Métis Declared Indians!
Identity for convenience and for Who?
By Norm Richards
Yesterday, Federal Court Judge Mr. Justice Michael Phelan ruled that Métis* along with Indians who have lost their formal legal status, "qualify" as Indians under the 1867 act in the Canadian constitution. "The recognition of Métis and non-status Indian as Indians ... should accord a further level of respect and reconciliation by removing the constitutional uncertainty surrounding these groups, " he said.
But, it should be known further, even while Louie Riel and his followers pushed to establish a home province in what became Manitoba, the north west including Manitoba was founded on fur trade, fisheries and humble forms of transportation. Not long ago, I wrote about our family history in a published memoir.
In our youth, my sister and I asked our grandmother of the southern Saulteaux and French heritage about who we were. We spent evenings and other times talking about our background and history. We acknowledging the influence the church had on us. Each night we knelt on our living room floor to face a crucifix affixed on the wall before us while grandmother lead us in prayer in our French mother tongue.
This is symbolic of who we are and that combined with grandfather welcoming natives at our front door to trade their furs is trade mark of our heritage. Some Métis families faced hardship, displacement and a sense of belonging when the fur trade declined and economic stability could no longer be counted on. For survival and existence Some took shelter and identity with native ways and culture. My family remained autonomous but still aware of who we are.
It should be acknowledged, we are not Indians. We are kin but we are not Indians, or should we even be aboriginal? We are people of Canada. We are the first makeup of this country. Now, for the sake of belonging and making right what wrongs were done to us in the past, current leaders decide to take sides with native jurisdiction? Should that be?
I was born in The Pas, Manitoba where the river is the border between Indians and whites. The town was settled with people of Métis heritage and white families. In fact, most of the mixed blood people are like my family, French heritage and identify with white society. There has always been difference between people on both sides of the river. With this new declared status by Justice Phelan are those who have always maintained white identity now going to move to the Indian reserve across the river, be tax free and squat on native land? Now, that would be change.
There seems to be more than one way to skin a beaver I suppose. Have us declared Indians and everything will go smooth after that. For who? Not a great legacy as far as I'm concerned. Does any of this make real sense?
* Métis, for those who don’t know are the first children and their descendants who came from Europe to explore or ended up settling in Canada even before Canada became a country, a new land, a new people. The Métis for the most part are children born from French Merchant traders who came to Canada to take part in the growing wild fur trade industry. Hats, coats, footwear and other items made of fur found here were all the rage in Europe. Before oil or any other trade products were produced for shipment abroad the fur business was major trade. The major trade companies were The North West Company, Hudson’s Bay Company and French company Réveillon Frères were the dominant forces in the fur business.
My forefathers were merchants for or in competition with these companies.