President's Message - August 5, 2020

August 5, 2020

Whether you are spending time with those close to you or going out and experiencing nature, I hope everyone is having a safe and enjoyable summer so far.

This past week on July 31, the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) unveiled our next step in the development of our one-of-a-kind Métis Nation Heritage Centre. You may have already seen the advertisement in Saturday's Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Sun.

We opened the invitation to all Canadians to become part of Métis Nation history and join our Journey in the Heart of the Homeland Idea Competition. The competition officially opened August 1. This idea competition allows everyone, regardless of expertise or age, to submit their vision for the long-awaited Métis Nation Heritage Centre.

For nearly two decades, the Métis Nation has envisioned a Métis Nation Heritage Centre that will display our artifacts and contemporary art, and educate the public on Métis culture and heritage. Our largest hurdle has been finding the perfect location for the Métis Nation Heritage Centre to call home. When the Bank of Montreal put this historic building at Winnipeg's 335 Main Street on the market, we knew that we had to act.

The building itself has vast amounts of symbolic importance to the Métis Nation. The final reminder of what was formerly "Bankers' Row," the building has stood the test of time; while skyscrapers have been erected around it, it has stayed firm. Much like the Métis Nation, our surroundings have changed over the years, but the heart of the Nation has continued to beat.

The corner of Portage and Main has always had a great deal of significance to the Métis. Historically, Portage and Main is at the crossroads of two high-traffic Red River Cart trails undoubtably utilized by our Ancestors. All roads in Western Canada lead to Portage and Main.

The site is just down the road - about four large city blocks - from Upper Fort Garry, where the Métis' Provisional Government sat. It is a short walk to the Red River opposite Elzéar Goulet Park, which was named after a Métis political leader who was murdered by British troops and Canadian militia during Wolseley's Reign of Terror.

Today, the corner of Portage and Main is the economic and cultural hub of Winnipeg, once known as the Red River Settlement. As we wrote in the competition website: this is the heart of our Nation - physically and emotionally.

To learn more about the competition, I suggest you visit our website for more information at www.journeyintheheartofthehomeland.com

This journey is one that goes across the Métis Homeland, which spans from a portion of British Columbia in the West to northwest Ontario in the East, north to the Northwest Territories and south into some of the northern United States. Winnipeg is where our Nation's journey began, and the place to which many of our Citizens trace their roots into the 1700s and the 1800s.

This is a journey across both space and time. We hope to immerse both participants as well as visitors in the story of our Nation. This initiative will allow all Canadians an opportunity to explore the story of our Nation before, during, and after Confederation. By visiting the Heritage Centre, it will also allow them to become a part of Métis Nation history.

The "Journey in the Heart of the Homeland" competition invites participants to sketch their vision for the interior space that will house the Métis Nation Heritage Centre and for the exterior of the building to help those who pass by know what is inside. We look forward to reviewing the submissions from talented artists, artisans, architects, engineers, and designers of all ages.

The Métis Nation Heritage Centre will offer heritage workshops, protection, and display of artifacts, photography, as well as traditional and contemporary arts including beadwork, music, dance, painting, and clothing design. Only by educating the public and preserving our culture will we be able to leave a lasting legacy and resist the loss of identity that we face as a Nation. This loss of identity can happen in many ways. Identity theft is one of the most dangerous foes we face today.

By turning a blind eye to identity theft, we are disrespecting the sacrifices of Grant, Sayer, Riel, and Dumont, among others. Recently, I was deeply troubled when following the news story of Ms. Breanne Lavallee-Heckert. An MMF Citizen, Lavallee-Heckert said that she felt she had no choice but to leave her job as a Senate staffer after the way her complaints against a coworker, who was falsely claiming to be Métis, were handled.

I would like to commend Ms. Lavallee-Heckert for the bravery she displayed when handling this situation. We will be reaching out to Lavallee-Heckert, and I personally will be following up with the Senate.

We have so much to lose by allowing identity theft to continue. If we allow those who falsely identify as Métis into our Nation, the true Métis Nation will soon be outnumbered, our history will be rewritten, and our culture assimilated. It is critical that all Métis Nation Governments require their Citizens to prove their connection to the Historic Métis Nation Homeland. As you know, this is an issue we have with the Métis Nation of Ontario opening the door to people from communities in eastern Ontario and Quebec.

Please, continue to stay diligent in your effort to combat the threat of COVID-19. The number of cases is back on the rise, and we need to make sure that we take every precaution necessary to protect our loved ones. For instance, I had to turn down an invitation to an event in Saskatchewan to make sure that our loved ones and coworkers are protected.

As the province continues to lift pandemic restrictions, please ensure that you and those around you continue to practice social distancing protocols. There are many ways to continue gathering in small groups while remaining safe. I will continue to keep all those affected by COVID-19 in my thoughts and prayers, and I encourage everyone else to do the same.

Meeqwetch,

 


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