The Lakota saying: Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ. The phrase translates in English as “all my relatives,” “we are all related,” or “all my relations.” It is a prayer of oneness and harmony with all forms of life: other people, animals, birds, insects, trees and plants, and even rocks, rivers, mountains and valleys. (p.160, ISBN 0-8061-3649-9.)
We are all related. All my relations.
What does that mean to me?
As the eldest of the eldest of the eldest, I benefited from knowing five of my great-grandparents – three of them with verifiable connections with a First Nation ancestor. All from the same historic communities in Lanaudière, Québec. All of them with kinship connections: cousins, aunties, uncles who settled in the West. All of them with kinship to Voyageurs, or Voyageurs themselves.
As every generation passes, as more of the elders passed on, the thread between kinship becomes thinner. To the glee of Colonizers. To the glee of Settler Governments.
Here are a few kinship connections. No matter which ancestor I choose, I can link them to each other, no matter where their travels have taken them and their descendants:
Here are a few examples: (click to see)
Our ancestors who were alive during the hanging of Louis Riel and who were able to recount our kinship connections passed on.
Settler Governments were able to begin to legislate the Rights of Métis.
1982: Enter Section 35 of the Constitution Act:
35. (1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.
(2) In this Act, “aboriginal peoples of Canada” includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.
(3) For greater certainty, in subsection (1) “treaty rights” includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.
(4) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (1) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.
1993: Enter the Powley Test.
Let’s see if I can answer it with empirical evidence:
1. The characterization of the right claimed (eg: was it hunting for food?): Not claiming anything – yet.
2. Whether the claimant is a member of a contemporary Métis community: Yes.
3. Identification of the historic Métis community: Lanaudière, Québec
4. Identification of the contemporary Métis community: Lanaudière, Québec
5. The historical time-frame of the practice: 17th C to present
6. Whether the practice is integral to the culture of the claimant: Yes.
7. Whether the proposed practice is continued by the Métis community: Yes.
8. Whether the right was extinguished: No. Occurring on unceded land.
9. Whether the right was infringed upon: To be continued
10. If the right was infringed, can that infringement can be justified: To be continued
This exercise has allowed me to verify the empirical proof of my family’s oral history. It’s a pretty big deal to me. I wish to express gratitude to Dr. Sebastien Malette, Professor of Indigenous Law (Métis Rights) at Carleton University in Ottawa. I met Sebastien on the comment board at http://apihtawikosisan.com/2015/03/the-mythology-of-metissage-settler-moves-to-innocence/#comments on March 11, 2015. He has since then become a good friend, mentor and ally. If I would ever do a PhD, he’d be the guy who I’d beg to be my Advisor. Merci, cher Seb.