all of your ancestors, because even if only have a little bit of native in you, you still had full blooded ancestors at some point in time. Besides, it shouldn’t matter if you are black, white or blue – all this racism and separation is just terrible.

    In native culture, adoption used to be seen as a very sacred thing, regardless of your ancestry you would still be considered family. But now, as soon as you are tainted with another race you are shunned and no longer considered a relation.

    Nowadays native people are dislocated from the old ways, so much that they are pretty much white people in native bodies. Which is better? Having a blood percentage as a bragging right, or being a fullbood who has abandoned your own culture and people?
    In my eyes, the latter is absolutely disrespectful. Just because you look brown skinned, doesn’t give you anything to brag about.
    I’ve met full bloods who have this holier than thou attitude, but just because they have the blood, doesn’t mean they are native. Most of these natives have completely abandoned their culture, they have no idea what the spiritual practices are, and furthermore, they are just druggies and drunks, corrupted by white society. You can’t just roll over and give up and then go around pretending as if you are doing something good for your ancestors, certainly your ancestors would not be proud.
    I’ve seen a few natives who try to call themselves carvers, but they are basically just carving decorations to sell to white people – in reality, that is NOT what carving was ever about, it was a sacred tradition and a spiritual practice.
    As far as I’m concerned, when you turn your own back on your own people and your own ancestors and your own culture and just let it die right in front of you, you don’t deserve any title at all, let alone your pitiful blood percentage title. Most people who obsess over blood percentages are nothing but disrespectful ignorant folks and really have no place in native culture at all.

    The people who are actually doing the work to preserve the culture are the ones who truly matter and ironically around where I live, those people are mostly metis, because the fullbloods have just given up on their culture and no longer care. Maybe it takes the metis and their identity crisis’ to actually reignite the passion to keeping the old ways alive, but certainly, without respectable metis members in our society, native culture would have died a long time ago.

    When I see these kinds of native people just taking up space in the background not ever wanting to take part in their culture, I think to myself, your skin may be brown, but your lifestyle and everything else about you is white, and when you try to claim your blood percentage as if that’s the only thing that makes you proud to be native, to me that is the most disrespectul thing in the world. You aren’t native, you are just another person who has allowed yourself to become lost in a sea of white, and that is sad, but more so it’s is sadder when you try to spread your sickness and racism to the rest of the world.

    It’s not just about being disconnected from your roots, the entire culture is at stake, and that culture is much more than just blood. IMHO, a full blooded caucasion whos been adopted into native culture, who shows initiative, learns and practices the spiritual and ceremonial customs, or who becomes a medicine person and learns from his or her elders, etc is much more of a native person than a full blood native who spends his time drinking booze and playing video games all day. Because guess what, in REAL native culture, the only thing that matters is spirituality and it is believed that we are ALL related. Blood percentage is a white society belief and really has no place in native culture.
    The same goes for so called “halfbreeds” who only want the title because of a blood percentage bragging right, it’s completely disrespectful. Maybe they’ve been situated in white society so long that it seems normal to shun an entire culture while still keeping the skeletal bones of ancestry alive and wearing it like a name tag, but as far as I’m concerned, if you don’t have the culture, you can’t be a part of that culture. If you call yourself native, you need to be part of the culture.

    It’s sad because it’s the halfbreeds that actually want to be connected to the culture, to learn more about their roots and what it all means, but the people who have the chance to be involved in the culture take it for granted.

  67. Liz says:

    I cannot tell you how I have searched for years. I would love to pass down this proud heritage to my family forever. My family started in the Quebec area with John Carter as a kidnapped young boy. My family consists of Roy’s, Benoit, Nadeau and Cote’ many more when I go through their families. How do I pass this heritage on to my children? Is their some way or means I can prove this to them and give them a sense of pride? My family would be proud to join their family.

  68. Matthew says:

    Hey, my great great grandmother was Cherokee, and I’m just a little unsure, but I want to know if I could call myself Metis? I just feel that this is a part of my identity and I’m not sure if I can be considered Metis

    • Is this a joke?

      No. You cannot call yourself Métis any more than you could call yourself Mohawk.

      • May-Tisse says:

        Funny seeing so many comments about people asking if their one aboriginal ancestor makes them Metis, and what rights they will be entitled to if so. What makes someone Metis? If you’re Metis you don’t need to ask if you could be considered Metis. I live in Vancouver, my ancestors were Metis who came here from Ontario over 100 years ago to work in the mills. Growing up I was told I was Metis, I knew I was Metis. It is true that some families lose their Metis identity due to assimilation, but if you find out you’re ancestors were Metis, people who considered themselves to be Metis, and lived as Metis people then it is understandable for you to start identifying as Metis. If you had an Indian ancestor, but no Metis identifying ancestors, then you are not Metis.

        I guess my approach to Metis identity is similar to Jewish identity. What makes a Metis person
        Metis? Their Metis ancestors.

        What are your thoughts cousin?

  69. liz chartier says:

    I have so many metis links in my husbands family that go back to the early 1600 or 1500s his two times great grandmother married a Jean Roy son of Jean Roy and Archangel Cote’ Direct descendent of Anne Martin/ MATCHONON and Jean COTE’ dit COSTE’ 1635; and that is just the tip of a very large metis iceberg. I don’t know if you know the story of the Carter family kidnapped from Deerfield Massachusetts in an Indian raid. His many times great grandfather was named John Carter changed to Jean Baptiste Chartier. I hope to hear from you soon.

    • Elizabeth Hollands Kokkonen says:

      Hi Liz, i also have Jean son of Abraham costs who married Anne Martin but I did not realize she was native. Was his son Thomas Coté who married Gennevieve Gagnon? I appreciate your input thanks.

  70. Paul MacDonald says:

    Hello my name is Paul and within the last yr my oldest uncle has told me that we come from Micmac lineage . I think with the distance of the relative I know I wont be entitled to any funds but does it entitle me to a band card or anything .my great great grandmother was full blood Mic Mac let me know is this significant for anything or nothing I would appreciate your help and insightful assistance my friend , take care and God bless.

    • First step is recognizing this does not make you Métis.

