The mythology of Métissage: Settler moves to innocence

In 2009, John Ralston Saul tried to whip together a cohesive Canadian identity in A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada, using the Métis as a synecdoche for ‘a unique people’ (i.e. Canadians). He argued that Canadian culture was less a result of English and French Enlightenment values, and more of a result of interactions between English and French newcomers and First Nations. To call this a rosy reading of history is an understatement as vast as the Mariana Trench. The goal of this approach is to encourage Canadians to “learn who they truly are” via reconnecting with their Indigenous roots. Real, or very much imagined.

More perplexing, to those of us who are actually Métis, was the choice to discuss Canada as a “Métis Nation”. Why us? Why the Métis, as opposed to say, the Cree, or the Mohawk, or the Inuit? Why is our nation so attractive to those seeking an Indigenous identity? I’ve previously discussed some of the issues with defining Métis identity, but it basically boils down to the fact that for many people, Métis = mixed. After all, that’s what the French word means, and that is almost exclusively how we are discussed in the mainstream; as a hybrid people formed from the unions between European men and First Nations women. Just us. Apparently we’re the only ones who married out, interbred, mixed. So anyone with a single Indigenous ancestor 300 years ago is mixed, thus Métis.

I hope it is obvious that this claim is ridiculous. Unfortunately, this is precisely the kind of mythology discussed by E. Tuck and K.W. Yang as a “move to innocence”, in their must read piece Decolonization is Not a Metaphor:

In this move to innocence, settlers locate or invent a long-lost ancestor who is rumored to have had “Indian blood,” and they use this claim to mark themselves as blameless in the attempted eradications of Indigenous peoples…
…[it] is a settler move to innocence because it is an attempt to deflect a settler identity, while continuing to enjoy settler privilege and occupying stolen land.

While there are certainly people claiming a First Nations identity based on blood myths (long-lost or imagined ancestors), it tends to be a less common phenomenon in Canada than is perhaps the case in the United States. Part of that, at least where I come from, is a deep-rooted racism against Indigenous peoples that makes being Indigenous in no way an enviable or sought-out identity.

Since moving to eastern Canada however, I have seen that deep-rooted racism expressed in forms that encourage stereotypes of noble savagery, and claiming Indigenous identity is much more hip, and edgy. Perhaps it is a rural versus urban phenomenon?  In any case it is still difficult to claim one is Mohawk, or Mi’gmaq or Cree without a person from one of those First Nations asking pointed questions about relatives and community. Much easier to avoid a fuss and simply claim that any tiny scrap of Indigenous blood (again real or imagined) makes one “Métis”.  In this way, our nation becomes a bin for all those who are “not otherwise defined”.

The problem with this is of course the fact that many of the people claiming us, are not claimed BY us. Self-identification is not enough. As an Indigenous people, the Métis have the right to define our own kinships, without having anyone who wishes come along and successfully claim kinship with us. We are often accused of furthering colonial goals by speaking out about the misuse of our identity as a “catch-all” for those who otherwise find themselves without a clear Indigenous label. Oddly enough, these same accusations are rarely hurled at First Nations who also have the right to question those who self-identify as being part of their nation. Feel free to claim that having a Mohawk ancestor 300 years ago makes you Mohawk. See how far that takes you.

Recently, the mythology of Métissage has reared its head in a very aggressive way in Quebec. While the flavour is different than Saul’s claims (more maple syrup, obviously), the story is roughly the same. Some people, merely by feeling more Indigenous than French, want to identify as Métis. Unique. Not French (European), but something else. Something that belongs here. Something that does not engender guilt. Something that washes away Quebec’s history of colonialism while reinforcing Quebec’s own experiences as a colonized people.

In fact, Roy Dupuis, Carole Poliquin and Yvan Dubuc have an entire film about the Québécois-as-Métis called L’empreinte. In interviews, Dupuis has stressed that the French did not come to Quebec as conquerors, and that they were charmed by the “sexual liberation of les sauvagesses” (Indigenous women). Much like Ralston Saul, Dubuc and Poliquin claim that Quebec’s tolerance for differences (Islamophobia and a penchant for continuing to champion the use of blackface aside) consensus seeking, and love of nature all come from the mixture of cultures; European and First Nations.

All of that would be lovely to acknowledge, true or not, if it weren’t for the way in which such claims are used to claim the Québécois as Indigenous. Yes please, stop viewing Indigenous peoples as “the other”, but do not replace that with “we are all Indigenous”.

“Si les Français sont nos cousins, les Amérindiens sont nos frères.” says Dupuis (if the French are our cousins, the Indians are our brothers).

Quels seraient les avantages de cette redéfinition? Énormes, croient-ils. « Comme le dit Denys Delâge dans le film, reconnaître cet héritage voudrait dire que notre histoire n’a pas commencé avec l’arrivée de Champlain, mais il y a 12 000 ans, dit Roy Dupuis.

(What would advantages of such a redefinition be? They believe them to be enormous. “As Denys Delâge said in the film, recognizing this heritage means our history did not begin with the arrival of Champlain, but rather is 12,000 years old!” says Roy Dupuis.)

Others are not so quick to jump on the bandwagon of imagined Québécois Indigeneity. Gérard Bouchard points out the obvious; that Indigenous communities in Quebec are in general far removed from where the Québécois live/lived, that the Roman Catholic Church always discouraged mixed unions with First Nations, and that First Nations genes represent a mere 1% of the Quebec genetic makeup.

And yet, the myth of Métissage holds a powerful sway. As Dupuis says in this trailer:

“When I arrived in America, I was French, but before long, I no longer lived nor thought like a Frenchman … I was Canadian, from the Iroquois name Kanata. My tribe has given itself other names since — French Canadian, then Québécois …”

In another interview, Dupuis was asked, “Are you more French or Indian?” To which he replied, “Indian”.

Don’t get me wrong. Dupuis is just one more manifestation of a burning desire to claim Indigeneity, and is hardly the only person involved in furthering such claims. However, this move to innocence is far from harmless. A great deal of time, effort and research is being put into claiming Indigeneity via very strained genealogical ties (for example, claiming a Mi’kmaq Métis ancestor from 1684) when that effort could much better be extended in developing healthy relationships with existing Indigenous communities both in Quebec, and throughout Canada.

“Becoming the Native” is ongoing colonialism and erasure of Indigenous peoples, and the fact that this is being done more and more through the lens of Métissage is of particular concern to Métis people. We are being used as a wedge to undermine Indigenous rights and existence (including our own!). It is no wonder then that we are under attack by “scholars” and “historians” who insist that we cannot define who is Métis; that we must make room for communities who wish to self-identify as Métis.

The stakes are high. If enough people attain “Métishood”, it is not inconceivable that the population of “Métis” could outnumber First Nations and Inuit combined, and make us a driving political force when it comes to Indigenous issues. Of course, the agenda would be driven by Settler, not Indigenous needs as we too would become a minority within our own nation. Further, the claiming of Indigeneity by Settler populations means circumventing any need to engage in decolonization.

So expect this topic to pop up again, because one thing is clear: Canadian (or Quebec) myth-making is far from over.

Want to learn more? Darryl Leroux unpacks this myth-making very clearly here:

I also put together a storify of my live tweets as I listened to the above talk:

Share this: Google+ Reddit Print

Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , ,

73 Responses to The mythology of Métissage: Settler moves to innocence

  1. Thank you for a thoughtful and thought provoking post. While it has always been my understanding that Metis are self identifying it has also been my understanding that this self identification must be accepte4d by other Metis. You have pointed out that many of those who self identify forget or ignore the other half of the equation

  2. nmr says:

    Wow- this is hugely thought provoking.
    1. Claiming ‘minority’ status in order to undermine minority rights.
    2. I kept thinking, again and again, what about that Metis woman who was raped by a European man? There was no consent, no marriage, and what is the status of that kid? Can you ‘lose’ your innocence if one of your ancestors was a serial rapist?

  3. Pingback: Louis Riel Day, a reflection | "As I mused, the fire burned"

  4. sameo416 says:

    Thanks for a very thoughtful reflection.

  5. sal says:

    Hello âpihtawikosisân. Would you be interested in speaking at a public conversation-style event about myth-making and “move to innocence”? Thanks,sal

  6. Mike O says:

    While I agree with your concerns completely – the erasure of métis identity is very problematic – I hope the author realizes that identifying as “métis” is often just a safe quick explanation for non-status aboriginal peoples rather than the elaborate explanation of what little slot we fall into in society.

    I am half NunatuKavummiut, and yet since I was raised outside of the culture I feel insecure in claiming the NunatuKavummiut identity as my own – when asked I usually respond that I am half-blood, or, when asked in French, I respond métis. It’s an easy response, a safe one, and I’m not sure what else I could be expected to say in such situations.

