Trigger Warning: This text contains content about suicide, colonialism, and trauma of Indigenous people.
The Métis people, being one of three distinct Indigenous groups in Canada, face a specific set of issues that are unique to them. With a history of lack of recognition and lack of support on a governmental level, combined with the erasure of the Métis culture and lineage, it is evident that the problems they face are unlike any other.
What are the disadvantages faced by Métis people?
The government of Canada is known for their mistreatment of Indigenous people, namely their theft of land and the destructive legacy of residential schools. As much as those events may feel distant in Canada’s history, their impacts are still prevalent today. For example, the government of Canada denied the Métis Nation as being a distinct Indigenous group until 1982 in the Constitution Act. More recently, it was shown that 33.1% of women in federal prisons were Indigenous between the years of 2007 and 2008. While incarcerated, support programs give preference to First Nations women over Métis women and often neglect the specific needs of Métis people. This is not to say that one group is more or less deserving of support, but rather that each individual group should have equal access to support that caters to their specific needs.
Loss of Culture and Identity
Cultural and social support is often a strong source of strength for those who may face discrimination or other challenges due to their race, but a lack of these supports can have devastating effects. ‘The Forgotten Years’, between 1885 and 1960 were a tumultuous time period in which Métis people were neither accepted by the, “Canadian mainstream,” nor given status in the Indian act. After creating the province of Manitoba, they were left without any recognition, without belonging and without the land that they once called home. This and many other challenges faced by Métis people puts them at a risk for facing mental health issues. For example, attempting suicide is increased by factors such as discrimination, social isolation, ongoing trauma, and a lack of connectedness to community and social institutions. Unfortunately, Métis people face many of these issues.
Click here to find more about risk factors of suicide.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or behaviours, click here for Canada’s Crisis Services.
Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line (24/7): 1-877-435-7170
Crisis Line (24/7): (204) 786-8686,1-888-322-3019
Crisis Response Center (24/7): 817 Bannatyne Ave
It is also important to recognize the stereotyped image of an Indigenous person and its impact on Indigenous people’s sense of identity.
“After that rude and insignificant boy told me I couldn't be that Aboriginal, I began to wonder just how Aboriginal I was … For a long time, I felt like I was cheating, like all my life I had been pretending to be something I wasn't.” Regan Burden
Many Métis people struggle with their identity because they do not fit the stereotyped image of an Indigenous person. The reality is, skin colour is not a determinant of Indigenous ancestry and your identity does not depend on how others perceive you.
“A woman from the Qalipu Mi'kmaq, who was as fair skinned as I am, told me with tears in her eyes that nobody got to determine who I was — that nobody could tell me that I wasn't Aboriginal.” Regan Burden
You are not alone.
While being Métis may feel isolating for some, it truly is an issue that connects many Canadians in an unconventional way. According to a Government of Canada census conducted in 2016, the Métis populations grew by nearly 51.2% since 2006. This was largely due to newly identifying Métis people.
“…A meeting with his long-estranged father seven years ago revealed that their family is Métis. The revelation knocked Chris’ world off its axis because he didn’t know what being Métis meant. It also prompted him to revisit everything he thought he knew about who he was and where he came from, questions that went painfully unanswered while growing up.”
While many people have had a unique journey in their discovery of their Métis heritage, many have found unique solutions to seek answers. One forum on Reddit was titled: “How should someone approach re-joining Metis Culture?” in which a user asked what some “good first steps” were.
How to Approach a Reconnection
What are the next steps for those who feel disconnected from their Métis heritage?
1. Do some research! Find out the history of the Métis people, what it means to be Métis and how this group of people came to be.
2. Ask questions! Are there people in your family, people in your community or friends that you have that could provide you with information on the Métis culture?
3. Get to know the culture! Find out about what it was like to be Métis in the past. Learn about some of the modes of transportation they used below.
4. Actively participate! There are many ways to connect with the Métis culture that are available online. Below are fun ways to get started.
Try this Pemmican recipe. This is a very challenging recipe but if you are up for the challenge it could be very fun!
Music and Dancing
Learn about Manitoba’s Flower Beadwork Circle
Participate in one of Melanie Gamache’s virtual beadwork sessions
@federationmetissedumanitoba on Instagram posts “Mot Michif du Jour” (translation: Michif word of the day)
The images are all belongings that have been passed down to my family from my Métis ancestors who were coureurs de bois and also who fought with Louis Riel.
My grandma and her sister have always known that they were Métis, but only decided to apply for their Métis citizenship well into their lives. They watched their mother who, as a farmer, wore long sleeves even on the hottest days of the year to avoid tanning out of fear of being discriminated against if she had brown skin. Internalized fear of discrimination and shame of belonging to the Métis Nation is prevalent but, in my family, has slowly dissipated into a sense of strength and belonging. My sister and I are learning Métis beadwork and my dad has started cooking Métis food. While it may not be easy to erase the erasure of the Métis culture, it certainly is possible.
About the Author
Hello! This is my second year with the Healthy U team and I have loved gaining knowledge about a variety of health topics and working alongside the many talented members. I am currently in the Faculty of Science and working towards majoring in Biology.
I enjoy getting to know new people and spending time with my family. My hobbies include running, camping and skiing.