The Métis triggered a wave that started in Winnipeg last month, and then rolled right across the country.
At the Métis Nation’s annual general assembly in the Manitoba capital November 28, the national council approved a map of a “Métis Homeland” that spans the prairies and carves out chunks of Ontario, the Northwest Territories and British Columbia.
To some observers, there was a big problem: the lands in question were already the traditional territories of the Blackfoot, Plains Cree and Anishinaabe – to name just a few. And while the map, first posted on social media by Windspeaker.com, drew the ire of many a First Nation, the Blackfoot were the most outspoken critics.
“What is deeply unsettling is that the only other territories that are recognized are provincial and state borders imposed by the colonial state,” Blackfoot filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers wrote on Facebook. “The absence of any recognition of other Indigenous homelands is a serious concern.”
Following the publication of the map and the online controversy, Will Goodon, minister of housing for the Manitoba Métis Federation and an AGA delegate, clarified that the map wasn’t actually laying claim to land.
“This is something that I think was necessary now to be put forward because of some of the external issues like what’s going on in Nova Scotia, Quebec,” Goodon told the CBC. “There’s some real dangers there and that’s one of the reasons why we thought we had to put the map out.”
Goodon explained that the AGA policy forum focused on the proliferation of groups in eastern Canada who are falsely claiming Métis rights, encouraging tax fraud and using their claims to Métis identity to attack legitimate rights-holding Indigenous nations.
What we can take away from all of this is that the Métis Homeland still doesn’t extend to Chibougamau. Yes, those pesky “Métis of Chibougamau” led by Chief Luc Michaud are still a thing. In fact, they just held their second AGA, the same day the real Métis Nation was meeting in Winnipeg.
You may remember Michaud from a story we published in February 2017. At the time, Michaud had just become the first chief of the Chibougamau Métis, which claimed 350 members. This was after he met with Guillaume Carle, the national grand chief of the Confederation of Aboriginal People of Canada (CAP) – a group that is not recognized as an official Indigenous organization by any government or First Nation.
This past summer, however, CBC’s The National called into question the validity of Michaud’s use of a DNA test provided by the CAP. Besides not being able tell the difference between human and canine DNA, the test result showed that the owner and pet shared the same Indigenous ancestry.
Identity is a tricky, and sensitive, issue. Those who would falsely usurp Indigenous identity for personal gain or as a political attack should be carefully monitored and firmly opposed.