If you grew up in the Metis Nation in Manitoba this is how it was. There were Metis kids on this side of the river and Indian kids on the other side of the river. We didn't really notice that much when we were little because we just mostly played with our cousins and whoever was closest on our side of the water. At school it didn't seem to matter. When we got to be teenagers we knew we could run around with the teenagers on the other side of the river. We were not likely cousins but we were also possibly cousins.
When I took my first real job working on the gang for CN. I worked with Metis guys and Indian guys and the story checked out. There would be a Metis community near a First Nation usually across a river. I did not know that it wasn't that way for the rest of Canada until I went to the University of Western Ontario and saw the First Nations in that territory.
In our family we are connected to the two distinct Metis Nation groups in Manitoba. In Crane River our family in the south are part of the Metis Nation that are Anishinaabe (Saulteaux, Ojibway), French, Roman Catholic and affiliated with the Northwest Company. In Grand Rapids our family was Cree Scottish and Anglican and were connected to the Hudson Bay Company.
My childhood on the prairies in my father's community was a life where the living was still off the land in harvesting, hunting, fishing and farming. In my mother's community the people lived off the river, the lake and the bush and our family still lived on Metis Scrip land along the shores of the North Saskatchewan.
We were told we had no rights and Metis people who were out hunting, fishing or harvesting were breaking the law. We were raised with a pride in both avoiding the government and not being beholden to the government. It was the Metis Way. No one was going to help us but no one was going to stop us from helping ourselves.
These days our once thriving Metis communities are fading away and no one seems to care. In Crane River, it is though the community survives despite great neglect that sees few opportunities and little reason to stay for the youth.
In Grand Rapids my mother's generation saw their way of life bulldozed into nothing while Manitoba Hydro built it's first dam. Our family and perhaps others had scrip on that land and yet today there is a road and buildings on land that was once Metis Nation land. Only a fraction of scrip land still remains within the family.
Last year the Metis won their land claim at the Supreme Court and recently the Federal Court of Appeal has refused to challenge a ruling that says that Metis are the same as First Nations and Inuit and should be afforded equal rights and supports. The 1.4 million acres promised in the Manitoba Act should allow historic Metis communities the same services and rights afforded the neighbouring First Nation.
Land owned by individuals could be deemed Metis Nation land which means that it would no longer be taxed and although the land could be sold it could only be sold with the Nation. It would always be Metis Nation land. Communal lands and Individual lands would create Metis Nation Homelands similar to those in Alberta.
Once territories have been established in which Metis communities have been identified for the 1.4 million acres, economic development can occur utilizing all models available to Inuit and First Nations.
This needs to be followed by identifying fair traditional land use practices. It is a shared resource but one in which Metis right have only recently been acknowledged as equal to First Nations and Inuit. After the Powley case established that Metis do have the same harvesting rights as the other Indigenous Peoples of Canada the Supreme Court of Canada made it clear that those harvesting rights are connected to historic Metis communities.
Revitilizing our home communities is essential to the future of the Metis Nation.
Our Metis Flag is the oldest flag recorded in Canadian history as it was flown by Cuthbert Grant at the Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816, a generation before Canada existed and almost 150 years before the Canadian flag flew these skies.
We are at another great moment in our history and we need to take the time to gather our voices and this should take place in our communities. We need to have Homecomings in our communities and identify our families and our connection to those historic communities. The grandmas know their children and grand children and great grand children.
"Appropriate a portion of such ungranted lands, to the extent of one million four hundred thousand acres thereof, for the benefit of the families of the half-breed residents, it is hereby enacted, that, under regulations to be from time to time made by the Governor General in Council, the Lieutenant-Governor shall select such lots or tracts in such parts of the Province as he may deem expedient, to the extent aforesaid, and divide the same among the children of the half-breed heads of families residing in the Province at the time of the said transfer to Canada, and the same shall be granted to the said children respectively, in such mode and on such conditions as to settlement and otherwise, as the Governor General in Council may from time to time determine."
Manitoba Act 1870
Who are the Metis?
What is the Metis Nation?
I am Metis.
I am the Metis Nation.