      Second step would be to figure out which community your gggrandmother was from.

      Third step would be dedicating the next few years of your life to learning about that community, as well as how to connect with it.

      It is significant if you approach this not as an issue of ‘what benefits can I gain’ but rather, ‘what would connecting to my gggrandmother’s community do FOR that community?’

  71. Dennis Loyer says:

    Hello, bon jour . I am a direct descendant of Jacques Loyer 1600’s Kebec and have built an extensive family tree on ancestry.ca. Do you have any more old time photos of our descendents you would share? The photo of Calihoo was the earliest I have in our tree. Thanks. Dennis Loyer

  72. Emily says:

    My dad’s side of the family is métis, but we don’t really participate in a lot of the culture. I’d like to change that, but I don’t really know where to get started. There’s an a First Nations, Métis and Inuit Mentorship program at my school, but I’m afraid that they won’t accept me because I look white, so I haven’t had to face as much racism. I’ve read this post a lot, and I really like your writing style!

  73. liz chartier says:

    Jean or Jehan COTE'[1] dit COSTE’ and Anne MARTIN/MATCHONON**, a Wyandott
    (Huron-Wendat) woman. This is my husbands family. It is no secret the Portuguese and the native people had a close relationship that shows in my husbands DNA. For some strange reason I feel I have to fight just to gain some truth. Just to pass on his heritage. Why wouldn’t I want to pass this on to my children. I hope you can help me.

  74. Rjlk says:

    Really enjoyed this!!! I’m cree/Metis on my mothers side, her mother was cree and her father metis. I’m actually a Loyer myself with ties to the Poitras and Potskin families. Always interested in learning more about my family history, thanks for all the info and links provided.

    • Amber says:

      Oh thank the creator! I have finally found a recent source to aid me on my ancestry quest!

      Angelique Callihoo & Louis Divertissant Loyer were was my great, great, great grandparents through my mother’s side. Up until now I hadn’t a CLUE about my family history or where I came from, so this is exciting! My grandmother’s maiden name was Loyer but she married a Paquette, Her mother was a Gaucher and then married into the Loyer family.

      Where does one go to obtain records & documents that would help me unearth my family’s history? The internet only goes so far. My grandma and great grandma died long before I was born and I have no other family connections to help me. Any suggestions would be so very welcome. Thanks so much!

      • The Glenbow Museum used to offer genealogical research services, but I think they no longer do. However, they still have the documents, so that is a great resource if you’re willing to do the research. Angelique Callihoo and Louis Loyer is a family line that is fairly well documented.

        If you have access to your parent’s birth certificates, that will give you your grandparents information, and your parents or your aunts or uncles can request your grandparent’s birth certificates too. That will get you back to your great-great grandparents at least. It should be easier then to make the link to Angelique, and find out who else on your father’s side you are related to. Here is a bit more about Louis and Angelique’s children (my family line goes through Samuel Loyer): http://www.ancestry.ca/genealogy/records/louis-loyer_8129607

        If your parents and grandparents aren’t able to give you this info, then it’s definitely going to take some detective work, but a lot of people have already DONE that work, and while yes, the internet only goes so far, believe me there is SO much more information out there than even 10 years ago. Good luck!

  75. Awenita Cazon says:

    You forgot to mention one of the main reasons the Metis culture came about, native women lost their treaty rights when they married a French(white) man and any children of their union was also not recognized as status Indians. (Just one more way for our govt to get rid of the Indian problem, stupid for them to believe that they could pretend that blood changes by marriage) The wife automatically became what her husband was in those days, my mother is status Indian for marrying my father even though she has not one drop of native blood and her ancestry is English and Irish. So I identify as half breed or native, the Metis created their own culture because they were told that they weren’t Indian anymore, and they weren’t French, so they made their own place in our history. The government had no choice but to finally acknowledge what everyone knows, that ancestry doesn’t change, if your native then the blood you are born with will be what you die with. You can’t take away what runs through your veins by marriage. The decision to deny the children of those marriages the right to identify themselves as family to their mothers people is just another piece of the genocide puzzle that the Canadian govt is still trying to deny even happened. Hope this helped the explanation as well.

    • The Métis became a people with a shared history and culture long before the first numbered Treaty was signed. I understand the points you are making about Indian Act provisions which granted Status to non-Indian women who married Indian men, while also stripping Indian women of Status if they married non-Indian men, but I would not agree that this is in any way a reason the Métis became a people.

      • Elizabeth Hollands Kokkonen says:

        Thanks for your blogpost. It was very enjoyable to read through all the comments. My family have always identified with native culture even before we found out Both my parents were Metis.

  76. Allison says:

    Great summary. I’m a Red River half-breed (Scottish/cree) who moved to Montreal a few years ago. Moving from Winnipeg, where I felt like I had to “defend” my Metis identification because my family spoke Bunji instead of Michif, to Montreal where people didn’t even have a concept of what big-M Metis was, never mind that there was ever internal variation. People get reeeeally uncomfortable out East when you call yourself a half-breed though…

    The only time I’ve felt more exotic was when I went to Germany and met a group of anthropologists…

    Also, have you ever had the opportunity to hear David Garneau speak? I noticed you used his art, but he’s also a phenomenal storyteller, and amongst the best I’ve ever heard when it comes to articulating his own Metis identity/some of the broader themes of being Metis. Highly recommend.

    Marci for taking the time to talk about this!

  77. Aho your thoughts reflect many of my own experiences in developing self identity

  78. Shadicats says:

    I love this posting. Many thanks. You’ve written most beautiful the sum of which I could never explain well-enough to folks that asked “What are you? Where are your parents from? So which one is indian? How much indian are you?” My family is from Saskatchewan originally, but as a child, we relocated to Southern Ontario. I saw discrimination and racism from both sides of the fence, white friends after I explained my Métis heritage, “You aren’t native as you look white with a year round tan.” Status-Indian acquaintances who snear “You may look the part but you aren’t indian enough for Status, you aren’t indian, you are an apple.”

