President's Message - October 6, 2021

October 6, 2021

Effective September 29, 2021, your Métis government formally withdrew from the Métis National Council (MNC). It's important that all Citizens understand why we took this extraordinary step, what it means for us, and where we'll go in the future.

Events leading up to our withdrawal

In 1983, the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) led the prairie provinces to form the MNC, in order ensure the national voice of the Métis Nation centred on and connected to the Red River Métis and was independent from pan-Indigenous organizations. In 2002, our independence and identity were strengthened by our national definition of Métis, which was agreed to and celebrated by the governing members from all provinces.

The definition in the MMF Constitution, which is critical to exercising our rights to self-determination and self-government, reads in part: "Métis" means a person who self-identifies as Métis, is of historic Métis Nation Ancestry, is distinct from other Aboriginal Peoples, and is accepted by the Métis Nation. "Historic Métis Nation" means the Aboriginal people, then known as Métis or Half-breeds, who resided in the Historic Métis Nation homeland.

"Historic Métis Nation Homeland" means the area of land in west central North America used and occupied as the traditional territory of the Métis, or Half-breeds as they were then known. This was further clarified by a later MNC resolution that indicated west central North America is defined as the lands brought into Canada by Louis Riel and his provisional government's negotiations in 1870.

Since the formal adoption of the definition in 2002, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) has begun granting citizenship to individuals who do not meet the criteria within our definition of Métis. By their own admission in a recent report, nearly 80 per cent of their registry has no ancestral connection to the Red River or our Nation. They have changed our national definition and started using different words such as Powley Métis, Root Ancestry Métis, section 35 rights Métis, voyageur Métis, and at times, historic Métis.

In just one example of how the MNO is shifting definitions, their own harvesting policy states that harvesting rights are available to those who fit within the national definition, but then go on to redefine our territory. They do not reference the Homeland, but instead say that "traditional territory" means the geographic area that a Métis community in Ontario has historically relied on and continues to rely on for the Métis harvest.

Unfortunately, the other presidents have supported the Métis Nation of Ontario. The MMF spent significant time and energy trying to work with the other governing members, to help them realize what they put at risk by creating a pan-Indigenous organization that includes non-Métis Nation Citizens, outside our Homeland.

When we consulted with you at our 3,000-strong Annual General Assembly in 2019, you gave your Cabinet and me very clear direction that we must take all measures necessary to protect who we are. You told us that if the Métis Nation of Ontario was permitted to bring these Identity Thieves into our Nation, to endanger our place in Canada's Confederation and claim to be us, then we must withdraw from the MNC.

Your Métis government heard you loud and clear and took your message to heart. Your will has been turned into action and we have withdrawn from the pan-Indigenous organization that the MNC has become.

Why it matters

It was only a short time ago that nobody wanted to be Métis in Eastern Canada. Only now, seeing the progress we've made in advancing our overall rights and our harvesting rights, the near-settlement of our land claim and our modern-day treaty development, along with the programs and services we can offer for education, housing, and culturally appropriate daycares - now, they are coming after something we fought to achieve for over 200 years.

The MMF has long been the protector of the definition of our identity, while others sought to find a way to take our place as their own. But these are people with no connection to us or our history. We will not let them take our identity or the resources we've earned today, and we will not let these resources be stolen from the next generation - they belong to the Red River Métis.

This Identity Theft is threatening to take what our grandparents and great-grandparents fought so hard for; the perpetrators have little understanding of the struggles our Ancestors endured, and we endured, to get to this place. We were pushed off our land, attacked, assaulted, and murdered, and our future was stolen.

This is part of our history, and it's why we have always been strong and united since the times of the buffalo hunts. It's not just because we share kinship, music, beadwork, dances, and other traditions - it's also because of what we've endured together as a people.

We know that Métis Nation Citizens throughout the Homeland do not agree with the positions being taken by the presidents. I have personally heard stories about Red River Métis experiencing exclusion, and I know others in my Cabinet and your government have heard them too. We feel compelled to protect and support those who derive their section 35 rights from the Red River Métis, also known as the Manitoba Métis - which is the origin, root, and core of the one, true Métis Nation.

Where we'll go in the future

Thanks to your Métis government's strong leadership and vision for the future, on July 6 of this year, we signed the Canada - MMF Self-Government Recognition and Implementation Agreement. Because of this, we, the Red River Métis - the Métis Nation - are the only Indigenous nation to have a nationwide recognition agreement for true self-government, without borders, with a modern-day treaty and a land settlement soon to come.

This agreement recognizes that the MMF has the authority to exclusively represent the rightful heirs and descendants of the Red River Métis - the true Métis Nation. For those who are ancestrally connected to our prairie flower beadwork, our National Flag, the Red River Jig, the Red River Cart, the poems, songs, and music of our artists, and our language, Michif, remember: nobody can strip this from you unless you allow it to happen.

What you need to know as a Citizen

If you're a descendant of the Red River Métis, the MMF is your government no matter where you live. The MMF is the national voice and national government of the Red River Métis. We look forward to continuing to advance our place in Canada's Confederation and protect the rights and interests of our nation.

We will immediately begin negotiating with Canada to ensure we have the resources to support all Citizens with our programs and services, while exploring opportunities for all Red River Métis and protecting our unique identity, culture, and heritage. I will continue to keep you updated about our evolution as we walk down this pathway together.

Rest assured, we will take all the necessary steps to protect our achievements, identity, and the legacy of our Ancestors. Our goal is to ensure that the next generation can elaborate on our vision and pass on a rich tradition, culture, and heritage to future generations. We know it is no less than Louis Riel would have expected from us. 

We are your government - the democratic government of the Red River Métis - the Manitoba Métis - the historical and modern-day Métis Nation. As your national government, we will always have your back.

Our time has come! Believe in yourself, believe in Red River Métis.

 


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