The Funny Thing About Being Metis

The funny thing about being Metis is you are constantly decolonizing and indigenizing yourself. Decolonizing myself involves deconstructing what thoughts and beliefs are from the church and which come from the land, which come from government assimilation policies and which come from my ancestors.

Being Metis, I often have to be a history book and if I am not, I am invalid. I have to know generations of my family’s history, deeper than the majority of Canadians ever look. And if I cannot tell you about my ancestors from the 1700s, my identity hangs in the balance. Like a brown, dead leaf hanging on to its former life source in the autumn wind, my identity according to you can just blow away at any moment. To be a valid Metis, I must be able to tell you about trade routes and trap lines and point them out on maps. I must be able to talk about Rupert’s Land and the Hudson’s Bay Company, I must be able to explain Metis land scripts and even have some insight into the Indian Act, over 250 years of history, most topics teachers never even learn about. All things that just like you, I am never taught in school. As a Metis child, I am taught the same curriculum you are taught, apparently Metis people existed, mixed and then disappeared along with all other Indigenous people. I can hope that a family member will sit down with me and talk about our stories, that is of course if they are able and have healed from a history of displacement, diaspora, forced assimilation and trauma from colonial violence. That is of course if they are proud to be Metis and see the benefit of a strong future generation of freedom fighters.

Just like my First Nations and Inuit brothers and sisters, I will feel a little bit better when a fancy government event is opened by my peers, by some jiggers and a fiddler but then will sit through the event wondering why Canadians still ask me “So does that mean you are half?” and why Canada has not recognized or reconciled the violent murders, bounty killings and extreme poverty of Metis people. I then must prove to on lookers that I am in fact Metis, by wearing a novelty sash and doing my best to follow the steps of a professional dancer, of which any observant person can tell I am not a professional jigger. Unfortunately, the teachings of that sash, the jig and the fiddle get lost as we try to keep up with an imposed image of who we have to be according to you, the on looker. Like a mannequin unable to portray any of its own creativity, in fear that anything different may ruin the branding.

Because you are Metis, you fall under the umbrella terms like Aboriginal or Indigenous and often people will not recognize you as Metis and lump you in as First Nations. So you begin to mingle, just as your ancestors did, you meet Ojibwa, Algonquin, Cree, Inuit, Iroquois people and you begin to share stories with each other. You win many over with your inherited rebellious charm and you remind elders of a niece or a nephew or a grandchild.

You learn so much from your new aunties and uncles, some of which are not Metis, but they teach you the meaning of being Anishnaabe, to be a good person or a person who does good work. They teach you about the seven grandfather teachings and about the thirteen grandmother moons, they teach you about natural law and that all humans have a role in natural law include you and even settlers. They encourage you to sing and drum and dance, you learn those ceremonial songs and share the teachings with those that offer you tobacco, you learn about love and kindness and reciprocity. You begin to heal from the centuries of damage from colonial violence done to you and your relations, like the snow after a long, long winter. As your pain melts away, unknowingly you awake sleeping bears, some are happy to be awake and some too distracted, desperately seeking resources and food, some wish you did not wake them up at all. Even as some people read these words, they will be unsettled and may even leave a rude comment or two, hoping they can just go back to sleep. However you’re hunger for truth has brought you to this very moment.

Elders and knowledge keepers tell you, as an Indigenous person, you must speak up against actions detrimental or hurtful to the land even if you are far from your original territory, because you too are a defender of the land. They teach you about legalities and legislation meant to divide and conquer, meant to exterminate the “Indian in the child” including Metis children. These are traditional people but they are very educated, wise and intelligent however it is the ceremonial knowledge from these mentors that impacts you the most just as it was meant to. You begin to interpret things differently and you see the hidden messages your ancestors left behind, like maple leaf and infinity flags and names of cities and towns, to name a few. You understand that there can be no label placed on spirituality and the gifts you were given were gifted to you for a reason, you must use them no matter how people might judge you. The Creator has a plan for you.

The funny thing about being Metis is even other Metis people will try to argue with you about who they think you should be. They will argue that something is too First Nations or Native but not once will you ever hear anyone say that something is too European or white. Your identity is convenient for program dollars and statistics however if you ever speak up against Indigenous people that are pro-development and pro-capitalism, your identity will quickly be used against you by these Indigenous people being paid off by these capitalistic systems, in hopes that you will question your morals and teachings and hopefully just shut up and become invisible like your Metis ancestors.

But the funny thing is you are not invisible at all, there is no denying you are here today and you are flesh and blood, you are the answer to prayers of generations of sacrifice and resistance, whether these were rosary bead prayers or sweat lodge prayers, you are the answer. The funny thing about being a young, Indigenous woman, especially being Metis, is your existence; based on seeking truth and right relations, you are proof that no more how hard a system based on lies and greed tries to out smart and kill off a culture based on love and integrity, they will never be successful because you are infinite. That strength will flow through to your next seven generations, not based on blood quantum or status, but through your spirit and how you walked on Mother Earth at this very moment and time.
*This is for all my relations. I love you all.*

This was inspired by my Nehiyaw sister, Helen Knott, who is out defending the land in Treaty 8 territory in Rocky Mountain House against a proposed dam #NoSiteC, and her blog “The Funny Thing About Being An Indian”. https://reclaimthewarrior.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/the-funny-thing-about-being-an-indian/ 

14 thoughts on “The Funny Thing About Being Metis

  1. Great piece. Inside the soul I felt for years the conflict and knew noting really for years why, except having some scant stories told, hinting at an ancestral past that was of Mixed-Blood. As a young person, I tried being romantic, siding with my Aboriginal Soul, only to then feel like a traitor to the country as the years went by. It took a lot to reconcile and embrace my heritage. Thank you for this writing. Be Well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved the analogy of sleeping bears as it relates to pain and suffering. Well written and know that we all feel this way lol…..I went through an identity crisis living in Regina and coming from a small northern Metis community, Buffalo Narrows. I now just show up as myself and tell my girls to always walk as themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I could not have read this better. I am Metis and have worked in Education for many years and this is so much how I have felt for the past many years, that we are so misunderstood and not acknowledged so many times as our own unique culture and however this came to be. I am a Consultant for Education on our history and my goal is to see our history shared as it should be, through our Ancestors. thank you for this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Let me tell you this is without a doubt one of the best articles I have read on our people in a very long time it is simply beautiful easily understood and right on point. Walk the walk and talk the talk and stay on the right path.

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  5. May I print this wonderful article and share it at work where I deal with discrimination from my Indigenous/Aboriginal sisters daily. Being a bit on the pale side.. Reading this brought tears to my eyes and soul as it showed how difficult I have found the fight to be recognized and accepted within my own group as I’m from Québec and apparently not from the “Holy Land of the Red River” if u catch my meaning.(63) yrs.

    Mercie

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  6. This is a wonderful article. I belong to the Vancouver Met is Citizen’s. I am from a Met is town in Alberta. St.Albert.
    When we lived there we were not allowed to identify as Metis. That us a common story.

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  7. Beautiful. Very poignant as I feel very similar that I’m always being asked to provide a history lesson, to defend being Métis. Your words give me hope.

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  8. Mi’maq Metis woman here! I know I’m late to the party but this article is so beautiful. I had to stifle tears when reading it because it is exactly my experience. I’m not white enough to be white, but I’m not Mikmaq enough to be Native. But my family has carried these traditions and stories for centuries. I feel as though I’m supposed to ignore my history, but why? So that I can conveniently fit into a box developed by a non-Aboriginal? Metis people have never fit into neat little boxes, and I’m starting to take that as a point of pride ❤ Big wela'lin, sister ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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