    One time, when I had more patience, I use to explain when asked in a kindly-manner about the fur trade and Louis Riel and way Scrips were transferable and why some parts of the Family may be on a Band roll while others are not or how the idiom/phrase “going off the reservation” really started and what it really meant or how the stereotype Hollywood Indian greeting “HOW?” came about it. “Ok. What’s your totem animal?” depending on the person that ask results in me giving myself a head-slap and starting into a rant on the state of our education system or answering with “Capricorn.” Life has made me a little sarcastic. But of late “I’m Métis. I’m Canadian. Let us not poke the bear anymore.”

    I can trace my ancestors back to Red River before Confederation back to HBC and NWC, but I’m so sick of this belief that people are entitled and need me to prove what and who I am. My father is Métis-Cree and I am Métis. He raised me with many Métis-Cree traditions and histories that he learnt out-west as a child. My experience across North American, each region has a different understanding and meaning of who and what is Métis which doesn’t help resolve anyones confusion over it. This article does a lot to help clear it up.

    I’ve simply been pointing those acquaintances that ask me about my heritage to your site with the explanation, “It’s complicated, read this if you truly want to understand.”

    Thank you so much for sharing you wisdom and knowledge. For helping make the world better/tolerable through education and myth dispelling.

    Marsee!

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  80. -_-_-_-_-_-_-_- says:

    Holy Shit. IM SO DONE WITH EASTERN/ACADIAN “metis”. In a genealogy group I’m a part of (online), people constantly post inquiries about their Micmac ancestor (note how they use ancestor instead of 10x Great Grandma) when I try to explain to them that Metis doesn’t mean mixed and that we are a distinct peoples I get bombarded by “eastern” metis telling me I’m suppressing their identity, that they’re a minority, and that I’m discriminating against them. They post old out of context quotes by Louis Riel and this one girl keeps sharing posts from her blog (Qallunette). They tell me the MNC has no right to set a definition because they (the “eastern” metis) didn’t get a say. When I ask them about which community they’re connected to, they tell me some French Canadian community, and they tell me that their ancestors “hid in plain sight” in that community. They then continue to post photos of their ancestors who look 100 % white. WHAT THE HELL CAN I DO. People claim Metis identity, and when actual Metis say no, they say we’re oppressive. How can I even fight these people. Is this going to be a trend where in 50 years from now half the country is going to be claiming that they’re Metis through some distant ancestry from a first nation ancestor without any actual connection to Metis ancestry? I’m just venting at this point, but honestly this has been driving me up the fucking wall for the past week and I have no idea what to do.

    • A good way to deal with this is to become more familiar with what it is that makes us a Métis people instead of “métis-as-unbelievably-distantly-mixed”. Chris Andersen’s book “Métis: Race, Recognition, and the Struggle for Indigenous Peoplehood” is a great resource for this: http://www.ubcpress.ca/search/title_book.asp?BookID=299174387

      Fair warning, many of the people you are talking about literally see Andersen as the anti-Christ and no amount of logic or reason will sway them.

      It breaks down the racial essentialism behind these claims. The book is dense though, not the easiest reading. Not going to lie.

      Another good book that addresses the history of the Métis in Canada and the US, is “Metis and the Medicine Line: Creating a Border and Dividing a People”. http://uncpress.unc.edu/browse/book_detail?title_id=3643

      It is also an academic book, but the first few chapters do a really great job of making it more clear how the Métis developed as a distinct, post-Contact people, with a specific history, culture and kinship that is geographically limited to the West.

      We’re better off focusing on what we can do to renew relationships with First Nations, and work on rebuilding our political and legal structures, than we are on arguing with people who are desperate to claim an identity.

    • Debby Curry says:

      It’s unfortunate you feel this way, My quest was to find my maternal grandmother’s affiliation. When I was born, my children and my grand child, we all looked 100 percent native. My grandmother was shunned from my grandfather’s family because she was at the time” Indian”. I was very close to my grandmother, she saved my life as an infant, So, I searched and searched. I know who her neighbours were growing up, I joined a face book group of the community she grew up in to learn what it was like growing up in her community.

      I met a craftsman who gave me his card(Identifying as Metis), he said to contact him(Kemptville Ontario) and the Metis would embrace me. YA RIGHT.I hired an Algonquin genealogist( my grandmother’s family lived in Pontiac Quebec( Grand Calumet) where Algonquin peoples lived. NOT on or in a reservation, they owned land as they had been previously expropriated from the St. Benoit area. This Algonquin genealogist said I was Algonquin not Metis, yet the documentation she sent me dated to the late 1700’s had a certificate from a “Metis” identification.

      So, you see my reason was to correct a wrong. Spiritually I feel my grandmother and I suppose that is all that matters. I was looking for acceptance and harmony, none to be found.

      • The problem with such documentation is that often the term métis is merely used to mean “mixed”. But if your people are Algonquin, you do not suddenly become something else because there is a mixture! Or another example, an Algonquin would not become Mohawk just because there was a marriage with a White person. Honouring your Algonquin roots need not involve having to identify as Métis merely because people sometimes use it to mean “mixed”.

        • -_-_-_-_-_-_- says:

          Yes, omg. THANKYOU… These people don’t understand that metis in the east which means mixed race isn’t the same as the Metis of the NW… And you’re so right about them hating Chris. They literally tell me that Metis scholars like Chris and Adam Gaudry are wrong? Why do they think that they know more than scholars who have spent their lives researching Metis identity??? Thank you for your response.. These people frustrate me so much.

          • They don’t just say they are wrong…the person you mentioned reported Adam Gaudry to a University for hate speech. Not joking. She also stalks RR scholars on social media. Despite being blocked on twitter (and blocking back) she manages to screen cap tweets constantly and put them into storifies. So she has multiple accounts through which she monitors people. It’s actually becoming harassment, in real life.

          • Amy says:

            I’m confused: I thought Metis was mixed breed or blood so to speak. Does it not say so on the Metis council website? My grandmother is Metis so what does that make me then? This can be traced back to my great grandfather. But I look extremely white and so does my grandma. Why do people have to be so critical over looks. Sorry, I do people have to look aboriginal enough for you? Just wondering about someone bringing up people of the Maritime who identify as Metis, why can’t they? Its a bit far fetched to say they are going back to their great great great great great 10x grandparents. In addition to this every scholar will use different evidence to support their claims.