    This is why we have competing organizations like the Métis National Council who want to see métis strictly defined as those coming from existing métis communities, and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples who seek to regroup the métis with those who, like me, don’t fit neatly into the categories determined by status. There’s a fine line to be balanced between protecting the métis as a people and not generalizing them to all half-bloods, and not excluding non-status aboriginals entirely.

    • No one but the Métis are set up as walking such a ‘fine line’ which, tread hastily would result in the exclusion of non-Status people. Why is it our singular responsibility to be the identity that one goes to when there is confusion as to which other identity fits? Is this because we are not defined under the Indian Act?

      Why is it so difficult for some people to identify with their specific Indigenous blood, if they are half, or a quarter? Plenty of people do this all the time, and rightly so. If you are half or a quarter Cree, then the identity you seek lies with the Cree, not the Métis.

      It might be easier, as someone who is half Indigenous, to explain that this makes them Métis, but is ease of explanation to the uninformed really the argument people want to use? It’s also easier to use the names that were given to Indigenous peoples, rather than assert our own names (nêhiyaw versus Cree, etc) and yet there is a growing movement to stop making it easy, and to identify ourselves our way, in our languages.

      Non-Status is already a category that exists. Non-Status Indians are still Indigenous. There is no need to uncheck that box in favour of Métis. Feeling insecure about claiming your own identity does not mean ours is up for grabs.

      • I would never consider denying anyone who can proove their ancestry in a gesture I relate tomlateral violence. My greatgrandmother (1882-1981), my grandfather (1915-1979), my father and I always identified as Métis. Baptismal records from my parish mentions Mechif as far back as 1807. The Census of 1851 Mentions Métis in column 2 (Profession, State or Occupation). Why is this empirical evidence and oral history dismissed?

        • Respectfully, did you read the entire piece? There are a growing number of people who wish to claim that by virtue of being Quebecois, (or as Saul did, by being Canadian), one is de facto Indigenous via Métissage.

          So I turn this around. Why would you ever consider validating the claims of those who have, at best, 1% First Nations blood via connections made 10 generations ago? Who lived in societies where the assimilation (not the hybridity) of Indigenous cultures was enforced by Church and state? Who have participated in, and benefited from the dispossession of Indigenous peoples until they suddenly decided that perhaps it would be really cool to identify as Indigenous? Because these are precisely the kind of claims I am discussing. People grasping at straws, who, having formed no relationships with existing Indigenous communities, wish to claim Indigeneity for themselves through desperate geneological reaching for a long lost ancestor 10 generations ago…all to escape having to face complicity in colonization. And frankly, escaping any need to acknowledge, know, or speak to Indigenous peoples on whose territory they reside.

          I have received a plethora of emails through my contact page of people telling me their specific family story and asking (or in some cases demanding) that I recognize them as Métis. I’m simply never going to respond to those kinds of requests. If people aren’t operating from a position of complete blood-myth, then let them work out their identity issues; this piece is not addressing that process. It is directed very firmly at Settlers who wish to “become Native” and who will re-write history and tell themselves all sorts of stories to justify doing so.

          • I did read your piece thoroughly. And re-read it again to try to dispell the sadness that it created. I am not scholarly about Indigenous matters, and looked up to your knowledge for quite some time.
            My perception is that your post, quoting Mr. Bouchard, swept my identity by its generalization of Quebec’s.
            There are many lived experiences, such as the Church records that removed any mention of Indigenous identity at first generation or worse, leaving the woman’s name completely blank, or baptising her with a European name immediately prior to marriage, which may cause people in Quebec who are seeking the recognition of their métis “state” to have to go back 10 generations. In no way does this make us with less than 1% blood quantified – it just took that far back to get empirical proof. How Indigenous am I? I don’t know the answer either. But I certainly grew up with traditions and customs and a Métis identity which may be similar to yours. It would have been much more convivial to speak to you of my lived experiences and yours over a nice cup of tea.

          • Again, I’d ask you to look beyond your own experiences in this case and seriously look at how claims of Métissage ARE being abused wholesale by people seeking to “become Native”. Which again, is the focus of this article. It is, and will always be ridiculous for the Quebecois, or Canadians en masse to claim to be Métis when history is actually fairly clear that such a blending did not take place to the extent necessary for such a thing to ever be true.

            I am not going to comment one way or the other on whether Métis communities legitimately exist in Quebec or elsewhere in the East. But I most emphatically will resist the wholesale co-option of our identity by people who make ZERO effort to connect to any existing Indigenous community in favour of inventing their own. If these two things cannot be separated then I honestly do not know what to say to such a thing.

  7. “Dupuis has stressed that the French did not come to Quebec as conquerors, and that they were charmed by the “sexual liberation of les sauvagesses” (Indigenous women).

    I love they way ‘they’ always distort the truth. They were brutal and ruthless as they set about killing, raping, stealing and ‘settling the land’. âpihtawikosisân I do so admire you pointing out ‘their’ continued agenda..

  8. Houston Bridges says:

    I appreciate your insight and ability to articulate your position. About ten years ago, I became involved with a group of people who were attempting to define all multi-racial groups in the U.S. as Redbone, a word that has historically been applied to my family group in S.W. Louisiana and S.E. Texas. They lost interest in us when we wouldn’t extend our understanding of the word to include anyone not kin to us. Your situation is similar. Others seek to misappropriate a word that has a distinct history to prove a point that is antithetical to your experience. I stand with you.

  9. Diane says:

    It is only a tiny drop of water in an ocean, but I know at least one person who left the country, many decades ago, simply because she wasn’t indian – me! 🙂

  10. Seb says:

    Well, I personally find that this attitude of policing “Metis identity” is getting out of hand, hardening itself everyday.

    I agree that there are problems with anything that touches upon Métis identities, and that we have to be receptive to our different ways of understanding “Metis” identities. But here there are a few straw men in need to be challenged (especially that the movie has not even be out yet).

    For the record, I did see the movie and have addressed a comment about it ( And for the record, Dupuis doesn’t not claim to be a “Metis,” he claims to be a “Quebecois” with an Aboriginal heritage he wishes to honor. Sometimes he says stuff that is weird, I must admit. But I have seen worst out there, so… Ok a few points i wish to share with you Chelsea, in an ultimate attempt.

    First, we have to be aware that the word “Metis” in French, and for a person/communities, was never just about one’s biological heritage: it ALSO referred to a way of seeing and understanding the world, linked with that dual-heritage, both back in 1867 lumped under the label of “Sauvage” (irrespective of blood quantum at first, more along the description of lifestyle akin to Indians), and, more close to us, as acknowledged by Harry Daniels himself in 1994, RCAP, volume 4 Indexed letter.

    My point: to exploit a re-imagined rift between “cultural/national Métis” and “only-biological ones” (the latter somehow inferiors and having no culture) is to accept the premise of the racialized discourse of metisness from the get go. It is not to fight it, but t make it grow. Now, to accuse the “only-biological metis” to be “fake” is an extreme form of colonial violence and internalization, if you ask me; reproducing a pattern I have seen across the board for so many different reasons, in so many communities plagued by colonialism and the question of Indigenous resurgence (among others the non-statust women regaining status often against the will of members form the communities). We can do better than this I am sure. There is no need to call other cultures and communities “soup kitchen,” when we remember that not long ago some First Nation folks were quick to dismiss the Red River Metis along similar insults. Make sense?

    Second, we have to know that the account of Gerard Bouchard hailed above is based on Church records, which are reputed for their assimilative practices regarding all presence of indigeneity. So we have to be careful. And we also ought to know that there is a clear political motive behind Bouchard’s denial of the importance of Metis elements in Kebec’s as well (his separatist conviction and nationalism as pure Quebecois among other things). Most brutally, Bouchard is vouching for a 1% (whatever that statistic means) of Indian blood as an argument, going back to good’ol blood quantum to illustrate the weakness of the Kebecois’ claim toward cultural metissage (i wonder how the math would be for St-Boniface, in contrast). Don’t forget, they are huge interests at play in Quebec to make Kebecois believe that they are purely French, and them being metis or not, doesn’t stop a number of peoples in Quebec to claim that they were better colonizers than the British (which I also challenge on other fronts). Bouchard is not someone I would be proud of quoting on this personally.

