This page will be partly to post some opinion columns that will hopefully get published in Grassroots News. The columns will be about Metis issues, sometimes lighthearted, sometimes deeper or more controversial. The opinions are my own and are not necessarily reflective of the Manitoba Metis Federation. If you want to provide feedback just drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brandon Sun Letter to the Editor
Re: Cooler heads must prevail in night hunting battle
The issue of night hunting has garnered increasing attention in the local and provincial media over the past few weeks. The Premier’s recent characterization of the matter as a “race war” has irresponsibly fuelled and fanned the flames of an already heated and divisive issue.
This is unfortunate as individuals – and the media – either ignore or fail to check the facts before they pass on these inflammatory stories. These stories suggest the occurrence of night hunting has increased in recent months, with safety, property, and wildlife concerns and infractions, and that the Indigenous Peoples are responsible and, in the words of the RM of Sifton councillor, for “cheating and poaching”.
Let me set the record straight: night hunting is not a new practice. It has been occurring for generations. The night hunting issue, in the way it is being portrayed, is a Trojan Horse in the attack on Métis hunting rights specifically, and Indigenous rights more broadly, by the rural councillors and reeves in southwest Manitoba in another attempt to ‘trump’ constitutionally protected rights.
It is important to recall these same councillors and reeves, who are now suddenly sounding the alarms on the long-standing practice of night hunting, are also the same individuals who, last year, falsely claimed the Métis were overhunting in the Southwest region of Manitoba. Yet, when pressed for evidence of this accusation – because, surely, claims such as this should be supported by objective and verifiable facts – none were provided.
The reason is simple – Métis hunters are in fact not overhunting. Our Métis harvesters follow the Manitoba Métis Laws of the Hunt and exercise their rights both safely and responsibly. These laws have evolved for well over a hundred years and will continue to do so with the consultation and direction of the Manitoba Métis Community.
The continuing false accusations and inflammatory remarks, the rumour and innuendo perpetuated by these Councillors and Reeves are nothing more than fear tactics designed to undermine the constitutional rights of the Métis to hunt for food. The roots of their accusations are not safety concerns or conservation issues. The facts presented simply do not support any claims that it is the Métis rights-based hunters who are the problem with night hunting or overhunting.
That is among the reasons why President David Chartrand of the Manitoba Metis Federation, stated unequivocally in his interview and other public comments that he would fight to protect Métis hunting rights. President Chartrand, and all Métis, see this latest tactic for exactly what it is – a clumsy, backdoor attempt to extinguish our rights and prevent our harvesters from feeding their families in our time-honoured ways.
Metis National Council Assembly to be held in Calgary
June 1, 2015 - Reprinted from Grassroots News
By Will Goodon
Elected representatives from across the Metis Homeland will gather in Calgary for the weekend of June 6th and 7th. The General Assembly is an opportunity for these Metis government to meet and discuss the important issues facing the Nation.
President Clement Chartier will be presenting his State of the Metis Nation Address and it is expected he will touch base on topics raised over the past year, including the MMF land claims case and the Daniels case (which will decide if the federal government has constitutional responsibility for Metis as they do for First Nations and Inuit).
Another issue that has been before the assembly in recent years is the development of a new Metis Nation Constitution. Rather than continue on with corporate by-laws, President Chartier is leading the charge to have a Metis-created Constitution that will serve as the blueprint for the Metis governance structure.
Assembly delegates will be arriving in Calgary from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Each of these province has at least some territory in the Metis Homeland and have governing members belonging to the Metis National Council.
Democracy has always been a bedrock for the Metis Nation dating back to the daily elections in the buffalo hunts. The MNC general assembly is one of the democratic tools for the Nation today.
Employment & training are key, conference told
June 1, 2015 - Reprinted from Grassroots News
By Will Goodon
A national conference outlining the importance of employment and training programs focused on Aboriginal people was held last week in Vancouver. Groups representing ASETS (Aboriginal Skills, Employment & Training Strategy) were represented from across the country and participated in the discussions.
Organized by the Metis National Council (MNC), the National ASETS conference featured discussions with senior federal officials who were on hand to present and also for question and answer periods. Featured speakers included J.P. Gladu, President of the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business and Dr. Marie Delorme, President of the Imagination Group of Companies.
