President's Message - December 01, 2021

December 1, 2021

"We must seek to preserve the existence of our own people. We must not by our own act allow ourselves to be swamped. If the day comes when that is done, it must be by no act of ours."

"Pray that God may preserve the little Métis Nation and cause it to grow . . .and remain faithful to its mission. During the five years that I must pass in exile, I have only this to say to the Métis: Remain Métis, become more Métis than ever."
- Louis Riel

From the days of Cuthbert Grant and Louis Riel to today, the Red River Métis have fought vigorously to preserve and protect our identity and independence, earning the name Otipemisiwak - the people who own themselves. It's who we are and what we stand for. We have always known we can accomplish anything, as long as we remain united.

When Louis Riel and John Bruce informed MacDougall that he could not enter the Northwest - our Homeland - without permission in October of 1869, they made the declaration as the national government of the Red River Métis.

Today, the Manitoba Métis Federation is the democratic government and national voice of the Red River Métis, also known as the Manitoba Métis, which is the origin, root, and core of the Métis Nation. Our ancestors negotiated Canada's entry into the Northwest, and Manitoba's entry into Confederation. We remain committed to advancing our work to meet the needs of your family and your community, while we advance our Nation.

On November 16 - the anniversary of the day he was executed 136 years ago - representatives from your Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) government were joined by representatives from the federal, provincial, and civic governments and other Canadian institutions, to pay homage to Louis Riel, Manitoba's founder and first premier, and a father of Canada's Confederation.

While I was unable to attend this important event in person, like many of our Citizens, I watched the livestream. I was so moved to hear the words of the speakers and so proud to see the dignitaries who assembled in Riel's honour, including Winnipeg's Chief of Police and Inspector Cathy Light of the RCMP.

We have truly come a long way in advancing our cause and helping Canadians understand who we are and what we represent.

Minister Will Goodon's remarks included a comment that resonated in my heart, in response to Ambassador Clément Chartier's presentation about our reasons for departing from the Métis National Council (MNC). Minister Goodon said, "these issues are real - they're existential for us in the Métis Nation." He was correct. Our identity as Red River Métis is fundamental to who we are and to the creation of Canada. It's a legacy we must always remember and protect.

It's important for Citizens to understand that while we were once members of the MNC, our participation in that organization did not change our identity, governance approach, or structure. Equally, our departure does not change our identity, governance approach, or structure. As the MMF, our relationship with Canada is one of a sovereign nation to another nation, which is why you'll often see us refer to a nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationship.

In its time, the MNC was a conduit for communicating and advocating for that identity. However, it was never the genesis of it. This is not an assertion. It is fact, affirmed by our July 6, 2021, signing of the Manitoba Métis Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement, which officially recognized the MMF as the existing government of the Red River Métis.

We are the Red River Métis, the Manitoba Métis, and the Métis Nation. These names are synonymous and refer to the same Indigenous people - different names, but the same people. That identity remains intact.

Now that we have left the MNC, and Citizens beyond our provincial borders are coming to the MMF for their citizenship, the question becomes: Who does the MNC represent?

Your Métis government is the national representative of the Red River Métis, by inherent right and direct succession from the 1869 National Committee of the Red River Métis led by President Bruce and the 1869-70 Provisional Government led by President Riel.

We, who trace our origins back to the Red River, are Riel's "little Nation" - the ancestors of the people he gave his life for. I can only imagine his reaction if he were alive today and learned that people from the East are seeking to claim our identity. In his time, all they wanted to claim was our land, our resources, and our complete elimination.

These easterners did their best to erase our identity, scatter our communities, and force us away from our nationhood. The fact that we are still here today, growing and beginning to prosper, is a victory. It shows that when we stand together and speak with one voice about who we are, anyone who tries to erase us or muddy our identity for their own gains will fail. They may win a few small battles, but our united front guarantees we will win the war.

That's the strength of our Nation, tested and proven over and over again through the generations it has taken to overcome what was done to us. We are all inheritors of the fundamental resilience of the Red River Métis - resilience that has been forged by all the tests we've had. No one else can claim that history or that strength.

When you wear your sash or wave our flag, do so with pride, secure in the knowledge that these belong to you. Your Métis government will continue to stand with you in defence of your identity. Working with other Indigenous Nations across Canada, we will create a new Nehiyaw Pwat - a new Iron Confederacy to defend ourselves against common enemies.

In Minister Anita Campbell's remarks, she asked all Red River Métis to stand together, as our ancestors did. She asked you, as Citizens, to stand up for what we believe in and what made us a Nation.

As your President, I ask you to do the same. Speak our truth, educate people around you about our identity. Stand with your Nation and remind people that Métis is not a generic word, it is an identity based on a shared history and culture. Remember the sacrifices of Louis Riel and emblazon his words on your heart: "I have only this to say to the Métis: Remain Métis, become more Métis than ever."

I offer my prayers to all our Citizens, friends, and neighbours, and my deepest condolences to those who have been caused to grieve. We are well into the fourth wave of this pandemic, and it's just as important now to stay safe and keep our Elders and vulnerable community members protected against this terrible virus, that has taken so many loved ones away.

 


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