I am Metis… But How?

Yesterday was National Aboriginal Day. Though one might not know upon looking at me I am Metis and thus, celebrate National Aboriginal Day with the rest of the nation.

What does this mean? Well, I honestly don’t know. And that’s a hard thing to admit. I know what I “should” do; I know that I should stand up and be proud, I know that during the day at some point I should eat bannock, and I know that the day serves as a perfect opportunity to educate those around me who aren’t familiar with the culture. It’s difficult though, to represent something you barely have a grasp on.

Being Metis is a new honor in our family, saying “I’m Metis” out loud is a new privilege my Mother’s generation stood up and reclaimed for us. I am able to say this without repercussions. However, with this honor comes years of shame and guilt built into my defence mechanisms as well as a relearning of a culture. A culture that for a long time was frowned upon.

Half breeds. Ditch people.

I’m stuck in between three worlds. I am fair skinned, I am Metis, and I am Aboriginal. One would say that being Metis is one and the same with being Aboriginal, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. To find one’s place in a society is a tricky practice. Preparing for Aboriginal day is a strange experience. I need to celebrate, but how? I don my best Steven Paul Judd shirt and carry on my way to obtain the coveted Gourmet Bannock food truck.

Food. Food is how we celebrate in my family.

A Tribe Called Red blaring through my headphones, I arrive at work and am faced with a difficult question from my co-worker. What is the difference between Aboriginal and First Nations? “A name” is my response. When in truth, I can’t be certain.

Half breed. Indian. First Nations. Metis? What’s that? Am I doing it right?

I make more bannock for the children I work with. I provide just as my Mother and my Grandmother have and think, Maybe this is part of it? Feeding a small clan, preparing them a small piece of something special.

I feel half hearted about the day and my celebrations feel forced. As though it’s a heavy burden to remind others where I come from. A annual reminder of who I am and who my people were. But who were my people?

To find the truth in our linage you have to dig deep.

Looking through marriage certificates and land titles is a bit tricky. We are documented French, the papers were for the best and presented the route of least resistance. My great grandmother faced the option of illiteracy or residential schooling and somehow wound up with the former. I can’t tell you how it happened, no one really knows.

Yet, here I am. Metis. Proud to be. Hashtag.

Since then my family spent three generations repressing half of its heritage. Coming to the point of accepting who we are has been a challenge all in itself. What we are still faced with is a reconnection to a lost culture. How do we embrace what is lost and make it our own?

Self declaration. No shame. No guilt.

My mother said “You become who you are with your colors behind you”. So where does this leave me? Here. Telling you my story. Isn’t that part of it?