    Third, we are finding increasing evidences, for example the riots of Paspebiac in 1886, where Metis acadians are described as “Métis” (that’s right!) and as a “distinct community” from the French and the Anglo (see Morning Chronicle, Feb 18 1886), that challenges the fact that Métis in the old days or in French would only mean a “racial allusion” (although it was part of it). We also find mentions of “Bois-Brulé” deep in Quebec, remnant of Falcon’s song in the West. I see no reason why the (re)emergence of the “Metis Nation” out West should prevent, in any ways or shapes, the effort of other descendants of Bois-Brulés/Halfbreed/Métis to organize themselves and celebrate their particular culture, especially if they still speak French and used/use the term métis to best understand themselves. As we all deal on a distinct legal basis with Ottawa, and its court system, I see no big fuss on this point (although I do have issues with us being forced in court, that been said). In fact, that whole name-guarding, to me, is very strange at best. In this, I would follow RCAP recommendation that we all need to be more precise about what type of Metis heritage we are claiming. From there, I believe there is no need to deny other peoples’ cultural interpretation of their metissage or French-Indian cultures. If there are, please explained to me.

    Fourth, there is an undeniable connection between a segment of the French first settling population and Indigenous nations, historically that is, who have created communities of French-Indians all over North America: this is a well documented fact (see Louise Seymour Houghton, our Debt to the Red Men, 1919, who described the American Métis). Was it because French were inherently better than others, or due to specific circumstances leading a number of Frenchman to escape the Colony? To each its answer I guess. All we know, is that many French-Indian distinct communities did exist via sometimes different names, sometimes Metchis–even in Red River itself, where no cultural or even naming homogeneity existed to the degree that is now claimed, even during Riel’s time (which is why he had to work so hard).

    This account of metis plurality is not to say that the Assiniboia Métis, or the Manitoba Metis, or the Plain Métis did not consolidate a distinct “Nation,” which ought to be respected due to its specific history, rights, gains and even (tabula rasa) culture; but it is to ask a similar form of respect for the sake of other Metis/French-Indian communities that experience their “métis” culture sometimes differently: who do not wish to be Red River Metis, but rather themselves. On that note, If some Kebecois are reconnecting with their indigenous heritage, this, for me, has to be followed by a political re-reducation of what this could potentially entail: this is where it gets interesting to me. But if it is casted as a new form of entitlement, then, yes, I will fight this with all my might. I suspect I will do a little bit of both…

    But for now, more importantly, it appears that Central, Eastern, Northern and Western Metis communities are all stuck with Powley testing, which, by the way, has refused in Hirsekorn 2013 the notion of “Metis Nation” as the basis of a “historical community”. Sadly, not only the Easterners are getting ejected by Powley… So personally, I believe we have bigger fish to fry in terms of the survival of Metis and French-Indian cultures out there than all this in-fighting among the so-called “mixed-blood” and the fetichization of “Metis” cultural or national purity, which can also lead to very big problems.

    All in all, I wish we can get to a respectful tone in our exchanges over this. I would gladly accept a truce with some folks, when proper respect is granted to the other French-Indian historical communities that related both historically, culturally and linguistically to different metis heritages. Meanwhile, I guess I will wait on the sidelines for this stuff to hopefully cool down. Thank you. Merci. Migwech.

    • Margaret Clarke says:

      I want to comment on so much of what you have asserted, but let me just reply to your words about the Powley test. Read the Supreme Court decision. It clearly says that the Powley decision does not stand. It is deemed too specific because of the part – still being on the group’s home territory.
      The Hirsekorn decision needs to be seen in the context of Alberta politics and the Powley decision. The Alberta government at that time was refusing to accept the existence of all Metis except those living in the Metis settlements in norther Alberta. The Alberta Metis are descended from the Plains Metis, who claimed (non-exclusively) and used the territory from the Red River to the Rockies. Because we do not fit the Powley test but have 8 or more generations of Metis to Metis marriage and living in the same culture, they would deny our identity? Deny it all they want. It is.

      • Oooh well…two things here. The Supreme Court decisions in Daniels did not strike down the Powley test. It struck the last part “community acceptance” and ONLY in the context of s.912(24) of the Constitution. That section merely addresses who has legislative authority, the provinces or the feds. The court explicitly reserved community acceptance for s.35 rights claims which are collective in nature. Bit odd, but there you go.

        Second thing…many Alberta Métis outside the Settlements do meet the Powley test. St.Albert, Lac Ste. Anne, Smoky Lake…there are many historic Métis communities in Alberta that meet the Powley test.

  11. Myengun says:

    It must be nice to be part of a family that didn’t try to conceal your heritage, like mine. As a result, ties to tradition, teachings and family members were destroyed. Therefore, despite having proof of heritage, people like you tell me that because the community hasn’t stated I am accepted, that I don’t belong. Reclaiming teachings and facts that people tried to bury is the only thing in this world that has given me hope and kept me alive for longer than I would have been otherwise. But according to you, I was wrong. I in fact have no place in this world.
    I will make sure to remove myself from it like I should have years ago to avoid stepping on any more toes.

    • Ah the assumptions we make when we decide that something is all about our specific situation.

      There are literally thousands of Indigenous peoples who, for various reasons, are disconnected and are struggling mightily to reconnect. Please do not conflate this issue with people who are relying on real (or often imagined) First Nations ancestors from 10 generations ago in order to claim they are now Métis.

      • Seb says:

        Please Chelsea tell us how this is any different from when I was in St-Boniface, hearing from peoples that relied only on HB script from NWT, with no other knowledge of their culture after generations, now claiming to be Métis since 2003? Have you even ever meet an “Acadian-Metis” in Acadia to assumed their wrongful intentions and fake identities? Because I did. And what I saw was as authentic and beautiful as what I sometimes saw on the Plains. I believe you are in very murky water with all these distinctions Chelsea. I am all fine with being no-bullshit, but I feel you are taking this way too far, and are barking at the wrong tree with Kebec. This is their inner stuff to fix, and I agree that i should lead to taken back a lot of responsibilities. But see no one dares to go at Lac St-Anne and challenge your miseries and contradiction when it comes to metissage and name-droping, right? Many in Kebec, I assume, would have expected the same degree of respect. Thanks for posting my replies, however. I do appreciate that. Good luck.

        • You are sorely mistaken if you think I am interested in having a conversation with you, Seb. This passive agressive tone you take with folks, while pretending to walk the ‘high road’ is obnoxious, and extremely transparent. Please feel free to blog about your particular attempts at expanding the definition of who is Métis to apparently include even those with a 10-generation distant First Nations ancestor. For that is precisely the distinction I made that you are now replying to. I give you enough credit to assume you are quite aware of the ‘muddy waters’ you yourself are attempting to create by ignoring that very clear, and wholly indefensible distinction.

      • Tyorahteken says:

        Kwehkwe I am full blood Haudenosaunee snake clan from Ohsweken. I have to take issue with your response to this comment this is close to my heart because i have cousins and friends who have distant proven heritage and i see them continually denied by those of full ancestry. My elders have taught me that whether it is 1 generation or 10 generations ago that blood is blood and as long as you are respectful of your culture ancestors and traditions in honoring that then you have the right to claim your ancestry. Imagined blood or ‘feeling’ ndn is a much different thing but if some one has proven heritage and they are honoring that in a good way then you have no place policing that no matter how far back it is. keep your fight to the wannabes and stop creating more divides among the ndn community. Niá:wen

        • Tyorahteken says:

          the commenters last sentence also concerns me, if they read this please do not harm your self because of the ignorance of one person, remember there are those of us who care. Skén:nen

          • If people are threatening to self harm because I dare voice an opinion about the Métis AS A MÉTIS…and based on a conflated reading of the piece in question to boot, do we really need to encourage the deliberate misunderstanding leading to such a statement? This particular discussion will not be carried on further. I am not here to coddle extreme strawmen arguments.

          • Chris says:

            are you shitting me, Tyorahteken??? If you’re so concerned about the impacts of colonialism – writ intergenerational – on people’s psychosocial well-being, they why don’t Haudenosaunne claim them? Your people have ceremonies for adopting in folks who are not Haudenosaunne. Why foist them on the Metis because they’ve misguidedly come to understand themselves as such? Be the change you want to see, Tyorahteken.

        • It is precisely the wannabes I am addressing. Nor would I ever dream of telling the Haudenosaunee that they should be the ones to accept groups who claim that by virtue of being Quebecois or Canadian that one is defacto Indigenous via Métissage. In other words, if these same people said, “We are ALL Haudenosaunee”, should one be chided for questioning that? Or does ‘wannabe’ no longer have a functional definition?

        • Tekanawéntonten says:

          I’m from Six Nations at Ohswéken, a Wolf Clan member on my maternal side and my father is Bear Clan. There is no snake clan among the Haudenosaunee, or recognized by the Confederacy. In fact, serpents are reviled in our stories as instruments of the Bent One and removed from the hair of Totarho by Ayenwatha. If you don’t know this, then dropping the odd Kanien’keha phrase in your post doesn’t make you onkwehonhwe. If you have a Name Hung About The Neck then I would expect you to have lineage in one of our recognized Clans. Don’t claim the lineage of people if you don’t even know the names of the Clans. If you are truly trying to find your way back in, your family will claim you. But making up stories about Clans that don’t exist is not the way to do it.

