I have to be honest: growing up, I’d never seen a Medicine pouch. But then again, neither had I even attended Powwow or Sweat Lodge. They were banned by the government in 1925.
Kill the Indian, Save the Man.
First time I saw a Medicine pouch was sometimes in the 1990s – I don’t remember exactly when, but I know that I was expecting at the time.
I was fascinated by how beautiful the “necklace” was: made of leather I could smell had been smoke-tanned. The smell of “home tanned” leather triggers some visceral response in me. But there was something more familiar about the pouch that kept niggling at the back of my mind.
Year after year, attending Powwows and other Indigenous cultural events, I’d see these “necklaces” at the vendor booths. Different patterns, differently crafted, each unique.
Out of all of the beautiful crafts, these were what attracted me the most. But I never had purchased one – concerned about First Nation appropriation.
But why did this Medicine pouch seem so familiar?
My Métis grandmother. The one who really, really would have never self-identified as Métis. The gggggrandchild of Catherine Anenonta and Louis Durand.
Her Scapulaires Verts.
I think she must have had a stash of them everywhere. Each pouch contained a shiny medallion and a piece of camfor. Each time she’d see me without mine on, she’d pull another one out like magic.
I hated those Scapulaires Verts. They STANK and made me reek. She’d make me afraid something bad would happen to me if I didn’t wear it.
My grandfather hated them. Once, while we were driving out of town, he asked me to give it to him, rolled down his truck window, chucked it out without saying anything more about it
Here we are, over 40 years since the stinky “necklaces”. What the heck were they anyways? Why did my grandmother insist I wear one at all times?
I consulted the Catholic Encyclopedia , under Individual Small Scapularies; several different ones are described, but nothing about Green Scapularies.
Apart from information from obscure religious sources on prayers to go with the scapulary, all I found was this paragraph, translated from French, from Mary of Nazareth:
“The Green Scapular was the subject of two successive approvals of Pope Pius IX in 1863 and in 1870 ; but Satan, who knows its invaluable worth, succeeded long and still today to prevent the distribution in large numbers”
But, heeey – the cultural partimony department of the government of Quebec has it listed as a cultural icon in their Répertoire…
Around the same time of the Gradual Civilization Act, the Scapulaire Vert became the tool used to replace the medicine pouch. In the book, published in 1877, the Annals of the Propagandation of Faith, a single passage of how the “Savages” were adopting the devotion.
The Catholic Church exchanged medicine pouches for Scapulaires Verts. They tried to enfranchise us with a piece of green felt and shiny medallions. They convinced women that camfor was better than our Meshki Ki.
I now wear a medicine pouch, filled with Meshki Ki as an act of decolonization. And it doesn’t stink.
Please Bear with me. I have to go back before getting to my point.
What I have found through my research for empirical evidence to match my oral history of the migration of the first offspring of the unions of First Nations women and Settler men has been posted previously. Here’s a quick overview of timeline:
1637 – 1686: Jesuit Mission of Sillery – meeting place of Atikamekw, Abenaki, Innu and refuge of survivors of the Huronia Massacre.
Ville de Québec
1670 Birth of Louis DURAND, son of Catherine ANENONTA, Attignawantan (Bear Clan) and Jean DURAND, French Settler at Sillery Mission, Québec
1690 Purchase of the Seigneurie des Îles Dupas et du Chicot by Jacques BRISSET et Louis DANDONNEAU, both French Settlers. Louis’ sister Marguerite was Jacques’ wife:
Iles Dupas et du Chicot, Seigneurie Courchesne
Islands of the St-Pierre Archipelago of the St-Lawrence River
1696 Louis DURAND travels to Michilimakinac – see more here: The Legend of Louis Durand – is one of the first extensively documented Voyageur. His descendant, also named Louis DURAND, established himself out West, in present day Alberta – see more here: Louis Durand’s Travels
1740 Death of Louis DURAND in Lanoraie, Lanaudière, Québec.
So, that just proves ONE Indigenous ancestor, right? ONE does not make a COMMUNITY, right?
I absolutely agree. Let’s look at other First Nation women and their descendants: (I have more, but unfortunately cannot provide mariage records, or other empirical proof they were from a First Nation community)
Highlighted below are the communities of (in the order they were occupied by the descendants of these First Nation women) Sorel, Berthierville, Lavaltrie, Sainte-Elisabeth, Saint-Cuthbert, Saint-Norbert, Mandeville and Saint-Gabriel de Brandon.
I haven’t found any empirical proof (yet) explaining how these First Nation women came to be neighbours, despite being from many different First Nations. The mariage records, if found at all, never indicated the names of the unbaptized parents of the First Nation spouse.
All recorded births, mariages and deaths, all contracts and other legal documents were made by men, with men and for men. Under the French Regime, only men could legally transact – it was only in 1976 that women fully gained our Rights under the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedom.
One thing that seems apparent, is the geographic position of les Îles Dupas et du Chicot, making it the perfect location on the Voyageur hydrographic superhighway linking in all cardinal directions.