The overarching theme that was voiced by First Nations and Metis ASETS representatives was that, though the program has evolved over the years, it has been very successful in helping aboriginal students and families to gain meaningful employment. This employment not only impacts the individual but also their families and communities, where positive economic spinoff is felt.
One of the major concerns was that the concept of pre-employment training, where clients are prepped to learn life skills and team building capacity, was taken seriously by federal decision makers.
Delegates to the conference seemed pleased with the outcomes and a decision was made to plan another national conference for 2016.
Spring is in the air … or is that politics?
The other day I woke up to the sounds of birds singing outside the window of my cabin in the Turtle Mountains. The ice was almost completely gone off the lake and the pussywillows were starting to push out along the lake’s edge. The sounds and smells of spring were most definitely in the air.
At the same time, you could be forgiven if you thought that we were in the middle of not one but two elections happening both in Manitoba and across Canada. Politicians of all stripes are becoming more visible, taking pictures, delivering cheques and making announcements.
Over the years, we have become somewhat cynical at times like these but I want to propose that it is an opportunity for the Metis Nation. At a time like this, we have something that all political parties want – votes.
Metis have gotten used to being ignored since the time of Canada’s first prime minister. We were either being ignored, robbed or attacked with armed forces. But now, we are becoming an integral part of Canadian society. Again, because of our numbers we have votes, and if we vote, we can influence who wins elections. And we can then have a say in how governments work with us.
I have heard our President, David Chartrand, speak many times about the importance of voting. I could not agree with him more. There are many indications that First Nations and Metis people do not participate in elections but there is a sense that this is changing. Engagement in the electoral process seems more and more important to a young Aboriginal electorate.
The Manitoba Metis Federation has in its constitution that it is not to be politically affiliated and there are many good reasons for this clause.
But we need to remember that we can still advocate and work with governments for the betterment of the Metis Nation. As Metis, Manitobans and Canadians, we should be asking the politicians who ask for our votes how they will work with the Metis should we promise them our votes. Which candidate and which party will focus on correcting the wrongs described in our land claims case? Who will help train and educate our young people so they can get good jobs? Which party believes that good housing is vital for strong and healthy Metis families?
The federal and provincial elections are not on right now. But they might as well be because of all the ramped up activities. We must heed the advice of our President and vote. But we also need to make our votes count. We need to be informed when we vote. Ask questions, then cast your ballots. Vote for the Metis Nation.
Our Flag will be 200 years old
Flags are a symbolic expression of unity, self-expression and pride. At hockey games, we take our caps off, turn towards the Canadian Flag and sing our national anthem. Some flags are designed by committee, others are born in times past and have become legend to those who wrap themselves inside of it.
The Historic Metis Nation had different flags at different places and periods in our history. Today, though, the blue Infinity Flag is regarded and proclaimed as our National Flag. Its origins are shrouded in the legend of the time, place and personality of the first Metis leader to fly it and proclaim with pride that we are "la Nouvelle Nation" - "the New Nation".
Cuthbert Grant Jr. and his compatriots flew the Infinity flag for the first time in 1816 after struggles with European settlers who tried to impose foreign laws and regulations on a land shared by First Nations and Metis people, as well as their friends and family with whom they traded goods and resources.
The story of the “battle” or “massacre” is fairly well known. In 1816, Grant, a Metis trader from the Red River area, led a group of Metis hunters and traders in a battle where they defended themselves against an attack by a group of Canadian/British soldiers and settlers. Though they were fired upon first, the Metis were victorious and only lost one member of their group.
This skirmish, first known as the Massacre at Seven Oaks, now known as either La Victoire de Grenouillère or the Battle of Seven Oaks, has become recognized as a seminal point in the national consciousness of the Metis Nation. Some have even recognized this as the moment when the Metis Nation became aware of itself – Grant flew what has become the national flag of the Metis Nation and they called themselves “La Nouvelle Nation”.