    • Myengun. Please do not remove yourself based on the article and opinion of one person. You are Metis and have the right to claim it – regardless of what some “purists” tell you. Never, ever let anyone tell you what you are – and what you are NOT. Honour your ancesotrs who were forced into hiding for whatever reasons, and bring their identity out in the open, among your relations. There will always be those who wish to restrict our identity to a small elite group, that some of us call “the 1%”. You read me right, the 1% are the ones who see no further than the tip of their nose and have no idea what it’s like to know that you’re Metis and were not allowed to say so until a decade or so ago. We still have elderly people in our communities who are afraid to admit they are Metis. Take heart and stand proud among your Metis people. If you step on toes by doing so, well, heck, let them learn to jig!!

  12. The Editor says:

    Mythmaking. I believe you are grasping at straws and using desperate name-calling to minimize and marginalize a familiar and unwanted manifestation of Metis culture, a Metis culture that is also in touch with it’s French ancestry. That it is manifesting in Quebec means you can also throw around lose accusations of Islamophobia and the like. It’s very convenient. You can bash Quebec at the same time you call the Quebecois racist and undermine their claims of métissage with words like ‘mythmaking.’ If numbers matter to you, you might want to check out the studies of the respected genealogist Denis Beauregard, whose findings corroborate DNA studies showing between 50% and 75% of French-Canadians have some First Nations genetic makeup. Now, this doesn’t make us First Nations, nor does it make us Métis, necessarily. You need to look to cultural markers, continuity and self-identification for that.You seem to suggest that “real” Metis people lose something when Quebecois assert a Métis consciousness. That by naming themselves, they ruin it for you and for Inuit and for Mohawks. I agree, this will be an ongoing debate, but what you did mostly in this article was make every attempt to simply shut down your opponents. That’s not honest, that’s creating your own myth.

    • Since you felt fit to run to my Facebook page and complain that I had ‘discarded your post’, here is the response I left you there. Please don’t bother coming back. Your sense of entitlement and claims of victimhood are uninteresting, and unwelcome.

      “Apparently discarded?” Well let’s have a look-see. You posted your comment at 4:01, and this complaint at 5:13. Apparently waiting a whole hour and 12 minutes for your comment to be seen and approved was simply too much. I apologize profusely for not ensuring that I immediately read and approve every single comment someone makes on my blog in a manner timely enough to suit your needs. As for your claims to “some First Nations genetic makeup”, repeated studies, have only verified that First Nations genes make up 1% of Quebecois genetic makeup. ONE. PERCENT. We’re talking an amount so insignificant that is is farcical in the extreme for you to make any claim that this is relevant beyond mere myth-making. We’re talking connections that happened 10 generations ago, if they happened at all. Who cares if people use that barely-there connection to suddenly start identifying as some kind of Indigenous? I am wholly uninterested in the justifications for these moves to innocence. They are merely an attempt by Settlers, Quebecois and otherwise, to avoid facing their complicity in ongoing colonization of Indigenous peoples NOW. More energy is being spent on this myth-making than on forming actual connections with living Indigenous communities, and that is a farce worth laughing at. Which is exactly what I am doing. Deny the systemic and overwhelming racism inherent in the very fabric of Quebec society if that makes you feel better. The Anglos do exactly the same thing, and you all have your reasons. But if pointing out the absurdity of these claims and bringing up that systemic racism is “Quebec bashing”, so be it. The Quebecois are certainly no better than the rest of Canada in that regard, and I would never pull punches when describing the deplorable state of colonial affairs outside of Quebec.

  13. Perry Bulwer says:

    “Feel free to claim that having a Mohawk ancestor 300 years ago makes you Mohawk. See how far that takes you.”

    Right. It’s kind of like claiming to be a Neanderthal because 20 percent of the Neanderthal genome survives in modern humans of non-African ancestry.

    “Scientists Identify Neanderthal Genes in Modern Human DNA”

  14. APG says:

    Thank you for writing this! I saw the same tactic deployed last year by the earnest can’t-we-all-just-get-along documentary “Québekoisie” ( Very irritating.

    • APG says:

      Also, about the “urban vs. rural” question regarding manifestations of racism — did you ever see the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study that came out a few years ago? The very last pages of their report ( provide a fascinating comparison of settler attitudes in cities across Canada: overt racism and sympathetic awareness were both most common in the Prairies, noble savage romanticism was most common in Vancouver and Toronto, and Montreal distinguished itself by having the most people who just had no idea about anything.

      • Thanks for this! It exactly mirrors what I have witnessed, moving from the Prairies to Montreal, and interacting over the last six years with people in various cities in eastern Canada. It has been a very strange experience. I sort of wish I’d read something like this before, so I didn’t have to try so hard to figure out if what I was seeing was common or not!

    • This was indeed another documentary brought to my attention…one that starts with a good premise, of learning more about the history and culture of First Nations, and the relationships that existed between First Nations and European Settlers, but which quickly ran off the rails when it started suggesting that “hey guys can’t we all get along since we’re really all Indigenous”.

  15. Wow – lots of discussion today. I understand the passion about wanting identity, but I also see how much it means to recognize that Metis is a distinctive culture within the Indigenous cultures. It’s been a battle to be recognized for that along all the years everyone took for granted that it meant a mix of any Indigenous and Euro heritages.
    What culture did people grow up in or with? Was it with Cree traditions? Mohawk? Indigenous is a nation of nations and no, we cannot just group a mix into the name of one who had/has a distinctive culture.
    I am a registered Metis, and I didn’t get to prove my history with just an HBC record of 10 generations ago. I had to provide several records of immediate familial generations including birth & baptismal records, marriage certs, scrip records, and even some HBC info. Myriad requirements.
    Having said this, I still identify as Cree Metis, as does my mother, because our background was grounded in both of those cultures by birth. I add my own partial homogenous Euro ancestry of uncertain heritage via my father. So, I am Cree, Metis, and (likely) British ancestry.
    I don’t think the idea denies anyone of Indigenous recognition. The thought presented is just to identify with the actual nation or culture from which you are born. As Chelsea mentioned, if you are part Cree, you are part Cree. or Ojibway, or Lakota, etc. etc. etc. Those are all distinct cultures as is Metis. If you know or are aware of what is the Metis culture and you identify with that, well there’s the answer, no?

  16. Wiisaakodewinini says:

    You’re right Seb, the 1% Gérard Bouchard refers to is inaccurate – according to a genetic sampling, it might actually be a whopping 2%! :
    I find it interesting that the article emphasizes a point that you constantly blur: “Le gros du métissage entre les Amérindiens et les Canadiens français (ou du moins, leurs ancêtres), précise-t-il [Denys Delâge], ne s’est pas produit dans la vallée du Saint-Laurent mais bien dans la région des Grands Lacs.” (According to Denys Delâge, “ Most hybridity between Indigenous peoples and French Canadians (or at least their ancestors) did not take place in the St. Lawrence Valley, but rather in the region of the Great Lakes.” So, even if there was hybridity in Acadia and le Pays d’en Haut (Ontario), what does this have to do with Québec?

    You reproach Bouchard for “going back to good ol’ blood quantum.” Perhaps. A more generous interpretation would be that if hybridity took place primarily at the beginning of colonization (you mention yourself that it was “between a segment of the French first settling population and Indigenous nations”) and genetically their descendants are 98-99% European, is this not an indicator of which of the two cultures have been transmitted through the generations? Again, the question posed in the film is one of the “trace” of Indigenous culture through métissage in Québec – not “communities of French-Indians all over North America”.

    In this regard, it’s odd how you fail to mention that you are presently active in the Métis Federation of Canada, which bases its membership criteria on “Adoption of a non-Métis child into the Métis community, lifestyle, and culture. Upon reaching age of majority, the individual retain the option to remain registered with the MFC” and adds further under “Definition”: “Historical Genealogical connection: A historical blood connection to an Aboriginal and European couple.” So, who exactly is the one who is contributing to “going back to good old blood quantum”?

    As you’re undoubtedly aware, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected this approach in Powley when it stated the term “Métis” in s. 35 does not encompass all individuals with mixed Indian and European heritage; rather, it refers to distinctive peoples who, in addition to their mixed ancestry, developed their own customs, way of life, and recognizable group identity separate from their Indian or Inuit and European forebears. […] The Métis developed separate and distinct identities, not reducible to the mere fact of their mixed ancestry” (para. 10).

    Keep in mind that you do not simply claim that there are Métis communities within Québec, nor do you simply claim that the Québécois are the result of a cultural and biological hybridity. You allude to the possibility in your article in Policy Options that all Québécois – again, not specific communities within Québec – may be able to claim to be an “Aboriginal people” (“peuple autochtone”) within the meaning of s. 35 insofar as they can claim to be a “Métis people”. Of course, the Québécois could claim to be “autochthon” – literally “sprung from the land itself” in the sense that, they came about as a people distinct from the French in North America (Just as, I might add, the Métis, though descended from “les Canadiens” nevertheless form a distinct people). It is quite another to claim to be an Indigenous people with s. 35 rights.

