Mar 16, 2022
Posted in: culture
We frequently observe words and phrases that are so overused that they lose the original intent of what they initially meant to convey. “Hi. How are you?” is usually met with the nearly automatic response, “Fine,” in spite of the responder not always being fine. I am beginning to feel this way about the word “reconciliation.” Most people understand that it has something to do with the growing awareness that Indigenous Peoples have not been treated fairly, something documented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the 93 Calls to Action included in its final report. Now after five years, we have seen too little action and too much talk. The enormity of the Calls leaves most of us bewildered about where to begin. I recommend that we start with ourselves and expand our influence while we expand our knowledge and actions.
Most adults did not receive accurate or sufficient schooling when it comes to Indigenous cultures and heritage. We have been schooled by a system that has either omitted or distorted this fact. Through no fault of our ancestors, we are seven generations or more from the events of 1885 that so drastically and adversely affected the Métis. The Métis families that went through it, and all of their descendants for over the next century, had to hide their identities for cultural safety. It just wasn’t wise or helpful to say you were Métis, particularly when this meant that you were outing yourself for discrimination. We were helped in this denial by government bureaucracy which simply refused to acknowledge our existence. Fortunately, by 1982, a hard-fought legal battle saw that we were included in the Canadian Constitution as one of the “Aboriginal peoples of Canada.”
GDI has an impressive and high rate of Métis employees. This is the result of the affirmative hiring of qualified Métis as the work of the Institute supported more Métis in obtaining the required qualifications for the variety of jobs that keep it running well. We work collaboratively with our non-Métis colleagues to fulfill the Institute’s mission. We clearly appreciate the support of allies and we are allies to one another in this important work—work that requires a basic knowledge of Métis culture and heritage. We pay attention to the mission set out by the Métis community when the Institute was envisioned in 1976 and have done our best to realize this dream since GDI was founded in 1980.
It is not difficult to imagine that if the Calls to Action are asking non-Indigenous Canadians to learn more about Métis, First Nations, and Inuit histories and cultures, Indigenous Peoples also have the obligation to respond and act. We certainly have our eyes on what is, or is not, being done about reconciliation. We can also be certain those eyes are on us too.
We can impress those scrutinizing glances with confidence if we feel grounded in our cultural heritage. This means knowing our history, knowing our cultural expressions and traditions, and being well enough informed about contemporary issues that we face as Métis citizens and as a nation. We can achieve this by being our own allies in seeking the truth about our history and renewing our connections to our culture and heritage. We can be supportive allies to our colleagues and others on this same path. These are actions that support reconciliation and ones that will have us standing just a little taller as we proudly serve the Métis through our work at GDI. Working collaboratively for the welfare of the community is one of our most treasured values. It is a tradition worth nurturing now and into the future. The adage in one of GDI’s early publications, Proud Past, Bright Future, is a mantra that will guide us as we clear the path for ourselves and others.