2016 will mark 200 years since that turning point in our history. As the historic Metis Nation, we should be marking this date with all the pomp and ceremony that will go into 2017 (150th anniversary of Confederation) or 2020 (150th anniversary of the Metis Provisional Government’s negotiated entry of Manitoba into Confederation).
A series of events needs to be planned – not just marking la Victoire de Grenouillère – but also the legend that grew up around our Flag – two peoples becoming one. And a clear distinction must be made that it is most definitely the one people, one nation that we celebrate.
We must come together with our Scottish cousins who celebrate Cuthbert Grant Jr. and his legacy. In fact, we should be bringing together all Manitobans and let them know our centuries long attachment to this land. We want to participate and educate and help our province grow into the strong, vibrant economic engine that our ancestors saw in their days.
But we must never forget our past and the people who laid the groundwork for who we are as the historic Metis Nation – the people who own themselves – Otipimisewak. Nothing says that better than our flag – united and strong, moving into the future and connected to the past.
Will Goodon grew up in the Metis community of Turtle Mountain in Manitoba. He is currently serving as Board for the Southwest Region of MMF. His views are his own and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the MMF.
MNC signs economic accord with Canada
by Will Goodon
The Metis Economic Development Symposium III was the backdrop for the signing of a historic accord between the Metis National Council and the Government of Canada. On March 18th, MNC President Clement Chartier and federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt put pen to paper on a document that would see more support for the many economic development initiatives being undertaken by the Metis Nation.
Chartier, from the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, said, ““The Accord centres on the priorities of Métis business development, participation in major economic and resource development projects, labour force development and strengthening the role of Métis institutions to advance economic development. These priorities are of critical importance to the Métis Nation and we look forward to pursuing them with Canada, the provinces and industry.”
The Symposium was the third in the series, with the first being held in 2009. After regional economic development engagement sessions in each of the five western provinces, British Columbia to Ontario, the symposium was touted as not a finished product but rather the beginning for more opportunities for Metis businesses, individuals and governments to continue the groundwork laid by their Metis ancestors.
Valcourt, who also delivered an address to the MEDS III delegates stated that ““It was a pleasure to participate in a symposium where all partners agree to work towards the common goal of creating even more Métis economic development opportunities. Our Government will continue working with all its partners for more jobs and growth for all Canadians.”
Manitoba Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Eric Robinson attended a meeting and supper with the five Governors and President Chartier. He was also very supportive of the process and echoed that Manitoba would also continue their support both with the Manitoba Metis Federation and for the national initiative.
“Manitoba is very pleased with the growth of Métis businesses and entrepreneurs over the past few years in the province of Manitoba,” commented Robinson. “We remain committed to working with our partners from across Canada who have been working for many years toward the development of a long term Métis economic development strategy. The recent successful Métis Economic development Symposium has contributed to that momentum, and we congratulate all involved in this important initiative.”
Metis entrepreneurs, industry leaders and Metis service providers were also on hand with the Metis governing bodies to discuss how each can bring their successes to the table. The history of the Metis as successful traders and business people in the fur trade and buffalo hunt through to new opportunities in resource industries had the dialogue moving throughout the two day event.
MMF President David Chartrand summarized the success of the gathering. “The symposium afforded an opportunity for Metis and our partners to share successes and lessons learned. These discussions have deepened existing relationships and helped forge new ideas for even greater Metis economic development stability and success.”
Bell of Batoche … no, Frog Lake
If you are Metis and even if you are not, in this day and age, if you have not heard about the “Bell of Batoche”, you likely are not living in or near the Metis Homeland any time in the past 20 or so years. For those of you who need a refresher, here is a really short capsule.
When Canada sent troops to fire upon its own Metis citizens in what is now Saskatchewan, they not only used the Gatling gun to mow down fathers and sons who were protecting their homes, they also did what any invading army does – they took trophies. The story goes that many things went missing but the one with the most mystique was the Bell that hung in the parish at Batoche. For years afterwards it disappeared, only to be seen in a legion hall in Ontario. Rumour has it that a few Metis broke into the legion, stole the bell, and secreted their prize back to Manitoba.
Then the story goes sideways. The Bell was never returned to Batoche or to the Metis people living in the area. It was hidden away for decades. At times, people say that parties were held with the “Bell” as the guest of honour, with other guests that may have included a provincial cabinet minister.
