In researching Metis families.

+5 votes

Although this is not a question, I wanted to post in hopes to assist those searching for Native (First Peoples, Indigenous) ancestors- specifically Metis.

In researching the Metis peoples, one only need pour over endless microfiche, or look to history books, to see a small amount of things which have happened in past decades (residential schools, the forcing of scrip, etc.). For myself, I had great difficulty in researching my ancestors because of the way in which information was (traditionally) given (via the colonial system).

I started (about 20 years ago) with microfiche. I must say that I appreciate the many people who have taken the time (and still are) to transcribe (or try to) the millions of documents. It is truly remarkable what has been accomplished!

Looking at my ancestral line I kept coming across information (scrip files) that made no sense to me. I would see an ancestor listed as "Cree", "Nakota", or "Assiniboine", or (heartbreakingly) just "Indian"... Mainly women, but there were some males (who signed scrip) that were listed as first peoples (but then, suddenly, "Metis"- via those documents). 

The question I bumped into, over and over, was "How is it that someone can be Native (of a certain tribe) and then (by signing a document) they are 'magically' (in this case) "Metis" (meaning that the person is now, in the Govt. words, a "Half breed").?". This especially bothered me when I would see two relatives (spouses- AND their children) suddenly go from being indigenous (Cree, Hohe Nakota, Assiniboine) to being "Half breeds".... 

Here is the 'educational' part of this post.....

Back then (at the time of 'scrips') it was shameful to be "Indian", and there were many (colonial) institutions trying to erase the peoples. Many of those peoples were forced into schools and institutions to "Get the indian out of them' (research those historical accounts from the institutions). The thought is not only heartbreaking, but it is disgusting. The colonialists were not literate in the many languages of the first peoples, and yet they viewed the first peoples as illiterate... Ironic.

There were many names (of first peoples; their real names) lost because of the anglicizing of names (they forced native peoples to adopt "new names"; anglicized- as well as forcing them to no longer be "indian"). And so we see (colonial) records that show an inaccurate representation of the ancestors; from loss of names to loss of identity.

I am still grappling with how to work on the profiles of my ancestors, and the many "Metis" ancestors of other family lines- noting that a lot were not 'mixed blood', nor were they (truly) 'half breed'. I am also working on my mixed ancestors (seeing no shame in either side). And, I need to point out that not 'all' colonialists were involved in such shameful injustices (there were some settlers who assisted native peoples).

If one is researching the Metis (or first peoples), and digging through historical documents, or files, you will come across the many strange things (which I have). You will read accounts (usually from colonizers) which says things such as "The Native people were eager to establish strong relationships with their European allies and trading partners, so they offered wives to the traders."... Learn what that really means. It is the "Trade of women". There were also other accounts where 'wives' were "taken" by colonizers... That does not paint a picture of a couple falling in love, and, indeed, it was not likely the case.

There are also records where colonial men (in prominent positions) were documented as having many children, through many (native) women.. Though they document those people as a side note (due to the manner in which many of those children were conceived). One only need read the historical documents to educate themselves. I do ask that people change the language around these events so that the shame is not further perpetrated (on the descendants). 

So.. To wrap up a fairly lengthy post ( which needed to be addressed), when searching one's ancestors- please keep in mind the things which I have discussed. I would like to see a new project (Indigenous Unnamed Women) start. I suspect there may be a few people who (in working the loads of microfiche, and history books) have come across the many unnamed women in their own family lines.. and I think it would be respectful to no longer have those strong women as "Unnamed Indian woman", but rather- Their true names (true spellings), because those women are not "Unnamed Indian woman", they have a name. 

in Genealogy Help by C Anonymous G2G6 (9.9k points)
I love this important offering. Thank you!

1 Answer

+1 vote
thank you Cheri for your thoughtful post.  When I began searching for my mothers people I too saw a lot of things like what you say, and it makes me sad to think that history was lost because our family decided to "pass for white"  and deny their heritage - I hope to bring some little bits of it I can salvage for the younger family members to pass on.
by Navarro Mariott G2G6 Pilot (145k points)
Navarro, I don't think it was a desire to deny their heritage on their part. There was a lot of things going on, and there was a lot of force and threats. There is no shame in getting tricked by colonialists(or, possibly, the lack of understanding on both sides- due to language), nor is there shame for trying to do what they had to, nor for anything (and that shame needs to be healed- and not discussed in disrespectful manners). It was a terrible time. It is heart-wrenching to read through the many scrip files, and wee what has come of that (in today's society; people still reeling from the effects).

Please, please, please.. In your helping the younger generation- by passing on things- make sure that what you pass on is not shame (such as saying the ancestors did it, willingly, to "pass for white"). Healing starts with a different conversation :)
I agree with [Gervais-538].  History is very complex, as are the cultural and historical events that influence the course of people's lives.  It could also be that at some point, the next generation felt they were different people.  You do not need to look too far back in history to see it happen. For example, the some of the settlers (maybe most?) who came to North America had their own distinct cultures but in only one generation, their families became "different" people simply by living in a different place, speaking a different language (or becoming bilingual), and having lived through different circumstances.  In my own family, there has been a shift (or what you might consider "a loss") of multiple cultures, simply because my grandparents felt they were different people than their parents - married into different cultures, adopted different ways of life, etc - then their children did the same, and so forth. Now, I would be silly to call myself a part of their heritages because I have not lived that way of life at all. To recover culture that was not passed down across multiple generations to me, amounts to research - it is not who I am now. I imagine many people have the same feelings.
I have no shame, any you are right M, they should not have either - but still the chain was broken, the children were not told the stories they should have been told and it saddens me - I had hoped to go to a gathering in the Winnipeg area - where My Métis cousins and others like us came together for a big festival Several years ago but I was unable to go - I try and learn some of the stories and history but feel an outsider to something that is a part of me - and I should be a part of

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127 views asked Oct 29, 2018 in Genealogy Help by anonymous

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