          • Which Métis council are you referring to? Lately many have been springing up, claiming to represent the Métis.

            And it is not at all far fetched to say that many people are currently identifying as Métis based on one Indigenous ancestor many, many generations ago. Not grandmothers, or even great-grandmothers. In some cases, a whole whack of ppl claim to be Métis based on one shared ancestor that died 200 years ago.

            Being Métis is not just “being mixed”, this is something people need to understand. If this were true then most First Nations people would be Métis, because “mixing” is hardly unique to the Métis! If a Dene man has children with a White woman, does this mean suddenly that their children are no longer Dene, with all that means culturally? Do they suddenly transform into Métis, a people with an entirely different culture and history? Would you say these children transform into Mohawk on the basis of their “mixing”?

            If you would question the second transformation, but not the first, then ask yourself why. The Métis are not an “everything else” category. We are a specific people, just as the Cree, Dene, and Mi’kmaq are. The fact that “métis” originally referred to any mixing (of classes, races, even breeds of animals) does not mean we are defined by that definition.

            If someone has a grandparent that is Innu, for example, then those Innu roots should be respected. Look there! Do not believe that simply because that grandparent “married out” to a non-Native, that suddenly your ancestors participated in the buffalo hunt, spoke Michif, and had kinship ties throughout the Métis homeland. Culture doesn’t work that way.

          • -_-_-_-_-_-_-_- says:

            Yup, and the moment I respond trying to explain the fact that she is not a part of the Metis Nation even though she’s mixed blood her whole team of MFC goons come in plastering out of context Riel quotes and pretty much harrass me. I’ve removed notifications from that group because I don’t want to get in anymore arguments with these illogical people.

          • That person may even actually be Métis, I don’t know. Nor do I care. The fact is she harasses people, and supports/parrots those who also harass Métis. All to “make space” for people that use racial essentialism to claim “rights” and ignore First Nations in a rush to “get benefits”. Oh they’ll say that’s not why they’re in it…while they create organizations that lobby for consultation, and inclusion as Métis, politically. So yes. Be wary.

  81. Doug W Moran says:

    Good day all; What caught my eye during my daily random searches was the part of the headline that read, “so which one of your parents was Indian?’ After a quick laugh, I decided this would be an interesting read.

    But first, in answer to the question..Neither..my parents were metis (“full blooded halfbreed”),, as were their parents before them, and before them, and before them…

    I went back as far mid 1700’s to find out which parent was “Indian”.. It was my GGGGgramma. My GGGggrampa was a Frenchman who came over about that time. ” legend has it that he was a court jester, and the king gave him the boot because he got fresh with the queen, ( some say she even followed him).

    Anyway, here he was, in the new world. Being a bold venturous sort, he went paddled up river, found the proverbial “Indian Princess”, and voila! so it began..

    That was about the time, such mixed marriages were becoming common as well as blessed by the church and government, if you will and I read somewhere that the possibility of a cheaper local force as well as perhaps a few good tradesmen.

    So anyway their children grew and married into other mixed unions and on and on it went. So, to me, when and where that new and defined culture began is where I place my heritage.

    My halfbreed grandparents are buried from St Francis Xavier to Buffalo Lake and back to the Eagle Hills. Not sure where I’m gonna end up yet.

    And that’s what makes me “Metis” if you will. But please, don’t take offense, I prefer “Full blooded halfbreed simply because of the confusion. I come from a family of 8, both parents, halfbreeds.

    I lived on a road allowance until I was 5 and lost my Father to the hunt and jack frost. While my siblings all got scooped up, I made a break for my garndparents farm back in the eagle hills.

    I grew up in a 2 by twice dirt farm until I turned 15, and the call of the road became just too much. I’ve been on my own ever since. Now after 6 plus decades, 40 as a red seal tradesman, I hope to settle down and enjoy my grandchildren while I teach them to stand on their own two feet and make their own way througn life, all the while telling them tall tales. Oh yeah, on the subject of tradesmen, my son is a red seal journeyman with a successful career and my grandson is a yr 2 apprentice, so yeah, they were right back in the 1700’s. We turned out to be good tradesmen.

    Anyway, I’m not sure where that places me in “who’s a Metis” never ending drama, but that’s where my heart is.

    Out there on the road, plying my trade, playing my guitar, singing songs, telling tall tales hoping to get a laugh. I’ve driven a million miles and I’ve pulled over and camped on many a road allowance approach, cuz you see, that’s my homeland

    I don’t paricularly care for the fiddle by the way, and having two left feet cuts into my jigging style, so that’ll probably disqualify me in some circles, lol. But I am still a crackshot, with rifle and bow, have skinned most furbearing animals known in these parts, and when I’m finally pensioned off this year, and I can handle the lure of the road, I will be going back to the land and the bush style of life

    In a nutshell, I tend to lean towards the description provided in the book, “One and a Half Man”, half indian, half white and half devil.

    I have my b.u.m.s. degree from the school of hard knocks, my red seal ticket earned on my own and in my own way. I learned that the color of my skin doesn’t really mean bugger all but it’s the thckness of it that counts and to me that’s all I need to make my “Metis”
    Whether I am accepted on that basis is irrelevant and will not keep me up at night.

    Douglas W Moran I/P Carpenter
    B.U.M.S (Bachleor of Urban Metis Struggles)

  82. Rina Boyles says:

    I like this article a lot. Many blessings 🙂

  83. Great article. I see this type of ‘purity’ test every now and then on indigenous social media groups, and it’s nice to see a reasoned dissection of the issue.

    There was something which happened while I was working in Yellowknife, and I wonder if you could explain it to me.

    An obviously native passer-by stopped me and asked if I was native. I said I was Metis, whereupon he shouted “I’m Cree!!!” followed by a slew of French as he began attacking me…

    What was that all about?

  84. L.Goodyear says:

    This was so amazing to read! I hope you don’t mind but I shall be quoting it in a paper i’m writing on Metis history and identity. Pretty cool to be quoting a distant relation for school (Louis Calihoo is my greatx5 grandfather, descended from his daughter Marie Anne that he had with his first wife Marie katis la Sekanaise.)