The “keeper” of the “Bell” was well known but he would never say if he had it or where it was being kept.
I was in Batoche about 15 years ago when the church was reopened after federal funding had been used to restore the building. As I was taking pictures of the federal and Metis government officials cutting the ribbon, a bell began to ring. I was standing next to an adorable and elderly Metis woman who looked up at me and she had tears in her eyes.
“Is that … is that … our bell?” she asked.
Heartbroken, I had to tell her that, no, it was not the Bell, but a replica that had been purchased for the restoration. She looked away but I will never forget the disappointment I saw in her eyes that day.
Fast forward to last year when the “keeper” of the Bell reveals that he does indeed have the Bell of Batoche and is now willing to share it with the world. He made a deal with a Metis cultural organization and the St. Boniface museum so it would be put on display but that he could take it on tour.
Putting aside their misgivings, many Metis embraced the chance to see the Bell of Batoche, so they could see a part of their history.
Then, CBC did some research and produced a documentary that revealed the evidence was completely contrary to the claims that this was the Bell of Batoche. It was, in fact, a bell taken from the parish at Frog Lake, a First Nation in what is now Alberta. The same soldiers who took war trophies from Batoche, also took trophies from other places, including Frog Lake. In the mists of time, confusion took place over which bell it actually was but now with the overwhelming evidence, the people of the Frog Lake First Nation feel that the bell should be returned to its rightful place, to their community.
Confused? Yes, we all are at this point.
The point is that someone stole the bell. He kept it for himself for decades. Then he is a “hero” when he personally tours with it. It never returns to the place it was taken from, or where it was thought it was taken from. Then, we find out it is a completely different bell. Still, it is not returned.
A museum with the stature of St. Boniface Museum should do their own research into the provenance of the Bell. It should look at the evidence provided by the CBC and it should do the right thing.
The Metis Nation may not be closer to having our Bell of Batoche returned to us. But we should not do as Canada did or the “keeper” did – keep a cherished piece of history away from a community.
Return the Bell to Frog Lake. Period.
Wild meat traditional dinner
Last week, the Westman MMF Local of the Southwest Region hosted their 11th annual Wild Meat Dinner. As it was a potluck affair, members brought foods that reflected their Metis heritage and the wild meat and foods that they harvested and cooked.
"We were very happy with the turnout," said Rick Beam, who serves the local as Vice Chair. "And the food was outstanding. Our members are very proud to celebrate our culture in this way. Plus this is our way of giving back to each other."
The different types of food was too long to be able to mention them all but the swiss steak Elk, the moose sausage in sweet chili sauce and the elk meatballs in mushroom gravy were all big hits. The sweets were also to die for, with the rice pudding being declared a big favourite by many attendees.
"We ask each of our locals in the Southwest Region to put on at least one unique event that they can call their own," said Southwest Vice President Leah LaPlante. "Westman has been doing such a great job on this dinner for many years. The food is great but it is so nice to see the pride our people have in being a part of our Metis Nation."
One of the members spends a great deal of time working in his old time town, a scale model of a small town in the early days of the Metis. He even donated a scale trapper's cabin made out of logs, complete with furs, firewood and even a small frying pan hanging on the wall. The cabin is being raffled off to raise funds for the different activities of the local.
Displays complete with furs, antlers and other trophies were also at this event. And it was very heartening to see all the generations present, with grandfathers and grandsons proudly showing pictures of their latest ice fishing adventures.
All in all, it was a pleasant and family oriented evening. With both Board members on hand, John Fleury and Will Goodon, in addition to VP LaPlante, the night was a good time to discuss many issues, including some of the points facing Metis hunters and harvesters in Manitoba.
The Metis are not a mixing bowl
It seems as if there are “organizations” popping up inside and outside the Metis Nation these days that want to represent “all” Metis people.
I would like to give you an example from one such organization called the Metis Federation of Canada. It’s membership application contains this phrase: “Who can apply for membership: Any Métis person residing in Canada who can provide verifiable a historical genealogical connection to an Aboriginal and European couple.”
