The Metis Nation, The MNO, and a Jarring Report On Identity

As a matter of noting impactful history as it’s occurring, a report presented at the March 9/10 Metis National Council’s (MNC), “Métis Identity, Citizenship & Homeland” conference in Saskatchewan, shocked many in attendance. It uncovered a troubling history that has led to serious issues for the Metis, now currently embroiled in what amounts to a ‘hostile takeover’ of their nation.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, let alone shocked about what we learned, because I am already well-aware of the immense issue for the Metis Nation in having to defend its identity and rights again. I’m well-versed in the history of the thousands of Canadians who more recently claim to be Metis, although many are seriously mistaken at best and others are purely fraudulent at worst.

The report presented wasn’t about those thousands of claims outside of the historical Metis communities, i.e.) those from regions in, and east of, Quebec. It concentrated on the claims of the legitimate Metis Nation’s own affiliate, the Metis Nation Ontario (MNO), one of five MNC affiliates.

Many already knew the MNO was fraught with membership filled with illegitimate claims of Metis ancestry and in 2019 they admitted to an overwhelming number; perhaps 90% of their membership, they said.

That’s an astounding statement and regardless of the accuracy of that estimation, what percentage would they consider acceptable? That wasn’t the only issue at hand. The affiliate was also called into question after working unilaterally with the Province of Ontario government to grant ‘historical Metis settlement’ status to 6 regions in Ontario outside of the Metis Nation historical homeland boundaries. The MNC, its other affiliate presidents and the Metis citizens were not included in that process.

Essentially then, the MNO is therefore mainly comprised of Ontarians of various ancestry who self-declared they were Metis and were accepted and seemingly legitimized by the MNO. If there are enough of these individuals in a particular region, this is taken as proof of the existence of a historical Métis “community”.

In November of 2018, the MNC and the other affiliates, with the exception of Alberta – which apparently has serious leadership [and membership] issues according to statements made at the March 10 meeting – voted to put the MNO on probation for one year to allow time to sort and re-register their members to fit the criteria of Metis Nation identity. Incidentally, that criteria aren’t different from any other world nation, which include immediate relation to the ancestry of the known Metis Nation families. The criteria was unanimously ratified by the Metis Nation in 2002. The MNO participated in that ratification.

Back to 20 years later, and the one-year MNO probation term is over. The MNC, for which leadership is voted for & provided by its affiliate presidents, requested to review the new registers. The MNO responded with an incredulous refusal, stating they had their own ‘independent oversight’ and that the MNC were unwelcome ‘outsiders’.

They’d essentially announced they were a nation unto themselves and they went to Canada directly to try to create that into fact. They called it a ‘self-governance agreement’, which the government called ‘a step toward self-governance agreement’. What that will turn out to be is another story, but a main point is a clause in the agreement that states the MNO will get to decide for itself who is “Metis”.

An easy out compared to having to tell thousands of Ontarians they’re not Metis, some of whom hold influential positions in general society. There are also millions of dollars at stake in annual funding to oversee programs meant for the Indigenous, and specifically for, the Metis. If the MNO were to fail at attaining a new, unrelated pan-Indigenous nation recognized by Canada, that would make some of those members, not Metis, but non-status First Nations. Likely a good number would simply be recognized as non-Indigenous Canadians.

That’s the background to the March 9/10 MNC meeting. Here’s part of what’s stunning. The background historical research used by the MNO and the Ontario Government to justify inclusion of Ontario-based regions/people sometimes reads like a middle school copy & pasted book report. The conflations of ancestral claims are so flimsy in places, that at one point they barely bothered to provide evidence before bestowing the Metis flag to one region.

As is commonly practised by ‘self-identifiers’ in the further east, the Metis titles given by the MNO were based on claims of ancestry in nations unrelated to the Metis; on ancestors who were Europeans re-made into Indigenous; on ancestors that were and still are known as First Nations, whose descendants still live on the same reserves; by claiming First Nations villages were Metis; or as one person at the meeting stated, if a picture of their grandparents ‘looked Native’ to the registrar, they would be accepted. These people now outnumber the legitimate Metis in Ontario.

Excluding the MNO, the fight today is from within, from those who would allow anyone of any Indigenous ancestry to claim to be Metis vs. those who denounce the pan-Indigenous idea over their own unique, rich and richly established history, which included the herculean win in 1982 to achieve the recognition and rights to Section 35 of the Constitution for that nation.

To my mind, it should be abundantly clear. I am a Metis Citizen. Like those in the other affiliates, I proved my ancestry according to the legitimate standards. I know my ancestors stand with us.