  85. Michel says:

    Wow ! I am Metis, i am born un Quebec, my grand mother born un Manitoba ; i am Metis, my mother she is Metis, my kokom was Metis. My ancestors are half breed; cree, Saultaux, etc. One of my ancestors is Cuthbert Grand jr. I am proud to be Metis. Is funny because when pepeol ask me “how pourcentage of blood you have?” My anwser is ; i am 100% Metis!”

  86. LÉKLÉKA says:

    Here in BC we must be descended from a fur trader and First Nations woman between 1600s and 1870s to be granted a citizenship card. We are recorded in the HBC archives and are known as ‘children of the fur trade’. Most of us did originate in the Red River region, but long before Louis Riel was born. In fact the Métis had built most major HBC Forts in BC by 1844. We Métis have been in BC since 1793. We are a distinct race that will exist forever, hence the eternity flag. We are the only mixed blood people in the world that is recognized by every level of government (David Bouchard). It has nothing to do with blood quantum. Our ancestors are usually French and/or Scottish traders who produced babies with Annishnaabe and Cree women. We were formed at that first union, and became the new people. Our 14 year old First Nations daughters were married to fur trade men, to make a good union for the HBC. Our grandmothers were language interpreters, survival experts, hunters, gatherers, bison and venison experts on skins, clothing, moccasins, midwifery, plant medicine, child bearing, canoe repair, red river cart and tipi maintenance etc…we helped advance the fur trade, which became all the major cities and roads of Canada. We were exploited and denied by both the Indigenous and the non-Indigneous. We either ‘passed’ for white and hid our ancestry,or went to residential schools along with our Indigenous cousins. We live everywhere in Canada including the North. The Red River culture is one Métis culture, but not the only one. Today mixed blood (half quantum) children are First Nations and can register for status, unless they also qualify as Métis because of their historical and relational status. Then they must choose either FN or Métis.

    • Mixed unions between fur traders and Indigenous women did not automatically produce a new culture. Far from it. A great many mixed marriages happened throughout what is now called Canada and the US, but in some of the communities that sprung up around these families, Indigenous women and their children were aggressively assimilated into French culture, such as what happened at Kaskaskia. Not necessarily the other way around. (Information about Kaskaskia here: http://apihtawikosisan.com/robert-morrissey-kaskaskia-social-network-willmaryquar-70-1-2013-1-1-1/)

      As well, Cree and Anishinaabe are matrilocal, so the all-male cast of fur trading Europeans used marriages and unions to create alliances with their wive’s people, often receiving a great deal of aid from First Nations. But “mixing” was certainly not unknown to First Nations before Contact. Unions between very distinct First Nations happened often, and there were (and still are) all sorts of ways of navigating what that meant for identity. In matrilocal First Nations, the child is raised in the mother’s culture, and will still have some connection to the father’s but that mother culture often takes precedence.

      So unless you are saying that there is something super special about European “blood” and that inter-marriage between First Nations ppls (within which exist incredibly diverse and distinct cultures) doesn’t “count” as mixing, this “mixing-as-ethnogenesis” trope doesn’t really hold up. It CAN happen. It is not inevitable.

      The Oji-Cree are an example of a post-Contact ppl that became a distinct ppl, not merely through mixing. Ojibwe and Cree ppl had intermarried before this and had not become a distinct group because of it. A specific history and shared experiences is what created a new identity for the Oji-Cree, one still very much rooted in Ojibwe and Cree cultures, but also distinct in many ways from them. So too the Métis. Mixing alone is not our site of birth. Shared experiences, a specific history rooted in a specific geographical space, are what made us a new people.

      • LÉKLÉKA says:

        I would never presume to tell another group they are not Métis if that is how they identify. I just want to identify the rigourous documentation process we must go through in BC. I have a Métis friend who had to fight for 8 years to get her card because her grandmother was Interior Salish and not from the east. We have all descended from a matriarchal line. Our culture and community is very strong and has been well established here since 1793. We have 3 communities of Anishnaubemowin speakers. I just want people to be aware that Métis in BC are thriving. So yes, shared experience of the fur trade, originating from the eastern Indigenous nations, living and migrating to the west made us a new people when we were created by that union. One of the first well documented couples from the 1680s that we use in educational programs in schools and at university includes La Blonde Richardville, a Miami-French woman who had blonde hair. She is well documented in Canada and the US. Her picture comes from the Gabriel Dumont Institute, and is a useful visual educational reference on a number of levels.

        • Is it presumption when Mohawk ask people who are not Mohawk, to not identify as Mohawk? No. It isn’t.

          Métis have the same right. This does not necessarily mean acquiring documentation from one of the provincial organizations, but it does mean holding people to account for the claims they make. If someone says they are Métis, yes, I will ask HOW they are Métis. Who are their kin? Where is their community? Etc.

          I want people to be aware that Métis is not simply the “everything else” category for people who don’t “fit” elsewhere.

          • LÉKLÉKA says:

            I agree, but I am not in the position to tell people who they are. I can only teach people what the rigorous requirements are for our citizenship cards and membership in our nation. I also tell them other Métis communities use relational and cultural criteria to decide who is Métis. We do not however issue cards to anyone that is ‘everything’ else. Rightly or wrongly we must prove our lineage. Our genealogists are very stringent. We welcome people to our cultural events who might be small ‘m’ and cannot prove who they are according to the government, if they want to identify themselves, but they do not get cards. We do hold people to account. Incidentally, I am Métis on my mother’s side and Mohawk on my father’s. I cannot prove my father’s lineage as his grandmother married out and lost her status. Everyone had died by 1982, even though my grandfather took my father by canoe to their village, he could not find anyone who remembered them. The Mohawk people have not responded so far when I request information. I guess they think I am ‘everyone else’.

          • I agree with you in terms of approach. Holding people to account is all I think we can do, that and educate people as to who the Métis are. However these two things often become conflated with “telling people who they are”, as though any discussion of our identity is persecution. This is ridiculous, and something I encounter way too frequently.

