Ashamed to be Métis

Opinions

Let’s turn the cart around

metis
Graphic by Sie Douglas-Fish.

The Proud to be Métis movement is an important one that is worthy of support. Born as a reaction to the climate of fear that many Métis families lived under, the Proud to be Métis movement aims to bring Métis people out of the woodwork to embrace their Métis heritage rather than purposefully, or unknowingly, obscuring that aspect of their ancestry. However, the blind expression of pride runs counter to maternal Métis teachings. 

As soon as we start being proud of bad things we start down the path towards being bad people. 

The Mother of the Métis Nation is First Nations. But for well over a hundred years now the Métis Nation has largely abandoned its Mother. The Métis Nation has followed, as best it could, a western Father who never loved it, supported it, who rarely even bothered to acknowledge it. What acknowledgement there was, generally came in the form of heavy handed abuse. This Father spoke ill of the Métis Nation’s Mother, shamed her under each avaricious breath, and the children of the new and forced marriage rarely spoke up to disagree. 

The Métis Nation didn’t stand tall at the side of its Mother but instead it turned its back, and lowered its gaze, to show its allegiance with the Western Man. The Métis Nation still accepts the vitriol its Father spews, adding the disparaging comments to its own vocabulary. 

Violence against Indigenous women is much more common in Canada than is violence against non-Indigenous women. Indigenous women are even more likely than other women to be dehumanized, sexualized, trivialized, minimized, and wrongly deemed to be incapable by a racist, sexist, western society. This cultural aspect of Canadian society has led to Indigenous women being overrepresented in the Canadian prison systems and homeless populations, and made them more likely to be victims of abuse. Métis men have taken up this tool of domination. Like many others influenced by the patriarchal Canadian society, some Métis people have become unrepentant abusers of Indigenous women as they follow pathways of trauma and abuse or have turned a blind eye to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women campaigns..

Since the birth of the Métis Nation, western ways have undermined the nation’s maternal values and ways of being. Within short order of the raising of trade forts, the fur-bearing animal populations would be extirpated for many kilometres in every direction. The sacred aspect of hunting buffalo was soon overshadowed by the economic aspect. The maternal relations highlighted in the phrase “all my relations,” were altered in a way nothing short of abusive. Obligations inherent to the relationship with the land were disregarded and the relationships were soured in to abuser/victim dynamics. Relationships became products of economic endeavour rather than reciprocal co-existence.  

Section 35 of the 1982 Constitution Act affirms “Aboriginal” rights for the Métis Nation which provides the nation with a hugely powerful tool in Canadian law. Not to be confused with the Indian Act’s “Indian Status,” Aboriginal status provides for a much broader, undefined set of rights. It is an avenue to all things Aboriginal. It provides Métis people with certain opportunities not afforded to non-Indigenous Canadians. A popular culture adage has taught us that “with great power comes great responsibility” but without thinking too deeply on it we might not realize this also means “with great opportunity comes great sacrifice.” 

The opportunity to exploit does not justify the exploitation. Being Indigenous should not be seen merely as an opportunity to access “Indigenous resources,” but also as an obligation for sacrifice to maintain and respect the many relationships inherent to being Indigenous. 

Now, as the Métis Nation is growing stronger its neglectful father wants to be friends. He wants the Métis Nation to work with him. He says they’ll be like partners. He says they’ll thrive together. The elected Métis leaders are siding with the abusive Father. They’re grasping for his hand with one of theirs and for his wallet with the other. The elected Métis leadership is only too happy to take up his offers of prosperity. With minds clouded by the patriarchy’s promises of economic growth they overlook, if not outright ignore, that these promises are carved straight out of their Mother’s skin. 

The Métis National Council and the provincial bodies have been signing Memoranda of Understanding and other agreements with the Canadian governments without meaningfully consulting, if consulting at all, with First Nations on whose land they live. When land-based entitlements are sought, the Métis authorities in place head straight to the Canadian government. 

The Métis Nation British Columbia Consultation Guidelines (adopted June 2020) make no mention of First Nations land interests. In fact, the only mention of First Nations comes in an adversarial comment that “there is significantly less awareness within the federal government on Métis issues in comparison to First Nations.” This adversarial mentality is commonplace amongst Métis governance, with B.C. Métis government conversations frequently revolving around the “injustice” of First Nations receiving greater health and education funding. 

It is so often the case that Métis Nation politicians don’t care about the interests of the First Nations on whose lands they are making their demands. The governing Métis bodies systematically disenfranchise First Nations peoples. They do this by occupying more than their share of political and discourse space, by negotiating bilateral deals with the Canadian government without consulting First Nations, and by participating in anti-First Nations racist narratives. 

There can only be limited, if any, reconciliation between First Nation and Canadian thought. They are diametrically opposed in their approach to the world and its various inhabitants. A Canadian capitalist commodity-based mindset is fundamentally incompatible with the commonly shared First Nations belief that there is sacred spirit in all things. Canadian reconciliation is most often cloaked assimilation. It means First Nations giving up those beliefs which are conflicting with Canadian beliefs. It means First Nations doing what the Métis did. Spitting in the face of their ancestors and following behind an abusive father figure.

There can be reconciliation between Métis people and the original Indigenous peoples of these lands if, and only if, the Métis repent their abusive behaviour towards their Mother, embrace her, and accept a role as one of her children. This means supporting her against Father’s attacks, when he walks on her rights, and when he tries to crush her spirit. It means standing with their First Nations sisters and brothers in solidarity. Fighting as a unified community, as a family.

It is time for the Métis inhabitants of Turtle Island to stand alongside their First Nations relations. Time to view things according to Indigenous ways of being and by the relationship to the land that they inherited from their maternal ancestry. Basically, the Métis need to stop being so white. Giving up any white privilege is a monumental ask. There is a lot of comfort and western opportunity to lose. But Mother deserves it. The land deserves it. All our relations deserve it.

I look forward to the day when the Métis reconcile with their First Nation relations. But until then,  I do not know how anyone can, with sincerity, make the blanket statement that they are proud to be Métis.