At first glance, this seems to be the compassionate way to represent a “people”, to be inclusive as opposed to exclusive. Who would want to exclude applicants who really want to be a part of our nation, who really believe they are a part of the nation? Exclusion seems harsh. Inclusion seems accepting and generous.
Part of this generosity stems from the concept of “being lost” and “finding a home”. There are many people searching for a place to call home in our country. Factors such as addiction and illness cause some to search for spiritual or religious “homes”. Many of us were bullied as kids and now we are looking for somewhere safe.
The same, I propose, goes for those searching for an identity. Who are you? “I think I’m part First Nation, part something else.” When someone with some air of authority tells you that you are part of something bigger, it is more than a relief, it is a sense of true belonging.
But when someone else tells you that you don’t actually belong, what are your instincts going to do? Protect the safe haven that has been given to you. You are a part of something now. You belong.
And thus, the conflict begins. For once you “give” something to someone, we know it is terribly difficult to “take it back”. The problem being, though, that the person giving had no right or authority to do so. Groups like the Metis Federation of Canada are not accountable to any type of electorate. They are self-appointed and have created definitions with no substance in history.
A “people” are not simply a mixture of one group with another group of people. One definition simply says “A body of persons sharing a common religion, culture, language, or inherited condition of life.” Or, if you would like to use the popular term used to describe the Metis – a Nation. The same source says this about nation “a community of persons not constituting a state but bound by common descent, language, history, etc:”.  I could not find any source that would define a people or a nation by saying “mix this group with that group and you have a new people”.
We are not a recipe for bread. A mixing bowl did not create the Metis Nation.
We could go on at length how the Metis became a nation in northwestern North America, how their unique languages developed, how kinships defined themselves and how they share all the markers of being a distinct people or nation. These are facts, they cannot be argued.
What needs to be argued is that not everyone who has an “Aboriginal and European couple” in their family tree is Metis. This is where a person with real Metis ancestry needs to stand up and say, “I am not just a mixture. My nation is real.”
It seems compassionate to include anyone and everyone who are searching for a place to belong in this modern world. In reality, though, it is cruel, because not only are you offering that which you have no right to offer, but you are giving false hope to those most vulnerable. These are the ones who will suffer the most when your false message becomes understood.
About the author: Will Goodon grew up in the Metis community of Turtle Mountain in Manitoba. He is currently serving as Board for the Southwest Region of MMF. His views are his own and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the MMF.
Wish you a Metis Christmas
As Metis people, we are quite rightly proud of our culture and our traditions. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that we are not always aware that what we do with our friends and family is any different than anyone else. I remember growing up in the Turtle Mountains and going to school in town when we would take the entire first week off from school to go deer hunting in November. That’s what everyone did, wasn’t it? Everyone ate deer meat and learned how to snow shoe or set snares for bush rabbits or they made something called smoke tea – tea made on a fire from dry willows with melted snow - or so I thought.
Christmas was a time for good food, fun, going to church and visiting family. When I was young, we did things that, again, I did not know were traditions handed down from my father’s side of the family – from the culture of the Metis Nation.
Boulettes was one of the things that my dad always spoke about that he grew up with in his home. From my understanding, it is basically deer burger rolled into medium sized meatballs and then boiled in a broth. I always used lots of salt and pepper in them. Dad used to say that it was a New Years tradition in any michif home back in the bush. He also talked about families going from home to home with a team of horses and sleigh. No matter how poor or well-off the family was, there was always plenty of food for the family and friends who would visit.
So when I was thinking about writing this piece, I thought I would reach out and see what other common threads there are for Christmas holidays throughout the Metis Homeland. And in this day and age, where did I go? Social media. So here is a sampling of what I heard from friends and family.
Tourtiere on Christmas Eve was mentioned several times. Can’t you just smell and taste that meat and pastry Metis delicacy? Food was brought up often as well, from traditional puddings to Christmas cakes and lii bangues (fry bread). A few friends spoke about the many holiday house parties that would take place and I’m very certain that the same happened many times in the Turtle Mountains. Sounds of the fiddle and the spoons coming out of the kitchen, hands clapping and feet stomping were no doubt floating on the winter air in almost any Metis community you would come across.
