Canadian history has a way of showing us what we have forgotten. There has been many horrors revealed around passive genocide and the fur trade. There is also dislocation and generational trauma. Yet there is some truth of good to be revealed. One simply has to look to the Metis people. For it is a positive that came out of atrocities of the past.
How? It was a journey, it was back when religion quasi-understood their role in society. See “country wives” were one of the horrors visited upon the First Nations under the fur trade. That is, Europeans forcing themselves onto Aboriginal women. For those whose “Husbands” were English or Scottish it was a divisive choice: The child would be European raised and never know their Aboriginal roots, or choose to return to the village with the child and raise them as an Aboriginal.
For those of mixed heritage of French and Aboriginal descent, the Roman Catholic Church kept the groups together. It raised up a uniquely Canadian culture, a mixture of First Nations, New France and Catholicism. A great people and nation grew up within a new land.
Unfortunately, it was also an oppressed people. People left on the outside. Oppressed. In fact, a new, hateful, definition of the term Metis (mixed blood) emerged- – One and a Half Man. In the vernacular of the 19th century to early 20th century that was one half white, one half Indian and one have demon. Not exactly an honouring term, yet it was one the community would overcome.
Yes it would take two rebellions, and almost five decades after the Battle of Batoche that ended in a near genocide by Gatling gun. This people, who at the Red River Rebellion issue the first declaration of human rights in Canada. Yup, it wasn’t Saskatchewan under Premier Douglas, but Louis Riel, Prairie hero and freedom fighter (and from my perspective one more worthy in my mind to be our patron saint than Jean Brebeuf).
So five decades after the failed second rebellion, the Metis people would finally win the right to be seen as full persons in Canada. A community that came together, shaped a culture, endured oppression and being seen as less than. A group that endured, stayed together, and overcame.
So what does the story of the Metis hold for us today? That it is in common shared experience, and seeing one another as full citizens, and persons in which we excel. Also, it is through the voices from the oppressed and the margins that the story of justice and equality emerges.