My ancestors, Jacques BRISSET and Louis DANDONNEAU, Seigneurs Courchesne and duSablé, appeared to attract many First Nation offspring to the Îles Dupas et du Chicot, and the other neighbouring islands of the Archipelago and linking Nitaskinan -Atikamekw land, Nistassinan -land of the Innu – Wâbuna’ki – land of the Abenaki, Kanien’kehá:ka – land of the Haudenosaunee and Waabanakiing – land of the Anishinaabe.
One thing is for sure when I look at my own First Grandmothers, Métis from Lanaudière are the product of much métissage between many Indigenous Nations.
Blessings of Love and Peace for Ostara, Passover and Easter.
In a book by Joachim Fromhold titled: Pakisimotan Wi Iniwak – The Western Cree, a written history of Jacques Cardinal – one of the first of the famed Mountain Men of the West, we find several passages referring to Louis.
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.
Is it Scrip? Treaty? Constitution? Law? Acts? What is the common thread of these terms? Well, they were all written by Settlers.
Is it Community? Well, Settler Courts have had to determine whether a community really “exists”, usually through harvesting and/or Land Claims.
Is it blood quantum? I don’t know. Although it could provide *empirical proof*, history has shown that blood quantum theory hasn’t worked in favour of Indigenous Peoples and other minorities in the past. And, well, it’s kind of offensive to me to think of having to give a dna test to prove I’m Indigenous…
Is it based on historical events? If so, will those events be selected by consensus, by politics, by Settler-based rules?
Is it going to be a concession to a majority who screams the loudest? A minority that needs to be protected?
Is it Self-Identification? I think that may be a start. But it’s obviously not everything, otherwise everybody could jump on the Indigenous wagon – and there’s a lot to unpack in that baggage bundle, right?
Many fields in Academia are presently studying the important question surrounding the definition of Who is a *real* Métis. Sociology is looking at the Social construct of Métis communities and try to define an ethnogenesis. Anthropology is looking at linguistic, sociocultural, biological, and archaeological workings of Métis communities. History is pouring over books and documents and Law is looking at precedence.
Academia needs money. From the buildings to the bodies, research demands funding, time and help. Where does the money come from? What is expected in return?
I need not, nor want any of those things. I keep it because my genealogy was given to me. It shows that many different branches tie back to the same First Nation ancestors, showing how the community developed.
In addition to these direct ancestors, I have also documented their siblings when I could, to show that other communities evolved from close kin connections. It is interesting to read birth and marriage records to see the names of witnesses that were often neighbours that could trace their ancestry to the same First Nation ancestor!
I think that genealogy – which, to me, is the naming of those who came before us (manitoweyimiwew in Cree,
I have been writing a few posts now about my thoughts as I delve into issues surrounding Métis Identity. There are so many regional groups who claim to represent us, I decided to jot down a brief overview I made for myself when researching whether it was worth joining any association and which ones were legitimate.
First, I encourage anyone who self-identifies as Métis to do their own research to see which group best represents their interests. FOREMOST, make sure that the organization is *legitimate*. If they do not require extensive genealogical proof, they likely are not. Which, I surmise, will mean that the entire organization and its members would be at risk of not being recognized, nor would they be accepted into larger associations…
This list may not be complete; there are many, many groups popping up and there is no index.
The MFC’s vision is to represent all Métis from all regions of Canada (and the US). They are a recent arrival in the landscape and is rapidly growing. They have already signed several Unity Treaties with regional groups, which includes:
“historic Métis Nation Homeland,” which includes the 3 Prairie Provinces and extends into parts of Ontario, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and the northern United States.
They require that member’s ancestry links back to what they consider as a historic Métis Nation community, as mentioned above.
You must apply for Membership (which they refer as Citizenship) through the MNC Governing Member in the province in which you reside. Each Registry has its own application forms and application process. I have been told that the various application processes may exclude Métis who do not reside in the same province or historical community as where their ancestors originated.
The MNC Governing Member by province are as follows. You can click on each link representing the provincial association:
Also a complicated question. Did I mention that I was almost at the half-century mark?
Over the last 3 or 4 years, my father became more interested about the focus of my genealogy research. We began talking about who we were and he talked quite a bit about his early life and he started helping me with my genealogy research (my favorite Winter pastime).
His uncle had devoted the early years of his life recording the names and collecting information of our male ancestors. The family tree was pretty complete. Except that the women were almost footnotes!
I’m certainly not going to place blame here. I love my great-uncle dearly and at almost 97 years old young, I have only great admiration for this virtuous man!
My goal in building our family tree was to focus on my female ancestors and develop and highlight their existence.
We never questioned our Métis identity. Whether it was through my dad’s talks with his grandmother about the “cousins”Dubois, Beaugrand-Champagne and others that settled West, or having met my grandfather’s cousins from Odanak and Manawan. We just were.
Then my dad passed away, very suddenly. It was a year ago today.