    In making this move, you explicitly rely on the criteria in Powley and therefore seem to approve them.

    Which brings me to your comment further down about people in St. Boniface relying “only on HB script from NWT, with no other knowledge of their culture after generations, now claiming to be Métis since 2003.” You are no doubt aware that a certain professor – who happens to be from Québec – encouraged his students at Université Saint-Boniface who had, until then, only considered themselves to be Franco-Manitoban, to look into their genealogy and to claim membership with the Manitoba Métis Federation and to create an Aboriginal student association on that basis. On the one hand, as you will recall in Powley, the Court stipulated that “Membership in a Métis political organization may be relevant to the question of community acceptance, but it is not sufficient in the absence of a contextual understanding of the membership requirements of the organization and its role in the Métis community” (para. 33). Whether in Manitoba or anywhere else in Canada (s. 35 explicitly refers to “the aboriginal peoples of Canada”, so if your community is outside of Canada – say in Oklahoma, for example – you’re out of luck) “the claimant must demonstrate that he or she is accepted by the modern community whose continuity with the historic community provides the legal foundation for the right being claimed” (para. 33). On the other hand, people in St. Boniface are in the Métis homeland and close to well-established historical Métis communities with which they could quite easily seek to re-establish connexion. I’m not sure this possibility is so readily available to isolated individuals who claim to be Métis based on nothing more than finding an Indigenous ancestor somewhere in their family tree.

    In any event, I need not concern myself with that since, as you state yourself, your “account of metis plurality is not to say that the Assiniboia Métis, or the Manitoba Metis, or the Plain Métis did not consolidate a distinct “Nation,” which ought to be respected due to its specific history, rights, gains and even (tabula rasa) culture; but it is to ask a similar form of respect for the sake of other Metis/French-Indian communities that experience their “métis” culture sometimes differently: who do not wish to be Red River Metis, but rather themselves.” I would like to thank you for clarifying that you do not claim to be a member of the Métis Nation – call us the “Western Métis” if you wish – and that “other metis communities” elsewhere in Canada do not make that claim either. But if you really respect us as a distinct people, I presume you’ll cease attacking the “political ontology” that you claim underpins our identity in public conferences and that you and these communities will stop the instrumentalisation and politically recuperating of our symbols and history (Seven Oaks, infinity flag, Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont, Red River cart, buffalo hunting, rules of the hunt, etc.) that have little to do with the history of “mixed-blood” communities in, say, Acadia.

    • This is response to Seb continuing to post here, despite me making it clear I am not going to engage him. (His posts will continue to not be approved here.)

      Seb, stop trying to make this blog your platform. Your points are ridiculous, often insulting, and your ham-fisted attempts to pretend you have some moral high ground in the manner in which you ‘debate’ others is redolent of MRA-style tactics. No, the term “Métis” doesn’t get to be yours simply because it comes from your language (French). And hush about my community, which exists, unlike the ones you claim (Michigamea/Kaskaskia) which have not existed since the 1700s, were never Métis communities, and which you appear to be sole member of.

      You don’t get to claim yourself, and use that as criteria for Indigeneity. awâs.

  17. Theresa says:

    There have been times I have respected your opinion. I have felt you have brought real value to the table. Some of what you write I have agreed with and some I have not. I am disappointed that you dismiss others opinions that vary from yours. You know personal experience is an authentic education and should not be dismissed . A formal education as you know demands many years of dedication and true passion. You know that some of the family histories were hidden and some have only recently discovered their ancestry. Their confidence is weak on claiming their birth right because they think they don’t belong. For them there might be a confusion of native and metis. What ever their reasons for defending their claim to you it should be heard and wisdom dictates patience and empathy should be passed to them . If not only for ones own growth. You have heard of oral history. This is another source of valid history. Some of the educated views here like that of Seb should be respected even though you disagree. insults and negative judgements should not be found on such valued source of information. Your blog is an open forum and invites discussion. How do you insult others understandings by dismissing their thoughts and feelings like your the queen bee. Is the only answer your own. How can you use such a demeaning term as wanna be . To me is offensive and racist. You devalue many here and deny that their information and history by saying it never existed . Are you that scholarly that you have all the collective information . Shame on you for being so condescending to people who have done their research and know who they are and value what they have learned so far and shared that knowledge to the best of their ability. . You are not the ultimate source of power to decide who has a genuine claim to being Metis. I have watched our history and communities grow for many years and I have watched every aspect of our politics become stronger and weaker depending on the leaders of the time. You have an interesting blog but you lead no one when you undermine who others are or anything they try to share with you. I am not saying you are trying to be a leader but you must recognise that your blog does provoke interest and that alone is a responsibility.

    • Frankly, I’m a little tired of the deliberate, or just pure misinformed nature of these complaints.

      A great deal of time and energy has been invested by some people to completely ignore what was written here in order to demand that their personal histories be the focus of discussion. This is wholly inappropriate. This piece is in no way a judgement on whether Métis communities exist outside of the West. Please take a breath, and read that sentence again. THIS PIECE IS IN NO WAY A JUDGEMENT ON WHETHER MÉTIS COMMUNITIES EXIST OUTSIDE OF THE WEST. Further, despite your claim, and the claims made by others that I am somehow setting myself up to arbitrate Métis identity, I have consistently gone out of my way to do no such thing. That seems to really piss people off, who contact me here, or through my contact page to demand I validate their identity. I absolutely refuse to do so, either way. You will find only a single exception to this, and it is directed very specifically to one person only, based on easily-disproven claims to a community that no longer exists and was never Métis. Your opinion on how I should address that person is completely irrelevant to what this piece was actually about, and I refuse to engage your strawman claims further.

      In fact, this piece is about Settlers who have NO CONNECTION TO FIRST NATIONS BEYOND A POSSIBLE ANCESTOR 10 GENERATIONS AGO, CLAIMING INDIGENEITY. Period. If this is not the case for you, or for others commenting here, THEN STOP COMMENTING. THE ARTICLE IS NOT ABOUT YOU.

      Don’t tell me you ‘used to respect [my] opinion’ when you seem hell-bent on making my opinion up.

      I maintain high standards here. If you cannot engage with the material honestly, and without wholesale fabrication of arguments that do not exist in my work, then do not come back. I have no patience for this sort of behaviour.

      • Theresa says:

        You should value those high standards……..and suggest you re read the post. I heard your anger and frustration but I feel my concern was not heard. It was fair I felt. A strong woman learns at every curve…I will value every lesson…positive and negative.

        • Your concern was heard, and dismissed for the strawman argument it was. You have not once addressed the actual points I made, which I reiterated in all caps above so you could focus on them again. So please. Your ‘concerns’ are not reason enough for me to be dragged into an argument I never made and have no interest in pursuing. Feel free to get your own blog, and bring up the issues YOU wish to address.

          Though I warn you, doing so causes all sorts of people to deliberately ignore what you say in order to pursue their own agenda.


  18. Wiisaakodewinini says:

    What I don’t understand about the demands made on Métis Nation political organizations or, stranger still, on specific Métis individuals is that, even if such organizations or individuals were to respond with acknowledgement or recognition, it in no way obligates the federal or provincial governments to recognize them as “Métis”, nor would it play any role in the court’s recognition of the Métis rights of such communities under s. 35.

    To add to Chelsea’s comment, the political and legal question of whether or not there are “métis communities” in Québec or the maritimes is one of empirical proof, not personal opinion and certainly not personal “feelings” of being “Métis”.

    Consider the Delgammukw case in 1997: “The trial was lengthy and very complex. There were 318 days of testimony. There were a large number of witnesses, lay and expert. The volume of evidence is enormous. To quote the trial judge at pp. 116-17:

    A total of 61 witnesses gave evidence at trial, many using translators from their native Gitksan or Wet’suwet’en language; “word spellers” to assist the official reporters were required for many witnesses; a further 15 witnesses gave their evidence on commission; 53 territorial affidavits were filed; 30 deponents were cross‑examined out of court; there are 23,503 pages of transcript evidence at trial; 5898 pages of transcript of argument; 3,039 pages of commission evidence and 2,553 pages of cross-examination on affidavits (all evidence and oral arguments are conveniently preserved in hard copy and on diskettes); about 9,200 exhibits were filed at trial comprising, I estimate, well over 50,000 pages; the plaintiffs’ draft outline of argument comprises 3,250 pages, the province’s 1,975 pages, and Canada’s over 1,000 pages; there are 5,977 pages of transcript of argument in hard copy and on diskettes. All parties filed some excerpts from the exhibits they referred to in argument. The province alone submitted 28 huge binders of such documents. At least 15 binders of reply argument were left with me during that stage of the trial.

