The Métis people will no longer accept being invisible as part of Canada’s historic Indigenous groups.
The Métis Nation of Alberta is working on a project titled Stories of Hope to share experiences and stories of Métis people, and to provide a connection that has been lacking since the start of the pandemic.
The Nation is accepting submissions up until the end of April that will be compiled in a book. It will feature community voices through artwork, poems, and drawings. Any way a person expresses their creativity is encouraged and accepted.
Weekly prompts are posted to their social media platforms to help inspire Métis people as they contribute their stories.
“So far we have about 25 submissions, which is amazing, I could not be happier,” said Taylor Masters, the communication coordinator for the Nation’s health department.
“Our community, we are so tight-knit. Gathering, kinship ties, being able to gather in a large place is really, really important to us. It’s how we maintain connection and how we maintain our friendship ties, so not being able to gather it really, really hurt our community.”
The project came to be to help with the lack of community gatherings during the past two years, Masters said.
“[The project] started as a mental health support, but it really transitioned into something. We wanted it to be a beacon of hope. And not just because of COVID … we saw potential for this to be a way for us to share our stories. Métis people were often regarded as the invisible people. We don’t always have a seat at the table,” she said.
Métis people no longer on the sidelines
Masters said she thinks the theme of the project is visibility. She wants Métis stories shared for everyone to see, to show they aren’t an invisible people anymore. The book will display unique Métis experiences as a distinct cultural group.
“Thinking back to my own education and a lot of other people’s education growing up, you didn’t hear about Métis people. You didn’t learn about them in school. You don’t necessarily think of Métis people as being Indigenous and I want to change that,” she said.
Masters said the project will help showcase that Métis people experience indigeneity differently than First Nations and Inuit people. It also shows that doesn’t make them any less Indigenous.
“Storytelling is how we pass down our knowledge and how we pass down basically everything we know. It’s how we pass down our Métis-ness. I grew up with stories from my grandmother telling me about her grandmother and her grandpa’s grandmother,” she said.
“It helps maintain that connection with our ancestors … The passing down of our family history, our stories … that’s really how we keep going and how we are able to maintain our culture and our connection with each other.”
What it means to be Métis
“Métis” means a person who self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from other Indigenous groups, is of historic Métis Nation ancestry, and who is accepted by the Métis Nation.
Métis people are a post-contact Indigenous nation. They were born from marriages of European fur traders and First Nations women in the 18th Century.
The Métis are one of three legally, politically, and culturally distinct Indigenous peoples of Canada, recognized by s. 35 (2) of the Constitution Act, 1982.
“We’re still one of the first people of this land and we’re still Indigenous,” Masters said.
“I think [the book will] be a great learning tool for non-Indigenous folks who want to know more about what it means to be Métis … in addition to showcasing our resilience, our visibility.”
On top of the Stories of Hope project, Masters is also filming interviews that will be compiled in a documentary. They are actively seeking submissions and interviews.
There is no set number of submissions. Instead, they are finding space for every single contribution. As an added bonus, everyone who submits their story will be entered to win a special grand prize.
Both the book and the documentary will be finished by August, Masters said.
“We have stories and we have distinct experiences different from anyone else. I think that we’ll be able to really showcase our resilience,” she said.