In the communities that had churches located close by, midnight mass was a tradition that many people remembered and was handed down through generations. Also, at midnight on New Years Eve, shouts, banging pots and gunfire were heard as families brought in the new year. This tradition is still celebrated in many Metis towns like Duck Bay, Manitoba.
This is by no means an exhaustive list for what we did during the Christmas season. Back in the day, most families were just struggling to get by but Christmas was a time when we could forget the daily struggles and be thankful.
I want to thank all those who contributed, you know who you are, and for the chance to explore a little bit about our unique culture and why we are so proud to be Metis. Tradition is not the only thing that makes us a unique people but they do bind us together through common threads and shared memories. As we do gather together this year, let’s keep each other in our thoughts and prayers to not only celebrate and, of course, eat but also to be safe. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to everyone in our Metis Nation family!
In the New Year, many of us look forward to new beginnings and fresh starts. In the Metis Homeland, it was no different. And like 2015, it was also as cold in the days of the fur trade and buffalo hunt. Days and nights were tough to survive in the days of our ancestors but there was always time for fun, music and playing jokes on one another.
Before I get too far, I want to thank Grassroots News for the opportunity to engage with the readers. I would like to make this a regular effort and touch on a broad range of issues, including light fare or tougher topics like Metis identity or the extent of our Homeland. I look forward to hearing feedback as well, positive or even negative.
Winter in this part of the world was not always pleasant. Today, some of us have heated garages or block heaters on our vehicles. In days past, it was necessary to get up in the morning to go outside, get a couple armfuls of firewood, stoke the fire, then go back outside, chop a hole in the ice of the lake and bring in water for washing up and for cooking. Survival was the only thing, not just being comfortable.
Wintering in the Metis Homeland took on specific meaning for the people who would become founders of the Metis Nation. During the warmer seasons, the buffalo were the main source of our economy, as we all know, and we followed the buffalo herds throughout this part of North America. Borders were unknown then. But when the winter snows fell and the lakes froze, travel was extremely difficult. Metis families would find locations to stay the winter, where there was shelter and food. The Turtle Mountains, Wood Mountains and Qu’appelle Valley are examples of where our people would hole up, with big game and fish available to last them through the cold part of the year.
After the terror of the Canadian government drove the Metis from Red River, many families went to these wintering locations and made permanent homes. Now, the winter season entailed a time for daily life. Hauling ice from the lake, cutting sufficient firewood, hunting and trapping all became routine for our people.
As we are today, so we were back in the day – fun loving and joke making people. Memories of homemade skis going down the big hill, kids racing with their own little sleds pulled by a dog or two and tunneling through the snowdrifts that seemed so big when we were little are all things that people have offered me as examples of winter fun remembrances. Picking frozen cranberries and letting them thaw in your mouth, melting snow in a black tea pot over a fire of dry willow, and the uptick of your heartbeat when the trap you set the night before is successful, all harken back to childhood and what we now know is a part of our Metis heritage. So were the barn dances with the fiddle and spoons being played, the adults dancing to the Red River Jig and the kids watching from the loft full of hay and straw.
So when we want to complain how cold our car is when it won’t start in the morning or if we didn’t wear a proper hat to keep out the cold, let’s remember how we used to do things and let’s give thanks to our Elders for being so strong to survive the worst that could be thrown at them.
Box 34 Site 145 RR1
Brandon, MB R7A 5Y1
February 2-3, 2018 - Metis Pavilion at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium in Brandon
February 6, 2018 - Metis Economic Development Fund Metis Business Conference at Clarion Hotel in Brandon
February 14, 2018 - making a presentation at the Rotary Club of Winnipeg on the Metis Nation - RBC Convention Centre
February 15, 2018 - Book launch of Maia Caron book "Song of Batoche" at McNally Robinson bookstore in Winnipeg
February 18, 2018 - Louis Riel Day festivities at St. Eustache - 11 am to 4 pm
February 19, 2018 - Louis Riel Day at Brandon University with MMF Grand Valley Local in Brandon
February 19, 2018 - Louis Riel Day at Portage la Prairie
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