President's message - September 13, 2023

September 13, 2023

The season of harvesting is upon us - gardens are giving up their abundance, and those who practice the traditions of canning and preserving are well into the work of the season. It's also the time of year we begin planning the harvest of wild meat that was once a staple of our traditional diet.

I know many of us who grew up in families who harvest are getting excited about the taste of wild meat - a taste that brings us back to our childhood, when we'd gather as a family and have a big meal, straight from nature to the table. The way our mouths watered at the sight of the feast, the gratitude we felt eating all the harvested food, and the happiness and joy we felt as we sat together warm, safe, and full - these are memories to cherish.

This speaks to the reasons why so many of our seniors and Elders have fought fiercely to keep the tradition of harvesting from the land, passing their knowledge down to their children and grandchildren. They fought not only for the sustenance that is harvested, but they also fought for the right to share the bounty and provide for our families. Harvesting, at its heart, is about love of family and community, and about preserving a connection with our Homeland, history, and culture, and honouring the ways of our Ancestors.

One of the reasons we continue to battle against identity theft is that these people who claim our identity are also claiming territory that does not belong to us. They are creating distorted versions of our Homeland map that plainly encroach into territories where we do not have any claim or historic presence, and creating expectations that individuals claiming to be Métis in these areas will have rights to harvest.

To be clear, our harvesting rights within Manitoba and our broader Homeland are no different than our First Nations relatives - we share rights as we share territory. Individuals who trace their roots to the Red River Métis have a right to harvest in our Homeland, in the same way our Ancestors did. This should not be in question. We are putting a strategy in place to support our Citizens within the Homeland for harvesting rights, adhering to the Canadian constitution and respecting the law, and we hope the provinces will follow suit. While I have respect for provincial jurisdictions, I ask the Premiers to respect the boundaries of our traditional Homeland, and the rights of Red River Métis Citizens who live within them. Some governments may believe that lines drawn on a map are sacred when it comes to ownership of territory, but this colonial view is ending. Indigenous peoples were here on this land, using and preserving its resources, before those lines - whether international or provincial - were ever drawn. The Canadian legal system is finally recognizing and reconciling with this truth.

Two recent harvesting cases - Desautel in British Columbia and Boyer/Poitras in Saskatchewan - clearly reflect the changing tides in the courts, including growing awareness that colonial thinking cannot be easily applied to traditional Indigenous harvesting rights. They are recognizing that Indigenous people were highly mobile in the past, though still within clearly defined territories. Your Red River Métis Government had the foresight to take intervenor status on these cases, which prove the continued existence of our harvesting rights, consistent with section 35 rights of the Canadian Constitution.

Increasingly, we are seeing a loss of the Crown Land where our harvesting rights are protected. While this is a concern, we are planning for the future by buying land across our Homeland for Citizen use in sustainable harvesting practices. It is important for us to take action now to preserve the land and to protect our traditional practices for the next generation of Red River Métis Citizens. We must be sure that we keep our harvesting activities to Crown Land or private land where we have received direct permission to harvest. This is particularly important if Citizens are harvesting near waterways for ducks and geese.

Remember, your Red River Métis Government will protect your right to harvest everywhere in Manitoba, from the east, west, and south of Winnipeg to the colonial borderlines, and as far north as Churchill.

As long as you have your MMF-issued Harvester Card and your Conservation Trust Fund Sticker for the current year, and are adhering to the Métis Laws of the Harvest as taught to us by our Elders, you can be confident that your rights will be protected. This includes ongoing moose harvesting in the Duck and Porcupine Mountains.

We will conduct a lottery-style draw for harvesting tags to a designated Captain of the Hunt and party. A lottery for elk hunting will be introduced on MMF-owned land. It is important that harvesting wild meat be done safely, with a constant eye to the long-term sustainability of the hunt. We have the responsibility to ensure that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren can continue to follow our ways.

We will share more details on the harvesting tag process through our regular channels of communication, so keep an eye on your email and on our social media pages.

I send my well wishes to Citizens who are honouring our traditions by harvesting in our Homeland to feed family and community. Stay safe and remember - your Red River Métis Government has your back.

Until we get together again, I offer my prayers to all our families, Citizens, friends and neighbours, and my deepest condolences to those who have cause to grieve.



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