My mom told me I was “MÉTIS” (French for “mixed”) growing up. She wrote in the family genealogy that my great-grandmother was “SANG AMERINDIAN”.
The knowledge and the unanswered questions have been a bit of a curse.
Growing up in the suburbs of Ottawa (Algonquin word “adawe”, means “to trade”), I tried to ignore it. As a kid, my dad told me not to think too much about it and to “think ahead”. I listened as it seemed like good advice.
Now, I’m working on Star Trek. 32nd century. I’m thinking ahead but questions as to who I am haven’t gone away.
As an adult, I sought to confirm what my mom said. A First Nation cousin said I’m of “sang algonquin” and “métissé”.
I might be told I’m something but am I really that thing? I might never know.
Am I Algonquin?
My mother was born and raised on unceded Algonquin territory and tried and failed to gain Indian Status in the 70s.
A generation later, I found myself looking into Algonquin citizenship. I was naïve to think that if someone, by birth and by blood, is Algonquin they might qualify for Algonquin citizenship. Naïve, because I never thought to ask myself “how much blood?” — apparently that's a thing.
Basically, I might be Algonquin but I’m not Algonquin enough biologically.
So if I’m not Algonquin…
Am I Métis?
According to the last Census question, yes I am Métis…. but… I’m not a Métis Nation citizen and that distinction is of growing importance to some people.
Ten years ago, social recognition as Métis was easier. I would tell people my story and that was enough.
Demographics of Métis identity on Census have changed over the last decade. There are more people, like me, identifying as Métis outside Métis Nation than inside Métis Nation.
Métis Nation politicians have responded to this perceived regional and demographic change. Métis National Council (MNC), and the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) seem to be gerrymandering the borders and definition of Métis in exchange for political recognition from Canada. Meaning, those without documented lineage to Red River settlement (Winnipeg, Manitoba) cannot become Métis Nation citizens and therefore not “true Métis”.
According to the MNC/MMF, I’m just “métis” (lowercase) and my affinity for Louis Riel is therefore cultural theft. Even though Louis Riel himself recognized all “métis” as “Métis”.
I’m not particularly bothered by a lack of Métis Nation citizenship. I’ve never stepped foot within the borders of what the MNC now calls the “Métis Nation”. I have no desire to live there.
So if I’m not Algonquin and not authentically Métis…
Am I a “Pretendian”?
“Pretendian,” “race-shifter,” or “race faker” are slurs of choice right now.
I can point to cousins who live on a First Nation. I can point back in time to two of my great-grandparents who matched The Indian Act’s description of a “non-Treaty Indian” in 1876, 1880, 1886, 1906 and 1927. The Indian Act stopped defining “non-Treaty Indian” after 1951.
Because Indians never seem to be defined into existence and always out of existence… I guess I’m a pretendian.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Voshart identifies as Métis (non-MNC/MMF). He pays his taxes to whoever is holding the biggest gun. He will respond to “pretendian”, “bipedal meatsack” or “crazy byproduct of paper genocide” as long as it’s in a non-threatening tone.