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The MNC invite citizens and the public to read the report provided by Dr. Darryl Leroux, doctorate in Sociology and Anthropology, Assoc. Prof., Department of Social Justice and Community Studies at Saint Mary’s University and Prof. Darren O’Toole, Metis, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

RL

What is Metis Again?

Updated September 22, 2018

There’s unfortunate long-held misunderstanding of what being “Metis” means. That confusion has only grown messier in the last few years by increased numbers of various groups looking for recognized Metis identity, if not as entirely new nations altogether.

The misperceptions have lead to outright strife throughout communities, acted out in mild contentious chats to vicious trolling attacks on social media to threatening job losses and lawsuits.

Canada didn’t help this confusion when it formally recognized the western Metis Nation without clearly spelling out that following the steps to ‘self-identification as Metis’ also requires proving that you’re related to this nation. In other words, your relations must be of the known Metis ancestral names on record, language, history & culture from within this western Indigenous community. Thus, I could not put my Cree or other relations on my Metis application.

Canada’s not clearly stating that serves to inspire some to claim their Indigeneity by choosing to be Metis, a very mistaken concept. It is the Metis Nation itself that chooses who to accept in their nation – as does every other nation in the world.

People of no Indigenous ancestry have also been re-inventing their heritage in order to apply themselves, unchecked & un-vetted, to positions meant for the Indigenous in work & arts opportunities, education grants, and governance. Several of these interlopers have been uncovered within the last decade.

From there, groups work by literally re-writing history to usurp harvesting rights from First Nations and to demand retailers provide them rights that even the recognized Metis Nation don’t have – tax free gas & merchandise. Copies of meeting minutes from the “Eastern Metis”, detailed concern mainly for those ‘goodies’ and did not address a single issue plaguing the Indigenous in Canada today.

These groups are prolific, overwhelmingly white, many racist-based including three that merged and changed their name from the “Association for White Rights” to the “Eastern Metis”. They claim well over 20,000 members in Quebec & contest Innu land claims.  In Nova Scotia the self-identified Metis are fighting to claim the harvesting rights of the Mi’kmaq. The Mi’kmaq vehemently oppose those claims because they state, as does the Metis Nation, that there never were historical Metis settlements in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.

Currently most people, even some indigenous people, believe ‘Metis” simply means a mix of any Indigenous with non-Indigenous ancestry – generally something European.  While the Metis Nation is comprised of some French & British men and the word ‘metis’ is French for mixed, this is not what is meant when it comes to defining the formally recognized Metis Nation.

This nation began forming in the 1600/1700s, solidifying in the early 1800s between a relatively small group of specific and well-documented Indigenous women, generally from the Plains Cree, Saulteaux, Assiniboine, and Dene nations and their French, British/Scot men. Their following generations went onto marry other members of this Metis grouping or their original First Nation tribes. The recognized Metis Nation’s battles alongside their ancestral nations for Indigenous rights, and having been persecuted and killed for doing so, is a well-established record.

The idea that being Metis is the simple work of dividing each generation by another half with white people is incorrect. That ancestry is currently known as mixed or “non-status First Nations” people, known as part whichever original nation(s). It is not, at all, the romanticized idea that the Metis lived one foot in the ‘white world’ and one in the ‘Native world’. The Metis were and are Indigenous.

Just to clarify further, there are also mixed ‘Status” First Nations people. Many of these cases are from families where a First Nations man married a white woman and full status was granted to she and their children. Not so for Indigenous women, who lost all status for herself and her children if she had children with a white man – the original non-status First Nations.

I understand why many want to identify as Metis because of the western Metis Nation federal recognition as ‘Indians’, but wanting it and being it is not the same thing. I do however, strongly believe verifiable non-status First Nations fully deserve the sorely lacking recognition and representation. This is in contrast to growing groups who feel it’s their right to claim Indigeneity on face-value, claiming persecution when asked for bona-fides. They seem to feel they’re above the routine requirement of all Indigenous to provide records of proof to claim status or membership into nation. No nation is obligated to accept anyone.

I’m not entering into the role of declaring who is or isn’t Indigenous. That’s not my fight. My personal expectation is that any individual or group looking for formal Indigenous  recognition have to meet the standards of nationhood that the western Metis Nation did: a distinct language, unique & established customs and traditions and a documented current line to historic Metis communities. If there are other mixed ancestral groups meeting these standards, by all means pursue it, but without denigrating the western Metis Nation for having achieved it. Your fight is with Canada.

