Outgoing president of the Métis Nation of Alberta says she faced a ‘man’s world’ when first elected

Audrey Poitras has been president of the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) since 1996 and says since that time, a lot has changed.

Poitras recently sat down with APTN News to talk about her career, first in the finance department, then later as president.

She said at first, the MNA was not in a good financial position and that’s why she decided to run for president.

“Right at the very beginning, we needed to rebuild the credibility of the Métis Nation,” she said. “We had to work hard as an example, to have our banking institutes believe in us again. Our government departments that we had agreements with, some of them that we had lost, to start believing in us again.

“So there were some real challenges along the way.”

She said being the first woman president of any provincial Métis organization in Canada wasn’t easy. She faced the old boys club.

“It was totally a man’s world and of course, as the president of the Métis Nation, I also sat at the national table with a bunch of men who made it very clear to me every time we went to a meeting that I probably really didn’t belong there.

“But stubborn as I am, that is where I was supposed to be.”

When asked what she is most proud of during her 27-year tenure, she pointed to Métis Crossing, a popular destination on the side of the North Saskatchewan River that teaches Métis History with a hands-on approach.

“We have a beautiful gathering centre. We have a 40-room lodge. We have a wildlife park. We have a large solar project that is being developed out there, soon to be opened,” Poitras told APTN.

In 2022, the MNA reintroduced bison back into the area. Both plains and wood bison are doing very well with new calves born this spring.

Her tenure did include some disappointments.  In 2020, seven northern Métis communities left the MNA, forming the Alberta Métis Federation.

“Definitely triggered from one of those presidents, who was very vocal that ran in the election, got defeated, made those decisions and the communities followed him,” she said. “And I probably shouldn’t even say communities. Leaders followed him, because today, there are very few of those people who have resigned from the Métis Nation. A few of them have returned their cards, but not all the community, that’s for sure.”

Poitras said the communities are still active and accessing MNA services as individuals.

Joseph Pimlott and Andrea Sandmaier are running to fill the vacancy at the top of the MNA.

Poitras has endorsed Sandmaier. Pimlott has said that the president shouldn’t endorse anyone.

APTN asked why she chose to endorse Sandmaier.

“She’s doing an amazing job,” Poitras said. “She has a great background with a financial background, as well as sitting on some of those boards that are so important that deal with mental health.  That deal with addictions. That deal with all those things that are very important to our community.”

Poitras said she will take some time off, then do some travelling with family.

Watch the full interview with Audrey Poitras here: 

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