I know this was not addressed to me, but I'd like to answer some of your questions if it's alright.
I have a question...
There has been a lot of talk here lately about who is Metis and who isn't.
Like in the link below ...
I hear people saying that because the Metis are already mixed, it doesn't matter how many generations of outmarriage have occured, and that people with very distant Native descent are still Metis and as such are entitled to recognition and rights as indigenous peoples.
On the other hand, it sounds like Canadian Indian Status can only be passed to the children born from the first generation of marriage to a non native person . If those children marry a non native person , it sounds like there is a cut off and their children loose their Indian status...
Do the Metis who are federally recognized as Aboriginal people in Canada also loose this official recognition after 2 generations of marriage to non native people ?
Or do the Metis have a right to pass on their federally recognized identity indefinatly ?
If there is a difference between the rights of the Metis and Status Indians to pass on this federal recognition to their kids , why is there a difference?
Even more confusing, is that I read that while the federal government decides people can no longer be eligible for status, bands get to define their own membership, and it's possible for a person to be a band member without status.
If bands decide to keep people as members after 2 generations of outmarriage , do bands get the same funding and services for their non status members, as they recieve for status members, or do the services provided non status band members have to get paid for by taking funds away from band members with status?
I am not in any way questioning whether or not the Metis people in Canada who are on average 1/2 non native and 1/2 Native , should be recognized as Aboriginal people. I'm not even questioning whether people who are a couple generations away from an ancestor who was 1/2 and 1/2 , should be recognized as Aboriginal people ...
I'm just wondering how the Metis represented by the MNC are different than people who are status Indians and how both these groups are different from the people calling themselves Metis , who's community probably averages about 1 or 2% indigenous content, from marriages that happened more than 300 years ago ...
Your input here would be really helpful...
Being Métis wasn't really an issue until 1982 when we were included in s.35 of the Constitution. We just weren't recognised legally. Nonetheless, there were and continue to be strong Métis communities throughout Canada. In Alberta, we actually have a land base
; 12 settlements created in 1938 of which 8 still remain under Métis control. So there was certainly some sort of political consciousness of the existence of the Métis prior to the repatriation of the Constitution, but no recognition on a Federal level.
The issue of Métis identity is very complex. A lot of people, especially here in Quebec, believe that Métis means having one native parent and one non-native parent, but that isn't the case. That's 'little m' metis. The Métis discussed in the Constitution are a people, a culture, not simply an ethnicity.
Does that mean we are 'hardly native'? There are Métis in many of the Albertan Settlements that are more 'pure blood' than many First Nations further east. There are people
who have recognition as Métis because they took scrip, who have siblings from the same parents who are First Nations, all because of shady land expropriations by the government, involuntary enfranchisement, and then subsiquent reinstatement of status. A lot of intermarriage goes on, so you have various Métis backgrounds blending, and no desire to keep a strict account of blood quantum, because we are as much a product of our European roots as our indigenous ones.
Our language, Michif
, which has suffered the same sort of loss as many other indigenous languages is still spoken by some of our elders. Though when I heard it growing up, I was told it was Cree, and it wasn't until I learned French that I realised it was Michif.
I don't want to go on and on and try to lay out the entirety of Métis culture for you, so I'll skip to your questions about rights. We don't have many. There is no 'status', as you'll find with First Nations people. Status is purely a construction of the Indian Act and does not apply to Métis, Inuit, or non-Status Indians. We had an interim harvesting agreement with the province of Alberta that gave Métis some hunting and fishing rights (though you had to fish with a gill net, not a rod and poll, etc), but that was revoked when the new government came in. We do not have hunting or fishing rights like First Nations. We do not have tax exemptions. We should be a Federal concern, but the Feds deny having any responsibility for our education, or health, and the provinces do the same. We do not have treaties, and there is not the same duty on the Crown to consult with Métis communities as there is in regards to First Nations.
In short, being Métis is pretty much what it has always been.
However, it may not always be that way. There are many court battles being fought over rights. When R. v. Powley
came out, we finally had a legal definition of who is Métis. Before that, we were sometimes Indians (if we lived an 'Indian lifestyle') and sometimes not. After Powley, we know that being Métis means three things
- self-identification as Métis
- is from a historic Métis community
- has current links to that same community
You have to meet all three criteria. This is the criteria being adopted by various provincial Métis organisations. After Powley, the Métis Nation of Alberta went through an intense process of checking on every single one of its members to ensure they met the Powley test. Quite a few people were 'kicked off the list'. We did have a rash of people joining up at one point, thinking they were going to get hunting rights from it. No Métis organisation can risk allowing people in like that anymore. We've heard the rumours of various groups handing out membership cards in malls, and yes it harms us, but we are not a single people who can control every group that wants to represent the Métis. What we can do is within our own nations, ensure that we remain clear on who we are, and what that means.
So no. You can't pass on membership indefinitely. You have to maintain a relationship with your community. If you marry out, that's fine, but if you want your kids to be Métis, then they need to be raised as Métis. It's not about blood quantum, but it is very much about maintaining those reciprocal bonds with your community.
I realise that the issue of 'who is Métis' varies from region to region. In the Prairies, it's not that thorny of an issue. Our communities are strong, and we know one another. One can very easily determine what community (if any) you are from, and determine whether you're actually Métis or not. People still try to 'pass' but they don't get very far. Out here in Quebec, it's hard to say. I know there is a lot of tension over who is Métis, partly because the Quebec government pretends we don't exist at all. Which is ironic, considering some of our strongest communities in Alberta were originally founded by Iroquois from this area. I can't speak to the issue of east coast Métis and whether they should be legally considered Métis; I'm more familiar with my own context. I'm not a Red River purist, but I've run into enough people claiming to be Métis who have absolutely no ties or understanding of what that means, that I do get a little tired of the whole thing.
Anyway, hope that helps...if you have any other questions, or want clarification, I'll try my best to answer!