Many groups asserting they’re Metis, regardless of the known parameters explain their line to the Metis is based in the claim they were ‘especially’ discriminated against, and so ‘hid out in plain sight’ all this time as a life-saving measure. How do they then square this with their claims of holding ‘known historical land bases’ that tie to them even today?

How does one publicly renounce their heritage for several generations by hiding out and living as and in non-Indigenous communities then come back now to claim their presence in those communities constitutes making those communities now Indigenous?  Qualified historians cannot establish these claims.

I’m very aware of the difficulties some of us have in finding our roots, however most indigenous families were well-documented by Canada for its own nefarious purposes. It’s not as easy to ‘cheat’ one’s way through Indigenous ancestry as one might think. To those who try, I can only say – shame. Shame on you for stealing the only thing any one person undeniably has a right to – their inherent identity.

If one is only seeking status in the hopes of attaining the mythical understandings of Indigenous rights, I’ve little sympathy for that. If you haven’t lived a day as an average Indigenous person in Canada, you are far removed from rights still being ferociously fought for, even as they are actively being reduced in Canada.

For those genuinely feeling the call of their Indigenous grandmothers in their hearts, do seek the home fires of your true nations. Honest peace and celebration is found within the real teachings of our culture(s). Programs dedicated to these efforts prove that.

We would all like easy resolution to our issues, but despite how some want to define Metis, there is more to it than simply throwing any and every nation into the mix.

RL

August 1, 2019: A guide to eastern organizations claiming to be Metis and their histories.

November 1, 2018Self-made métis, by Dr. Darryl Leroux.

Tens of thousands of Canadians have begun calling themselves Métis, Darryl Leroux finds, and now they’re trying to get the courts to agree.

Oct 24, 2018:  ‘Alternative’ Metis Nation Alert; Frauds exposed from the west to the east

Oct 3, 2018: Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia and Métis sign historic Memorandum of Understanding affirming both Mi’kmaw and Métis nationhood in the face of proliferation of “Acadian-métis” claims. Commit to support each other’s sovereignty into the future.

Oct 1, 2018: A 2007 list of known organizations usurping the rights the Indigenous across Canada.

In the Words of an Elder: Maureen Kennedy Speaks…

Standing tall, for Standing Rock and all our ancestral lands

Standing tall, for the safety and preservation of all our ancestral land (Lummi Totem Pole, that made a journey across the continent )

I used to have a belief that some races were superior to me and for years never even knew I had this belief. So pitiful, as I was not taught the truth.

Now I know that I learned this because of my environment as a child.

Education and/or money does not make anyone superior or more intelligent. These are external and have not much to do with who I really am. I can put information into my computer and it certainly does not make it superior to me. What a pitiful concept.

And so many people have bought into the lie. That is why it is so important to understand our Sacred teaching of TRUTH. Our Ancestors knew that we needed to look at the 4 aspects of ourselves to know TRUTH and that still holds true for all 2 legged.

It is like a person has not fully developed if they are missing 2 important parts of themselves. Not whole. And it is very hard to feel good about selves if 2 parts of self are denied. I know this to be true.

Some people are so pitiful and cause so much pain with the lies. I wonder, if only our Mama Mother can really teach them, because when people think they know everything they are hard to teach.

Also, no one can learn in the mind if they are traumatized, just try it. So how could our people learn in residential schools. Seriously.

Our people are wise when they live in a good way because KNOWLEDGE IS LEARNED AND WISDOM IS LIVED.

See the difference…..

Lets get this truth first inside ourselves and others will feel this.

Hiy Hiy, Creator, as I am so happy about who I am,
Maureen Kennedy

feather-fan
RL

Bad Medicine

There was a time I needed to feel safe.
So, I would just be the Italian, Eurasion or Greek.
It was better to be whatever I wasn’t
because anything was better than pain.

I didn’t have my grandmother’s arms to hold me
while she told me where we came from.
I didn’t have my grandmother’s words to tell me who
We are.

Her children went outward and got lost in the White Sea
with only glimpses of shining glory, such short moments,
but mostly they got knocked around and then down,
till the medicine could numb them, and set them free.

Some moved from drowning the sorrows, and doing what we were told,
but I learned the voices in my head weren’t the ones in my heart.
My grandmother’s voice now comes through; she’s been whispering the stories.
that the hurt of the years stood in the way of, for so long.

She’s been telling me to stand up,  to remember and learn who we are.
She’s saying use your voice to teach.
Use your voice to reach the hearts of the other lost.
Let them know they’re not alone, show them lies are not real.

Learn for them; then show them the ways through that White Sea.

It’s OK to not be only safe.

Staying hidden is another bad medicine.

Eagle on perch

RL

Photo credit: Jim Wong Photography