    The result was a judgment of over 400 pages in length.”

    There is an enormous amount of really gruelling research to be done that will literally take decades. I agree it’s problematic, it’s colonial, it’s unjust. But if one is making demands on governments to recognize them as an Aboriginal people, there’s no way around it in our current always-still colonial situation.

    One thing is certain: no amount of opinions expressed or energy spent on social media is going to advance such research one iota.

  19. Ray Henry Gagne says:

    Metis is only one name applied to us. The Cree of old referred to our people as ‘Otipemsewak’ or their own bosses. We are who we are regardless of names applied to us. Personally I prefer the Cree application. It takes the politics out of the equation!

    • I’m not sure the politics can ever be taken out of the equation, since the politics of naming have been at issue since Contact. Taking the politics out of naming would definitely be one of the goals of decolonization, but we are certainly not there yet!

      I too prefer the names we call ourselves or are named by our kin. otipêyimisiwak, âpihtawikosisânak. Some prefer to identity as Michif, because the term Métis is so widely understood to simply mean mixed. We had other, less respectful names which are sometimes reclaimed and turned around. Yet we are hardly alone in this! All Indigenous peoples have their own names for themselves, names others given them, and names imposed by colonial agents. It can definitely create confusion!

      For me, the naming is less important than the relationships we have. Reciprocal relationships are foundational.

  20. I wanted to say thank you for creating a space for these conversations to happen. Your blog inspires me keep learning. Hai hai

  21. Dear âpihtawikosisân.
    First, I apologize in advance for the long post but I feel that the time has come for me to speak up on behalf of my Metis relations in the east, central, northern, and western Canada. I am new to your blog and have read it carefully more than once. I would love to have more time to follow you, but unfortunately, although retired, I work long hours.
    I respect your opinion and what you are learning as a westerner settling in the east. I agree with you that way too many people claim to be Metis – for whatever reasons – and that the buck has to stop somewhere. However, I disagree with the strict line you trace in the sand about Metis identity. Maybe I missed the canoe altogether, but I feel that someone has to tell you this.
    As your posts progressed I recognized the old indoctrination that “the only Metis is the western Metis”, and that made me sad. I don’t know you enough to know how much you really know about Canada’s eastern and central history, but I can tell you from experience that most westerners know as much about it as the Americans know about our country’s history as a whole – which is very little and peppered with untruths and misconceptions.
    Then you became very aggressive, especially towards a few bloggers. You even attack the Metis Federation of Canada about their registration policy. BTW, the MFC is led by many western Metis who recognize the discrimination being done against the rest of Canada’s Metis people – and the political reasons behind it. (Heck, I would fight tooth and nail to protect my turf too).
    You conveniently omitted a very important element of the MFC’s adoption clause: yes, the member who was adopted as a baby or young child ONLY (we do not accept adult adoption ) by Metis people can remain a member in adulthood, because that baby or child is raised as Metis – just as it is done among our First Nations.
    The registration process at MFC is thorough. The registrar is tough, incorruptible, and has 40 years of genealogical and historical research under her belt, along with being an author. That registrar will not issue a membership card unless the applicant has provided PRIMARY and SECONDARY documents (hence valid documents) linking EVERY generation from him/her to the Metis ancestor, along with evidence showing Metis ancestry. I AM that registrar, and I am a Metis descendant of many Metis people across the land, including Red River. I am also a Metis who recognizes the cultural differences among our Metis communities (or nations). Not unlike our First Nations, who are different from each other, yet share an ethnicity. You may be of the opinion that certain areas are not Metis communities and have no “Metisness”, but what are you basing your statement on? Would you share that evidence or proof? What criteria do you base your assessment on? Furthermore, does anyone on this earth has the right to tell another human being what they are or are not, based on their personal opinion or knowledge? If you truly know eastern history, then you know where the first Metis people were born, their struggles, the genocide some of them suffered, and of the progression westward forced by the dwindling fur trade in the east and the influx of newcomers. Contrary to your statement, there were large Metis communities along the St-Lawrence in Quebec. Trois-Rivieres is the cradle of the fur trade and of many huge Metis families who dispersed throughout the continent.
    Those who know eastern history and genealogy, know that many families east of the Great Lakes, Ontario especially, had to hide their Metis identity after 1885 – in order to survive. Not many could afford to stand up in a crowd and state that they were Metis. Other have suffered through church leaders systematically erasing their identities. That does not mean that they didn’t follow their culture privately, away from judgmental eyes. It does not mean that their identity should be extinguished by purists. My question to you is this: If I adopt a Chinese baby and raise him/her Metis, does that baby stop being Chinese?
    Being Metis is also being fair towards others, and respectful of their opinions and divergence of said opinions, and respecting the right of others to exist. You consider yourself the real Metis, and many others as wannabes – you are entitled to your opinion, and we respect that. However, we ask you to open your mind and your heart to other possibilities. The earth is not flat – it is round.
    I could go on an on, but I’ve used up enough of your time. As a Metis grandmother, I am asking you to consider that like all of us, you still have a lot to learn about our People, especially in the east. Once you embrace that, you will see what we, old folks, see and have learned in our lives.
    This brings me to my last point. There is indeed a huge drive for people to claim their “Metisness” and while you claim that it has to do with a need to absolve themselves of past deeds, I contend that it has to do more with greed. I feel that some Metis organizations are worried sick that the MFC will chip away at their money pie. We are self-supporting, self-funding, and self-directing. We own ourselves, and are independent – because that’s the Metis way. Many people want a card to be tax-exempted, not realizing that all Metis pay taxes, and they want harvest rights. It’s up to us to be smart and to filter the real claims from those ones. It is our responsibility to keep those users/abusers out of our ranks. The MFC does NOT issue a card to someone who is not Metis, or claims to be Metis just for the fringe benefits. Contrary to what other organizations contend, we do not issue cards to everyone who applies. Those who join us do so because we strive to protect our identity, culture, and our right to exist in an assimilated world that is becoming more and more discriminatory and less and less friendly, where the “divide and conquer” method is working beautifully for the government.
    If you’re ever in Ottawa, I invite you to visit me in my humble abode, have a cup of cedar tea with me, and a good talk with a coast-to-coast Metis who respects the invaluable and beautiful cultural differences that set us apart – yet unite us in our identity.
    In Metis Spirit

    • tânisi,

      Thank you for your post. I would like to point out that I have very specifically not stated that there are no Métis out East. In fact, I have repeatedly refused to address that issue because it hides the issue I have actually addressed. That issue is of non-Native people claiming to be Indigenous people, or more specifically Métis people, based on an ancestor 10 generations ago and no connection since. I think it is very important to keep these issues from becoming muddled together. Non-Indigenous people should not be able to ‘sneak in through the back door’ while people debate the validity of Métis communities outside the Red River.

      Repeatedly people have come to this blog, and through my contact page, and on other social media platforms to argue with me about a point I have no made. I ask that people instead stick with what this piece is about…non-Indigenous people erasing Indigenous peoples by claiming to be us. Not Indigenous peoples who are asserting a Métis identity (which is a much more complex issue).

      I hope that clarifies things. I said nothing about the MFC, so I think you have me confused with someone else who has posted. As for seeming to be aggressive towards certain posters…I am tired of being asked again and again to argue a point I am not making. I have repeatedly clarified the argument, and yet not a single person has come back here to address it. Instead, people come here to complain that I am not recognising Métis outside the Red River. I refuse to engage with this argument. It is not the argument I have made.

      I do not think it is unreasonable to expect people to stay on topic, rather than project their own insecurities on someone who, quite frankly, is NOT an arbiter of Métis heritage, nor claims to be. And I simply won’t accept that job.

      Again, if people cannot understand this despite my repeated clarifications, this is frankly not my problem.


      • Apologies âpihtawikosisân, the comment about the MFC was from Wiisaakodewinini and my response was meant to be addressed to that person, whomever he/she is. I pasted in the wrong name.
        You are very right in your statement that people who are not Native (be it Metis, First Nations or Inuit) should not claim our identity and our culture. I’m with you on that 100%. Nothing irks me more than seeing people dress like us, talk like us, and even teach our ways when they have never – ever – walked the proverbial mile in our moccasins. The ones who profess to be elders and spiritual leaders who open ceremonies and do opening prayers, when they have received no teachings at all and have never lived the Metis or Native culture, are a particular burning thorn in my side. That lights the flames under my feet almost as much as those who want a card just for the harvest right or tax exemption – or those who use “Metishship” as an excuse to hunt, fish, and harvest excessively.

