Words Matter

Metis history

I read with interest Daniel Sims' article in a recent University of Alberta issue of Augustana News. I appreciate his explanation of the terminology when discussing Indigenous people, and he rightfully notes that it is important to use the correct terminology. The author also correctly notes that the Federal Government currently recognizes 617 First Nations in Canada.

When Mr. Sims addresses the matter of the Metis in Canada, he notes that the majority agree that the Metis "only includes people with a genealogical connection to an ancestral Metis group from the prairies." This ancestral Metis group that is often referenced in terms of Metis genealogy is that group who were in the Red River area when the Metis took up arms in incidents which have come to be referred to as the North West Uprising and/or the Battle of Seven Oaks.

In the census of 2011, 451,975 people identified as Metis, representing 32% of the total Aboriginal population, and 1.4% of the total Canadian population. To use the narrow categorization that, in order to rightfully identify as Metis one must trace their connection to an ancestral Metis group from the prairies, in fact disregards the connection of many Metis to the earlier fur trade. More importantly, it relegates a current categorization of Metis people who do not fit neatly into the events-based analysis to a discussion of race and degrees of mixedness. It is to view these Metis as people “in between” rather than as rightful members of the “nation” of Metis.