President's Message - February 1, 2022

February 1, 2022

Over the last several years, Canadians have seen multiple high-profile cases of identity theft. These individual cases are an important part of the overall conversation about Indigenous identity, but they are not the only examples of identity theft taking place in our country.

In a recent publication from a virtual meeting, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) states that there is "no singular ethnogenesis of the Métis," which means they are asserting that there is no one place, time, or community where the Métis emerged as a Nation. This is yet another piece of evidence that the MNO is doing what the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) has said they were doing all along, which is working to undermine our nationhood, while driving their own agenda that allows for anyone with mixed blood to be accepted as Métis.

It is incomprehensible that they would make this statement while continuing to celebrate our great heroes like Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont, and Cuthbert Grant, who sacrificed everything to defend our Nation and our distinct identity.

Equally mysterious is the fact that these claims are being supported by the organizational presidents of the Métis Nation of Alberta and Métis Nation Saskatchewan, who are now openly referring to multiple nations when talking about the Métis in Canada.

Not only are they hiding behind our identity, they are using as many distractions as they can to divert attention from their actions, like filing claims in eastern courts against myself and Clément Chartier, who left the Métis National Council in a surplus position, with no funds missing. There will be more to discuss on this subject as the court case evolves, but I look forward to having the actual facts shown in the court, and I encourage Citizens to keep their eyes firmly on the facts they are trying to distract you from.

We are Otipemisiwak

If what the MNO and their supporters in other provincial bodies are asserting about multiple Métis Nations is true, why do these so-called nations wear our sash, wave our flag, and wear our beadwork? Why do they celebrate our heroes? Where are their unique cultural artifacts? What are their traditions and where are they being celebrated?

The Red River Métis are the people who were given the name Otipemisiwak - the people who own themselves. If anyone is still seeking evidence of the fact that we are and have always been a recognized collective, they should consider the meaning behind this name. It was our ancestors who fought in the Victory of Frog Plain in 1816, who first unfurled our infinity flag and declared our existence as a Nation and a collective. Our community, our common purpose, and our shared values have always been evident to the people around us - can anyone outside of our Nation say the same?

Our Red River Métis Citizens understand that there is a very clear line in the sand - you either stand with your Nation, knowing that there was, in fact, a singular place and time at which the Métis Nation formed, and that our collective will and consciousness were the source of the name Otipemisiwak, or you stand on the side of those who believe that the definition of Métis means anyone with mixed blood from anywhere in Canada.

Our unique identity

Protecting ourselves against these invaders from the East only highlights why it is important for Citizens and all Canadians to understand the difference between what is unique to us and what is from other traditions. While there's no doubt our Nation was influenced by other cultures, what is unique to us is what we did with these cultural influences. What we created from our influences - Scottish, French, Cree, Saulteaux, and beyond - these are the things that make us unique. We are more than the sum of our parts, as are our arts, culture, language, and heritage.

Think of it like the difference between dancing a jig, which is ours, and engaging in highland dancing. There is nothing wrong with participating in highland dancing, but it shouldn't be something we try to claim as our own.

If our Citizens have Scottish ancestry, they should not be afraid to find the tartan that represents their Scottish ancestors. They should not be afraid to learn about, or even visit, those Scottish villages where some of their ancestors were born. They should also be unafraid to explore First Nations spiritualty, or take the time to learn about the First Nations some of their ancestors came from, along with the traditions and practices that are meaningful to those Nations.

But all Citizens should be clear in their own minds that these discoveries and learnings led us to the creation of our own identity and culture as the Red River Métis, and that we've continued to evolve over the last several hundred years. To state otherwise is just as dangerous to our identity as these eastern claims that there is no united Métis Nation.

A message for our Youth

It is important for today's Red River Métis Youth to recognize the important role you play in our Nation's future. You are our leaders of tomorrow, which means you have the sacred duty of carrying our Nation forward.

Our Elders have always told us to protect our identity and remember where we came from. That means we must all remember what our ancestors went through, being pushed away from the economic success they created, forced to split up and lose their communities, all to protect their families and avoid persecution. Each of our families has had to find a way to regain our footing, and reclaim what these invaders tried to take away. Each of us who is part of the Nation of the Red River Métis today represents the successful struggle of our ancestors to preserve what they could.

Passing on our knowledge and teachings to the next generation is the reason why Elders talk about knowing where we come from and why current leaders work so hard to preserve our identity - so that we, like our ancestors, leave something for our Youth to carry forward.

The work ahead of us

I know that many, many Citizens have spent significant time, energy, and thought explaining to others who we are, why we're distinct and in what ways we are different from people of mixed blood. I know that hearing contradictory messages from these provincial bodies can be discouraging, as they actively work against everything we believe in and stand for. But we need to keep doing this hard work, educating Canadians about our identity. I am so proud of Citizens who engage in this dialogue and work to educate others. Know in your hearts, as I know, that every single one of you makes a difference in stemming this tide of misinformation from outsiders who want to erase our identity.

The important work of protecting and preserving our identity is something we are committed to, and we continue to expand our ability to do this work on many fronts. For example, within our Early Learning & Child Care department at the MMF, we're opening daycares across the province that focus on ensuring our children receive culturally focused early learning opportunities. Because the programming is built by Red River Métis for Red River Métis, Citizens can be confident that we don't just look at educating the child - we also include our families and communities, with programs to support fathers, mothers, and extended family members, like grandparents and community Elders. We also offer programs outside of our child care facilities, including our very popular "My Little Metis Box," which promotes culture-based learning activities and family fun. These opportunities to share our culture and history with our very youngest Citizens will help them grow up strong and proud of who they are, equipped with cultural knowledge they will carry for their entire lives. I thank Minister Frances Chartrand and her team for their outstanding work and innovative approaches to building this legacy for our children.

Until we can gather again, I offer my prayers to all our Citizens, friends, and neighbours, and my deepest condolences to those who have been caused to grieve. This time of year can be very hard on the mental health of all Canadians, and I know we are all tired of COVID-19 and the restrictions it places on our lives. I urge everyone to continue doing their part to help Elders and vulnerable community members. There are many ways you can help, like shovelling driveways, sharing supplies or part of your harvest, or even just the simple act of reaching out to talk with them. I urge everyone to do their part in keeping our communities safe and well.

 


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