At a meeting leading up to the Métis National Council’s (MNC) annual general assembly the topic of identity was put in the spotlight.
Over the past year the MNC has taken note of the rising number of people claiming to be eastern Métis.
President Clément Chartier says the groups are appropriating Métis culture and symbols.
“They’re stealing our identity,” he says. “They’re using our Métis Nation flag and they’re calling themselves Métis Nations.”
Chartier was part of a panel, including Saint Mary’s University professor Darryl Leroux and policy analyst Zabrina Whitman, discussing the growing phenomenon.
He says identity comes down to kinship and culture, and the eastern Métis groups are equating mixed-ancestry to being Métis.
“We’re a distinct people. We’re not a people of mixed-ancestry,” says Chartier.
“In fact, if the term Métis was to be used to describe people of mixed-ancestry…everybody would be Métis. Almost all Indigenous peoples, particularly in southern Canada, would be Métis.”
Included in Monday’s discussion was a panel on Métis Nation homelands.
Frank Tough, a professor of Native Studies at the University of Alberta, lead the discussion. He has spent his career studying Métis history including mapping the boundaries of the Métis Nation homelands.
Tough says the Métis emerged as a distinct group because of their part in the fur trade industry.
“It’s really been in Western Canada because of the fur trade, because of its isolation and their very important roles in the fur trade that they become a people and not just individuals who have mixed ancestry,” he says.
“If you had somewhere in the world [where] two people of different races who had a large family of five children, those five children really couldn’t say they were a nation.”
During this week’s meetings the Métis National Council is determining how to address the issue of eastern Metis.
Part of that started with the council signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Mi’kmaq Nation last month.
“We’ve agreed that we’ll continue to work together to address these issues and we’re prepared to enter into further MOU’s with any other Indigenous nation that wishes to engage in that with us,” says Chartier.
The MNC’s general assembly will take place Nov. 28 and 29.
Chartier says discussions will continue but at this time it’s important to educate Canadians.
“Our responsibility is to say who we are, where our homeland is, and fight for our existence as a distinct people.”