  87. Tristan says:

    To get my Metis status card all I had to do was trace my Metis linage back to the hudsons bay company.

    • No such thing as a Métis status card. What you’ve got is a membership card in a state-recognized provincial or federal organization, or a membership card with an org that is not recognized by the state.

  88. Stephen D Green says:

    I find your historical narratives incredibly interesting and instructive. I think most Canadians really have complete blank spot when it comes to who the Metis (can’t do the thing at the top of the e), and their history. We learn of Louis Riel, but that is about it, which, if I remember occurred in Manitoba. I was completely unaware of the Alberta, BC, and US Washington State connections. I may be totally wrong, but possibly there are/may be connections to US States of Montana and adjoining US States.

    What confuses most, I would suggest, is what we learned, certainly in my schooling some 60 years ago, that Metis were categorized from the simple inter-marriage of French Fur Traders( there may be a few British in the mix as well) and whatever First Nations. We also learned that the British Government before 1867, and the Canadian Government at 1867, and after(I may be wrong here) 1982, simply ‘assumed’ that those of Aboriginal decent who married Europeans (the predominant ones) were somehow part of the greater Colonial apparatus. It suddenly struck me, that given the preference to ‘male’ dominance over females at the time, and in some cases still does, what is the status of a Aboriginal Male who married a European female, as such might affect or justify a Metis status. I must support your assertion that to be a Metis, is a complex issue. Indeed the Metis National Organization has significant demands for genealogical evidence requirements to substantiate registration. A complex issue indeed.

    Never the less, in the 21st Canadian Society it is good to see movement on this issue. As you have stated in other narratives, the support from both the Federal and Provincial governments, indeed Municipal will be subject to negotiations, which, will no doubt be exhaustive, costly, and subject to potential ongoing conflict. My personal preference that ALL of us, whether First Nations, Metis, Chinese, East Indian, African, and who ever else be treated the same throughout Canada in a manner of equality and ONE community of peoples provided all the necessaries of life support; education, health services, standard of living etc.. I am not yet certain that is possible, but, I guess I am allowed to dream.

    I frankly do not know what the overall solution is, but my first sense is the abolition of the Indian Act, the pros and cons, are difficult to engage.

    Oh yes, I am a Caucasian, a white male, living in British Columbia, seventy years of age, experienced the rich First Nations traditions and way of life when young ( spent Summers with the Nootka FN)(who no longer exist), but also saddened that in this day and age, we of what ever background, race or colour, and location, can not be treated equally. My world revolve around a family that landed in the Mayflower, came to Canada, settled in Woodstock Ontario, so long ago, and recent British immigrants in 1918, who settled in Alberta then BC. But we are ALL humans, and we ALL want the best for each other. Why, I ask can we not do that?

    Thank you for instructive narratives(which are quite outstanding), the defence of your peoples, and a much greater understanding of the issues.

    Stephen D Green
    North Saannich, BC.

    • LÉKLÉKA says:

      We are neighbours Stephen! I totally agree that privilege should be extended to everyone. One group does not have to be deprived because another is privileged. We should all extend kindness and decency to our neighbours. There is enough to go around. Everyone is Indigenous to somewhere in the world. The three groups of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) happen to be Indigenous to Turtle Island, since before Canada and the USA existed, since time immemorial. We did not travel here. That includes the Métis who had European Fur Traders marry into their families since the 1600s. Those who have immigrated and live on our shared land can be friends and allies if they choose to. That is what truth and reconciliation means. However, there must be truth recognized about the history of how Canada came into being, before we can move forward together in healing. That is why all BC teachers must now take Indigenous education as a mandatory part of their degree. It is a mandatory part of the curriculum. I am happy to report schools districts and teachers in both public and independent schools are embracing it. The new generation in school is learning the truth. The young people that just graduated are shocked that they have not learned the truth, until university. That will be rectified in the next decade. We can hope and dream! Incidentally the Nootka are properly named Nuu-Chah-nulth, and very much do exist.

  89. Kepin says:

    I think your description of métis vs Métis as ethnic versus cultural is problematic.

    The first one, as you properly describe, has to do with interracial parenting and nothing else. It has nothing to do with “ethnicity,” unless you are using a definition of ethnicity which I am not familiar with. In Québec, le “métissage” refers to miscegenation of any races. A child born of Black and White parents may thus be called “métis” in French as well – it is not restricted to children of Indian and White parenting. In other words, métis with a small m is a RACIAL term, not ethnic. It can be compared to words such as mulatto, sambo, halfbreed, and other racial terms that refer to miscegenation.

    Métis with a big M is an ETHNIC term. Ethnicity referring to a group of people sharing a common national and/or cultural origin. In other words, the Métis became a new ethnic group that is separate, but related to, their composite parts. Cree people form an ethnicity, French people as well. This is the sense that best describes Métis – as a group of people comparable to other ethnic terms such as Cree, French, English, Scottish, Chinese, etc. In this sense it is not restrained by racial categories. That is why a person may be Métis with very little Indian ancestry or very little White ancestry.

    • This is a really good distinction, when I first wrote this I definitely conflated race with ethnicity. At some point I will edit, given that this piece is doing the rounds again! kinanâskomitin.

  90. Mod says:

    An excellent piece and very interesting (though sometimes infuriating) comments. I keep coming across your blog as I make some final decisions about a novel I’m editing. Today I was researching the term “halfbreed” as a word slung in insults. I have some Metis friends (I sure wish I knew how to make the accented E on my keyboard) but I hesitate to ask them about whether this word was ever slung at them. That seems very personal and would be hurtful to remember. I think the comments and your post have given me my answer. Thanks!

    Since you say you might edit this piece I thought I’d point out that a couple of your links are dead, specifically where you refer to Settlement Métis and Smokey Lake Métis. I hope that’s helpful.

    I’m sure I’ll be back.

    • Half-breed was the term often used for Scots Métis, and it continued to be used to describe various Métis people right up until my mother’s generation. You’ll still hear it being used these days but usually in a sarcastic manner by Métis people themselves, sort of a reclamation of a slur.