        I have that discussion with people more often than I care to have. (and frankly, at times, it turns pretty nasty, but I’m a big girl and I hold my end pretty good). I agree that just having a native ancestor 10 generations ago with NO connection whatsoever with other natives in all those generations does not qualify as Metis. Having said that, it is my experience that those cases are not as frequent as one may think. Generally, people have more than one Metis ancestor, but financial restraints and lack of resources makes it difficult to find the records needed for some people. To compound the problem, there are tons of so-called genealogists and historians out there who charge shameful amounts of money to “find you a Metis ancestor”. I lost count of how many such research I’m blown apart. That’s another thorn in my side.

        On the other hand, I respect those whose parents and grandparents finally admit that they are Metis, and are now on the path to learn all about their culture. They often find that what they have been doing all along is typical of Metis culture, although they were not aware of it. Blood remembers. I met many people like that in my life, and it is a great day when one of them is finally able to reconnect to our People after a few generations of denial. Those, who find their way back into our folds, are the ones who will continue teaching their children all that they learn. They come to us wanting to embrace their heritage, not the fringe benefits, and will protect it.

        Like you I am sick and tired of debating our identity and yes, it is very fair to expect people to stay on topic – although I have yet to see Metis people do that well 🙂 We do tend to get awfully passionate, especially when it comes to identity, don’t we?

        The offer for a cup of cedar tea still stands! 🙂

  22. Wiisaakodewinini says:

    Dear Karole,

    Since you evoked my comments concerning the MFC, I would like to clarify that my comments were not aimed at the MFC per se. They were addressed to a particular individual who was reproaching others for basing Metis identity on blood quantum in the context of his now denied claim that Québec in its entirety is a Metis nation. Yet this very same individual is very involved in the MFC, which made two very explicit references to “blood” in its definition of Metis and its membership criteria.

    I previously copied and pasted one of them: under “Definition” it was written: “Historical Genealogical connection: A historical blood connection to an Aboriginal and European couple.”

    Curiously, since I wrote my comment, the MFC website has been altered and the two references to “blood” have been removed. (Not surprising. The individual in question does not hesitate to go back and edit his comments on blogs when you catch him contradicting himself.)

    I am certainly happy to see that the MFC website now recognizes that a single Indigenous ancestor is insufficient and that the “Métis People continued to evolve in the ensuing centuries through various cultural expressions involving ongoing mixed unions that are constitutive of Metis ethnicity.” Indeed, the ethnogenesis of the Métis as a distinct people is in no way simply the result of the intermarriage of European men and Indigenous women. What is a condition sine qua non is the ensuing multi-generational endogamy that was spatially structured within specific cultural and linguistic contexts by a mixture of institutional and economic factors.

    But it does pose the problem of carrying on any sort of sincere dialogue with people who keep changing the goal posts. (This is not meant to be a personal accusation. For one, I presume you do not determine MFC’s membership criteria and are not the MFC’s webmeister. For another, my remark goes far beyond this single incident.)

    Darren O’Toole

    • Hmm. The bottom line is that the Metis people would not have come into existence without the union of European and Indigenous. That’s where it started, hence the use of the word “blood” in our definition. Please don’t blame Seb for that, he is not the person who originally wrote the definition. I was among those who did. Like everyone else, and like any author, including you and me, we have to sometime revise and/or clarify our writing when it is not expressed clearly enough for everyone to understand – or when it unleashes unfair attacks. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and consequently, the right to express it without being bullied as I’ve seen it in this and other blogs and forums.

      As for determining membership criteria, well yes, I am a driving force behind it. I fight tooth and nail against the discrimination that is going on against the eastern and central Metis People, I cannot sit back and let westerners take what is ours as much as it is theirs. I always have, and will always fight for ALL Our Metis people, and their right to exist. We should be sharing our common knowledge and blood memory to preserve our culture – not tearing each other apart.

      You have your opinion about who the Metis are – and I have mine. We can agree to disagree because neither one will step down. I will never let anyone tell me that my Acadian Metis and that my Algonquin Metis in Quebec, are less Metis than my western Metis. They are different, and I am open minded and mature enough to celebrate, embrace, and honour those differences. I would never pretend to have the right to tell someone what they are and are not.

      No one has answered my very simple question yet: If I adopt a Chinese child and raise that child in the Metis culture, and his/her descendants are raised in that Metis culture for let’s say 5 generations. Does that erase his/her Chinese DNA? Does living one culture means that all others must be discarded? Does it means that someone of the 6th generation cannot try to learn and perhaps recapture some of that culture and reconnect with the knowledge? Who has the right to decide whether that person can or cannot reconnect with a long-lost culture, and in turn revive it for the next generation? As Aboriginal people, everything we do is done with keeping in mind the next seven generations. Seems to me that some Metis people are awfully short-sighted and very proprietary (childishly so) of their sandbox.

      While I don’t tolerate people pretending to be what they’re not, especially when all they’re after is money and benefits, those who share the same Metis ethnicity should be kind to each other, and accepting of each other’s differences – should embrace them even. Tearing each other apart is only serving the age-old war tactic of dividing and conquering. The sad reality in this never-ending debate is that much of it is politically driven by certain groups who fear having to divide their money pie with the rest of the nation. I don’t know how to make them understand that they’re worried for nothing. We’re don’t care about their money and we certainly don’t want any of it. We raise our own with pride! Our goal is to preserve our identity, our culture for our descendants, and to revive it for those who lost it through no fault of theirs. It’s a simple concept, yet only some people seem to understand it.

      Call me simple-minded, but in my view, there is no such thing as being a little bit Metis or a lot Metis. You are or you’re not. I don’t fiddle or jig, yet I’m no less Metis than the ones who do. What exactly are the parameters of living one’s culture enough to maintain one’s “Metiship” alive? (Heck, this almost sounds like a club where you have to keep going to meetings in order to keep your membership).

      In that same vein, would you not contend that the descendants of the western Metis who now live in central and eastern Canada will stop being Metis after a few generations or marrying non-Metis and embracing a non-Metis culture, and even stop speaking Michiff? If Metis identity is all about continuing the culture, then they will no longer be Metis. Right?

      My other question is this one: How is fiddling, jigging, hunting, beading, speaking Michiff, or the lack thereof – affect the blood composition of an individual?
      It boils down to two very basic concepts: is being Metis a cultural identity or a DNA identity? More importantly, who has the right to tell someone what they are and are not, when they share the same ethnicity? Isn’t that playing God? Who was given the supreme right to draw a line in the sand and decide who is Metis enough to stands on one side?

      I always hear and read long-winded speeches and exposés on the subject, but no one so far has clearly made that point – or for that matter ever provided concrete evidence based on solid facts, not so and so’s assumptions and perceived knowledge. I’ve yet to see someone show clear, concrete historical evidence supporting the concept that a Metis has to continue practicing his/her culture to continue being Metis. It doesn’t matter to me if a person’s Metis ancestors had to hide their identity for a while to protect their loved ones. What matters to me is that today – we have people who are reconnecting to the Metis community and embracing what was once theirs by birthright. To deny those people that right to exist is the same as telling an Indigenous person that he/she can no longer be called Indigenous or practice ay indigenous cultural activities because his/her ancestors have left the tribe many generations ago and lived among non-natives for too long. If that’s the case, how do you explain the ties that survive generations away from the motherland? For example, I’m a 5th generation Scot. I’ve never been to Scotland and I don’t play the bagpipe nor jig, yet I celebrate and honour my Gaelic ancestors as much as I do my other ancestors. I’m red haired, blue eyed, and as Scot looking (and temperament) as they come. If I follow your way of thinking, I don’t have the right to claim any Scottish heritage, because it has not continued.

      As I said earlier, we will have to agree to disagree – because we will never reach a consensus on this question. I never have, and never will, tolerate discrimination among our Metis people. All Metis people are all equal in Creator’s eyes, regardless of blood quantum or practices, and heck, that’s good enough for me. Imagine how powerful a nation we would be if we were to unite our efforts to stop the dismemberment of our Metis identity instead of tearing each other apart.


  23. I am struck by the passion of people commenting on this post. However, alot of these comments come down to a metis being someone who is walking an authentic metis/native life but without any discussion of what that actually means. There is refference to those people who take up indian life for the wrong reasons, but how do you know if you are one of those? How do you take up a life that has been hidden for a long time?

    I think we need more positive conversation about what the good red road is and the different permutations of that across Canada and in both urban and rural settings. I would not have been able to make a healthy and realistic claim of my heritage without all of the wonderful stories, music and art I have been able to access from my brothers and sisters, and the kindness and wisdom of Elders who have listened and shared with me.

