Monday, March 30, 2015

Making Spaces for Uncomfortable Conversations

I have been following âpihtawikosisân and the comments on her latest post.  I am struck by the passion of people in discussing what is a metis.  However, a lot of these comments come down to a metis being someone who is walking an authentic metis/native life but without any discussion of what that actually means.  There is refference to those people who take up indian life for the wrong reasons, but how do you know if you are one of those?  How do you take up a life that has been hidden for a long time?
I think we need more positive conversation about what the good red road is and the different permutations of that across Canada and in both urban and rural settings.  I would not have been able to make a healthy and realistic claim of my heritage without all of the wonderful stories, music and art I have been able to access from my brothers and sisters, and the kindness and wisdom of Elders who have listened and shared with me.
There is so much to learn when it is new and it can be overwhelming.  There were things I thought I could ignore, like food and plant wisdom that I now realize I need to decolonialize and integrate in my life.  That while we have a daily rhythm of ceremony, our family needs to understand how to deal with the less regular things like the arrival of first moon time or a death in the family.
In this conversation, we need to not just focus on that one moment of official claiming of metis identity, but to share our stories of reclaiming, of decolonializing and of living as metis in this modern context.  To collaborate on how we are supporting our children, influencing our institutions and living as metis today.  We need to share our resources, inspirations and wisdom. 


  1. I could not agree more Elizabeth!
    In fact your words reflect almost identically my own since my teenage years! I've shared my knowledge proudly all my life and continue to learn from our elders. I don't believe that we are ever too old to learn more, and to share it. I normally stay away from blogs and discussions because they either branch out in too many directions or latch onto disagreements that no one will ever win.
    As a Metis genealogist, historian, and author of historical novels, I share my culture, knowledge, and life-long learning with my readers in a way that either awakens blood-memories or strengthens their knowledge. My readers tell me how my stories place them right in the heart of the scenes, and how they see and feel what I describe. Some have told me that my writing helps them understand things they knew and felt about their identity, but were denied. It's a powerful statement that warms an author's heart. The reverse is that some people imagine themselves as Native, but simple genealogy shows otherwise, and they're happy to learn about us, and to envy us :-) The non-Natives who read my books told me that it helped them understand us better, and also the perilous journey some of our ancestors experienced, and the continued struggle the Metis people face today.
    With my first saga (7 books) under my belt, I realize how little we - as a whole - really know about our people, and how much work there is to do. Despite having taken early retirement to concentrate on my writing and help create a movement that unites rather than divide our Metis nation, there aren't enough hours in a day to do all the presentations, readings and lectures I'm invited to do, but I'm doing my best. Having said that, I would welcome the opportunity to collaborate in your effort to not only preserve but continue teaching our history. The first step is to recognize and accept that not all Metis share the same culture, then embrace those differences. When one is able to do that, one realizes that those differences are not all that far apart after all.
    Together, we are indeed stronger.
    Karole Dumont

  2. Thanks for your comment. I look forward to reading you books and sharing opportunities for collaboration.