      • Shaun says:

        Well, personally, I feel the term halfbreed is non offensive and mostly because that’s who I am and what my kokum calls us! I don’t feel as though I have to prove to anybody where my ancestors came from because I know where they came from which is the red river settlement in Winnipeg. What bothers me is that I cannot hunt or fish in my home which is cochin Saskatchewan. Personnaly, I hunt or fish where I want but never been caught! What happens when I’m out teaching my boys how to hunt and the officers come arrest me!

        • Canada puts the onus on us completely to prove we have rights, rather than the onus being where it should be…on Canada to prove we have none! Criminalizing self-sufficiency. Very frustrating.

  91. Shaun says:

    I have pictures of my grandparents living on the allowance and hunting and fishing everywhere from turtle lake to the northern states. Does that mean my right to feed my family and work extend wherever? Cause it should

  92. Gavin112233 says:

    My dad was Metis from Sasquachwan My mom is from dunezza and i was born status i like learning about metis history

  93. gavin1122 says:

    this is neat about metis history my dad is metis and i was told i am not even thou i am a qourter or almost half my mother is aboriginal from a group called the beaver group i was born status i am still learning my first languige an i was told i speak with a sort of metis accent with french in my and engish an aboriginal i mostly grew up on a rez and alot of racism just of my green eyes my dad metis comes out of sasquatchwan green lake the rez is from bc i might have cousins from sasquatchwan i am also related to all the beaver group in bc.

  94. Florence Reynolds says:

    My Dad always told me that his father was Metis and his mother was full-blood Nipmuc (derived from Blackfoot) Indian and was born in Otter River, MA (USA) I have tried to trace my roots and cannot get any information on my father’s mother or maternal grandmother, but have a photo of his paternal grandmother whose name was Marie Riel and was born somewhere between 1840-50. She married Joseph Despres who was my GGgrandfather. If this is true, I was surprised to learn that my DNA test from Ancestry.com showed mostly Irish heritage and no trace of Native American.
    Any thoughts? Is it also be true that Louis Riel was originally from Ireland?

    • LÉKLÉKA says:

      https://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/biographical/r/riel_louis.pdf Here is the Hudson’s Bay Company record of Louis Riel’s father and mother. They were not Native American (a term applied to Indigenous Americans). They were European fur trader ( middleman in the canoe) and First Nations (Métis). Mother’s name, Lagimodiere, is French, not sure of her ancestry. Louis did not have any direct descendants as his children died before they had children. You would need to know which of his siblings you descend from to see who they married. You can look them up if you know their last name, at HBC Archives biographical sheets online. It is connected to the link above. That may be where the Irish came in, if the ancestry test is accurate.

    • Patricia says:

      I did a google search and this came up right at the top: https://www.geni.com/people/Marie-Alphonsine-Riel/6000000008633499467

      Marie Alphonsine Riel
      Birthdate: 1846
      Death: Died 1928
      Immediate Family:

      Daughter of Ignace Riel and Charlotte Caille
      Wife of Joseph N. Despres

      You are luckier than I am with my Marie Couchie GGGrandmother. 🙂

  95. Karen says:

    Many here are lucky to know who and where they came from as full or metis. It is not fair to the others who only know by family word of mouth. Many of us were robbed of our identities always caused by the political governments of both Canada and US. Because I search for the truth in regards to metis does not mean I seek entitlement but rather learn the ways I was robbed from. The sad truth is I still see anger from both sides. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, research and website.

    • Having one’s identity hidden is an injustice, yes. However, never having that identity hidden, or the possibility of having it hidden is not a privilege. For those who were always known as Indigenous, that meant constant state oppression, and this fact is often left out when people say “it’s not fair” that some know their family lines and others don’t. What isn’t fair is that for those families who were able to be hidden (i.e. were able to pass as White), life was much safer than it was for those who cannot hide.

  96. Jody says:

    A very interesting read. My great grandmother, Mary Fraser is Metis Cree by our research. She married a Lincoln (yes, related to Abraham via his uncle). I’m learning more and more. We only recently (last few years or so) found which “tribe” we belong to. I understand Grandma Mary was originally from Canada, but married in USA
    One if my cousins owns a business out on the NW corner of Washington State near the Makaw Tribe…when we found this part if our heritage, my cousins daughter was being teased at “Makaw Days” because she wasn’t Indian…daughter said something like “….I’m just as Indian as most of you (blond, blue eyes)…” They asked which tribe. When she responded “Metis Cree…” They kind if backed off and away. I asked her “why?” She said that her limited research indicated that our tribe was known as a very “fierce” group….if true, I guess the folk lore follows.

  97. Cory says:

    Thanks for the article!

  98. âpihtawikosisân speaking of essential reading: have you read Clearing the Plains? Heavy, but necessary read. Should be mandatory reading in schools. Keep up the good work!

  99. Kathy says:

    That pic u posted is my great grandparents!

  100. Pingback: So What You Re Saying Is We Re Dating

  101. robert bilodeau says:

    my grandfather was napoleon dupras born 1899 i believe he was metis can i get history of the family

  102. Susan says:

    Your article has helped me think about my own family. a while ago I began researching my family history. There are historical documents showing my family’s history in Canada back to the 1640’s. I am a Beaubien through my maternal grandmother. The name was originally Trottier dit Beaubien. I found out that our European family members became interconnected with First Nations families as soon as they arrived. The history shows interdependence and intermarriage over many generations. This was not really talked about in my branch of the family – little hints but always minimized by denial that came from shame, ignorance and fear … one of the effects of systemic racism. What my review of history taught me is that there are legal definitions of race; academic discussions about culture & ethnicity; and then there is the simple definition of being a large, extended family. In different generations First Nations and non-Native family members blended and our familial connection is what matters. Legally an individual’s status is Metis if direct descendency can be proven …. But how is ethnicity defined if descendency is indirect? eg. Some generations skip and/or over many generations extended family members are First Nations, such as aunts, uncles and cousins? Intermarriage, over multiple generations, means that if the diversity we bring into our familes through marriage is respected, the result can be strong, committed family connections. As our family grows we merge ….. Perhaps this is the most innocent and genuine explanation for the origins of the term halfbreed, which has been used hurtfully for so many years? Families evolve. Kinship is a more respectful word for this. Kinship is one of the greatest things about being in a family. It gives us a sense of belonging, and ideally identity, acceptance & security. I still have more thinking to do but thank you for your article which challenges all of us to broaden our thinking. My personal goal is to achieve more clarity about who I am and how my family shaped my identity. I hope to pass this clarity on to my three children.