    There is so much to learn when it is new and it can be overwhelming. There were things I thought I could ignore, like food and plant wisdom that I now realize I need to decolonialize and integrate in my life. That while we have a daily rhythm of ceremony, our family needs to understand how to deal with the less regular things like the arrival of first moon time or a death in the family. There is a lot to learn

    In this conversation, we need to not just focus on that one moment of official claiming of metis identity, but to share our stories of reclaiming, of decolonializing and of living as metis in this modern context. We need to collaborate on how we are supporting our children, influencing our institutions and living as metis now. We need to share our resources, inspirations and wisdom. I am trying to bring my thoughts together at and I would love to hear about the journey of others. Together we are stronger.

  24. Cinders says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and I have to thank you profusely for writing this.

    My family is affiliated with that “Métis” Organization since they started that push for membership (“Do it before the government legally recognizes us or ELSE.”).

    Sure, self-identification is never easy, but when we all got our membership cards… I felt incredibly conflicted as I would hear my family claim Métis heritage in one breath and say something horribly racist about other Nations in the next.
    Personally, it feels like this attempt to grab at the Métis status is more of an attempt at shirking responsibility of colonialism mixed with this earnest but horribly harmful attempt at finding a “self” in another culture.

    I know this post wasn’t written for me, but has certainly freed me in a certain way from this myth of Métissage. Thank you for exposing that sham of an organization.

    (Now I have to decide what to do with that card: destruction by fire, blender or shredder?)

  25. Randy says:

    Yep, one has to show more than just discovering some distant ancestor and/or merely feeling “out of place” in the mainstream national culture. I totally agree. As previously mentioned, I’m surprised many people who claim these things don’t try to do something more useful and practical, such as living among Native peoples and getting to know them on their own terms, as they really are (and I’m not talking about just doing some sort of anthropological study, which is more of a professional thing, etc.).

  26. Lynn Gehl says:

    great blog – miigwetch

  27. La mauvaise graine says:

    Thanks for your post, very thoughtful; I just want to concur that Quebec is a deeply racist and colonialist state, it IS the sad truth, may this not please the settlers, so-called “quebecois pure-laine” and other people that think since they MIGHT all have a bit of indigenous blood, ‘we’ should ‘move on’ and not be stuck with labels and specific terms. ‘We’ should be all the same after all, suddenly, when it comes to ease the guilt and lighten the burden of a dominant majority. I am a french-speaking settler myself, living on Tiohtià:ke unceded territory since a decade. As an ally, I was looking for arguments from a metis point of view about this terribly racist Québécois-as-Métis movie L’empreinte (way more fiction than “documentary” in this call-to-erase indigenous realities and the colonial history we perpetuate as europeans, may we find our european connections 1 to 10 generations ago.) I found here very good ones, and much more. Thanks.

  28. randy says:

    Are there currently any similar trends of non-native canadians in other parts of Canada such as the prairies, nwt, etc. claiming indigeneity via blood myths comparable to what many Quebecois are doing?

    • Not quite in the same way that this is happening in Quebec, but yes. The Métis are the Canadian equivalent of the Cherokee it seems, so most people wanting to claim Indigeneity up here do it through us. They do this by purposely approaching the Métis as mixed. Trying to find one ancestor, 200 years ago, that will validate a claim to being Indigenous. It has gotten pretty disgusting actually, with people banding together with their blood myths to create communities that never existed (or stopped existing hundreds of years ago)…often in the form of ‘organizations’ meant to advocate for these newly minted Métis.

      • Stacy Doiron says:

        “…It has gotten pretty disgusting actually, with people banding together with their blood myths to create communities that never existed (or stopped existing hundreds of years ago)…”

        Very curious as to what organizations or communities are doing this!!

  29. Pingback: Gros colon raciste : une critique féministe anticoloniale de L’empreinte | HYÈNES EN JUPONS

  30. Pingback: Gros colon raciste : une critique féministe anticoloniale de «L’empreinte» | HYÈNES EN JUPONS

  31. I find this very enlightening and relevant to our little twitter spat yesterday. It is a problem when we are over romanticized or dramatized depending on the mood of the region you find yourself in. Allowing metis people to fill up Metis organizations is part of the problem you questioned me over. It is most definitely necessary to buffer membership claims to remove those threads which reach so far they practically tear under a slight breeze. I was lucky enough to have a grandfather who went out of his way to expose me to my indigenousness even though it was still taboo to say who we were in Ontario. I have some sympathy for those who have distant native ancestors and think it means more than it does. I have distant ancestors somewhere on another branch too, but that’s not what makes me Metis with a capital M. You have to experience the culture, good and bad, to really know who you are.

  32. Pingback: Out of my mentions

  33. GAB says:

    Lol. It kinda souds like a bunch of ********. I never felt like i needed any ******* empirical proof of my métissage. ”My” governement is the one who believe that i need it. You have the same mentality of the canadian gonernement.

    Are you going to ask us some dna evidences of our ”indigenous blood” to make part of OUR community?!!!

    My eyes are burning, the one who are supposed to figth for recognition are now fighting against it. It’s disgusting. And i do not see why someone should’nt want to re-discover their roots… A community who close it doors to some of it’s member is a community who is dying. My grandfather did fight for metis recognition and i decided to take this fight as mine, even if ihave no ”mi’kmac blood” from my father blood (some unspecified indigenous blood,tho), and i don’t care if some people like you want 3 shipping container of proofs to consider someone as wath he is, i will always encourage anyone who have even a litle bit of indigenous blood to claim it and to be proud of it.

    Also, you have to make a dictinction between metis community and métissage. Historically, some metis decided to integrated the colony and others decided to create their own community, which are metis community. When you ask someone who is half blooded (with, as exemple, a father from an actual indigenous community and a caucasian mother) to not qualify as a metis, it’s just illogical and ridiculous : it is THE word to explain this, but it does not mean that he make part of a metis community, whih is a community born from the blend of blood and culture. Even if you would have a chineese mother and a caucasian father, you would be a metis. Please stop trying to re-invent the rules of the french language… -_-

    In other words : an individual who came from a blend of (any kind of) ”blood” = metis
    A community who came from the blend of ”blood” and culure = a metis community
    It is not that hard to understand, is it?

    • “Lol”.

      You may desperately want the term to mean “a blend of any kind of blood” but that is not what it means in this context, and that is not who the Métis are. If one of your parents is Cree, you are Cree, not Métis. Not hard to understand, hey?

      The French language can go fuck itself, right along with English. Neither language defines Indigeneity. kinêhiyawân cî? nitawi-pahkisin sâkahikinihk.

  34. Nicole says:

    As, like you say, the Métis are not the only group of Aboriginal people to have married out and mixed throughout history, does being Métis require a present-day connection to specific communities in Canada, like the Red River Métis? Is someone with distant Cree ancestry that has been mostly thinned down over the years through intermarriage Cree? Métis? Or simply Canadian with distant Aboriginal heritage? While having one Aboriginal parent or grandparent may make it possible to fully claim that identity, people who only have distant ancestry probably shouldn’t be able to identify in that way.

    I think that, because Métis identity has historically been defined by intermarriage, many feel that it is easier to claim than any other Aboriginal group and try to dig up or invent a distant relative for the sole purpose of receiving some kind of recognition or, even more dishonestly, claiming territory or rights. That said, is it possible to reconnect with distant ancestry if you grew up removed from Aboriginal culture and community? Is the main problem solely with the people who are latching on to this identity to serve their own goals or is it also with people who grew up in White culture but want to embrace that aspect of their history in some way?

  35. Faustine says:

    Excellent analysis and sound scholarship. Kudos for being a female, minority activist unafraid to (patiently and painstakingly) take on the patriachical cultural hegemony.

  36. Brittany says:

    Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful commentary. I am a regular blog reader, and read your blog frequently as I write my thesis for my M.A. I have had identity challenges of my own and have spent the last 2 or so years trying to come to peace with things. I am one of the people you describe as having a blood myth, or sort of. It’s not that simple. It’s that I grew up being told I was Native, that my father was. I didn’t know who my father was until I met him at 13. Then the story changed- he wasn’t, his grandfather was. But he felt the connection. Meanwhile, I grew up looking and feeling different than my paler friends. What was harder was that there were some in my family who agreed with the Native grandparent and others who did not. Dad said that his grandpa hid his identity. Who to believe? This has been my journey, trying to come to a peaceful place with honesty, integrity and authenticity. I went to a conference, and was asked pointedly, am I Aboriginal. What a difficult question for me. At the time I didn’t have the same answer I do now. I just had the story, which I recounted. To my amazement the listeners- First Nations and Metis- told me, with authority, that I was metis. I resented that, and of the little I knew, still knew that it wasn’t right. So this assignment of metis identity by others in the community- this is something I struggle with as I come into my own understanding of my settler-Anish identity.

  37. Pingback: Gabriel Dumont Speaks. Translated by Michael Barnholden. | Out of the Oubliette

Leave a Reply