    • leahoeltjen says:

      I recognize this comment is a few months old at this point, and that what I’m about to ask isn’t directly on topic, but I have been researching Trottiers in search of an relative who bears the surname but is registered as a woman of colour (i.e. black/white) in French-Canadian records.

      Basically, I am Anglophone, and I’m trying to understand how she obtained the surname – either by her or her ancestor being brought from presumably Haiti by the Trottier merchant family as a free person (of the “gens de couleur libres”) or as a slave, or as the product of a relationship between a Trottier and an unrecorded black woman. I don’t have a great grasp of French, making records hard to parse.

      Anyway, the reason I’m responding to your reply is that there was a Trottier dit Beaubien who lived quite near to this mysterious Trottier-of-colour of mine in the same general time (the mid-late 1700s), and I’m trying to find any potential records that may link the two, like slaves he may have owned, or any ‘enfants naturel’ that may have come about that would lead to a woman of colour bearing the surname, or even family stories, at this point. I don’t believe she is Metis, however, as were that the case she would have been recorded as ‘sauvagesse’, ‘amerindienne,’ or ‘panis’. She was distinctly recorded as ‘femme du couleur’. It’s all quite peculiar.

      In your own family’s genealogical research, have you happened to come across any records, like sales records, ship passenger records, and so on, that you may be able to forward on to me? Or links to good places to find (free) records? Or even just stories that may help me put together the puzzle of this mysterious ancestor of mine?

      I mean, there’s a pretty big chance we’re talking about entirely different lines of Trottier dit Beaubiens, so I’m not expecting you to have much for me (and please don’t feel obligated), but.. she’s eluded me for a long, long time, and I’ll try anything to track her down at this point.

  103. indigo lohnes says:

    Hi, this was an interesting article. Thanks for writing it. I came here cause I recently found out through ancestry.com about my family history.
    I am a member of my Grandmothers reservation, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and was able to trace tons my ancestors back to the Red River Settlement. I heard about the Metis somehow and watched a few videos about them on Youtube. I did wondered if because my Grandma was half French-Canadian and half Chippewa if she was somehow related to the Metis and it turns out that we are.
    She never claimed this title because we live in the US. But it was really cool to find out the history and to see that the Metis now have recognition as a nation.
    For me it would be interesting if I ever went to Canada to see some of the people and cultural gatherings that they may have. I thought it was cool cause I like jigging and bluegrass fiddle style music and thought it was cool (even though in the US, some may consider that hokey) but I don’t like country at all even though they are similar.
    I also like Native American music too. It seemed cool to find the Metis culture cause I felt like l liked it even before I knew that it existed. It’s like it was part of my identity and what I like even though I didn’t know it. Kinda special.

  104. Mary Jane McLeod says:

    Miigwetch for sharing and identity is defined by who you are not what you are ….

  105. Lord Keith Hollobone says:

    Now I consider myself Metis. My father was Chippewa and my mother English and they met during the second world war. Since I was told by my mother that the man I called ‘dad’ wasn’t my father, I have studied and I now live a simpler life owing to being proud of my heritage. You can’t change what you are so I live a life full of the pride of being what I am. I’m not really half this or half that, I am me and a proud me too.

  106. Micaela Gauthier says:

    As soon as I saw the very top of the”Halfbreed” print, I knew instantly what it was. I’m very familiar with that particular piece of art. Very familiar indeed. You see, Richard Gauthier is actually my father, and he has a full size copy of the print hanging in his home, in Kelowna, of which I am a frequent visitor (he and my mom divorced when I was really young). It’s interesting to run across it here,as I never really thought I’d come across it on the Internet. And now I have.

    • Micaela Gauthier says:

      And the kinda awful, kind “white privilege” type thing about me is that because my mom’s a white Canadian, of English and Scottish descent, both my brother and I can pass ourselves off as “white people”, especially in the winter as we get pretty pale (Mom’s always said that I myself am “largely of English and Scottish descent and like a quarter or an eighth Métis.” Which is just annoying, even though it’s probably true.) We’re Métis, though, just as much as Richard Gauthier, our biological dad, is. I own it and am proud of it and recently have become loud about it, my brother owns it and is quieter about it. So I kind of feel sometimes like saying I’m Métis is halfway to a lie, since i’m white passing and actually look more white then Métis..
      *sigh*

  107. shelbyteablog says:

    Hahaha! I actually was drinking eggnog as I read this.

    Thank you for this informative article. I am in the same boat as Micaela who commented just before me. Furthermore my family did not embrace Metis culture (except perhaps hunting, and fishing) and I didn’t know I was Métis until this year. I am 25 years-old! This is because this was the year that the government changed the definition of Métis, and allowed people who knew of their ancestry through oral communication.

    It was always rumoured in my family that we were, and I know my great uncles and aunts were fighting my whole life to be recognized by the Canadian government as Metis. Even so, I never really believed it, as we are all white passing, and have been for at least four generations (me, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents.) My mother’s side is completely white- so what I am getting at is that I grew up in white Canadian culture… now all of the sudden it turns out (because of a government document) that I belong to a very rare and special family. One that I feel deserves protection and recognition.

    White privilege showing, I do not know about the arguments that you discussed in your article because I never felt the need to research them before… Every email I get from the Elder Métis of our family is signed in capitol letters “WE MUST ALWAYS OWN OURSELVES” and I understand the significance of this if we are to protect our culture… heck, it was almost lost from me with my grandparent’s generation.

    I am proud of being (or becoming?) Métis, and I am excited to learn what that means. I am also interested to learn how to be a good ally to First Nations and Métis people who don’t have white privilege, and how/if it changes now that I identify as Métis.

    I will look up the resources suggested in this article. Thanks again for the insight.

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