Archives for posts with tag: metis

A Tribe Called Red just put out their video for “Sisters” and I felt inspired (/I’m feeling like Creator wanted me) to write about my Métis sister Tera Beaulieu.

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Graduating from York University’s Psychology BA Honours in 2007, she went on to do her Masters in Psychology at the University of Toronto.

Tera is now in the final stretch of her academic path, working on her PhD in Clinical/Counselling Psychology at U of T since 2010 and her area of research is on the role of Métis traditional knowledge in addressing the life transition needs of urban Métis homeless people.

She was the recipient of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, awarded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. (This means she is both incredibly smart and hardworking).

She is the recipient of the 2014 Minaake Award for Leadership presented by the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto.

She has also been an Infinite Reach Facilitator at University of Toronto for the last 3 years and that is how I had the pleasure of meeting her.

Through her work as an Infinite Reach Facilitator and as the Women’s Representative, MNO Toronto and York Region Métis Council she has carved out a place for Métis people living in Toronto and provided many of the city’s Métis folks the space to self declare and to own their identities.

She did all of this while navigating through her own Métis identity.

She is in the process of submitting her nomination to be President of the Toronto & York Region Métis Council (so if you can vote in the Toronto council elections, you should DEFINITELY vote for her, they will be held in June).

**JUST A REMINDER: SHE IS STILL WORKING ON HER PHD WHILE DOING ALL OF THIS AND MORE**

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Contributing author and MNO Toronto Region Métis Council Women’s Representative Tera Beaulieu providing a reading during the launch. Photo credit: Aimee Rochard (Click on this photo for the full story)

Tera is Thunder clan, which is unsurprising to those of us who have the privilege of knowing her, because she is absolutely a force of nature.

A proud Métis woman, her grandfather was born in St Laurent, Manitoba and he served in the Canadian Forces. Her father was born in B.C. and Tera has always called Toronto home.

I had a chat with Tera about her identity, how it defines her and also what she hopes to accomplish in the future:

Does your identity as a Métis woman impact your studies? 

Absolutely my identity has impacted my work. My doctoral research focuses on examining the role of Metis traditional knowledge in addressing the life transition needs (education, employment and mental health) of urban Metis homeless people. I knew very early on that I wanted to focus my research on Metis mental health, for several reasons. The area of Metis peoples health and well-being is an incredibly under researched area. We know far more about First Nations and Inuit peoples mental health than we do about Metis people, however, Metis people have experienced colonization, residential school, intergenerational trauma, and so on, just as the other Indigenous peoples of North America have. Knowing this, I felt a great sense of responsibility and desire to add to the knowledge base that details our peoples health so that we may be better informed about the needs of our people and how we might begin to go about addressing our healing needs.

 

Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Zimmer, and Carla Robinson

Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Zimmer, and Carla Robinson

Did/do you struggle with identifying as Métis?

My identity as a Metis woman has significantly evolved over time. My family often made references to being “Native” or having “Indian blood” when I was a child, but I didn’t understand this or know how to make sense of it for most of my childhood and adolescence. Over time I learned of our ancestry as Metis, and began to research and look into our history in my early adulthood. Being comfortable with identifying as Metis was a long process that involved much reflection and healing. I spent a lot of time reflecting on whether I was entitled to identify as Metis, given that I didn’t grow up in the culture, and thinking about my responsibility to my community and culture if I took up the identity of being Aboriginal.  As I began to immerse myself in the culture and become more active with the community, identifying as Metis became an important way for me to honour my Metis ancestors and positively contribute to our community.

Have you found strength in identifying as Métis?

I have found strength in identifying as Metis but it has not come without its challenges. I had a particularly difficult experience as an undergraduate student prior to identifying as Metis, but knowing of my ancestry. When I inquired about learning about traditional ways of healing and attending ceremony in the city, my professor at that time was very non-supportive and I experienced a great deal of shame. While she likely was trying to protect Indigenous culture and healing practices, for a young person who was struggling to make sense of their Indigenous identity, her response was quite damaging. I later realized that as a result of that experience, I suppressed my interest and connection with Aboriginal culture and felt unworthy of inquiring about and participating in the community. I can remember the first time that I publicly identified as Metis as a graduate student: my heart was pumping, I was sweating, almost waiting for someone to scream out at me “Liar! Imposter! We know the truth!!” To my surprise, my supervisor and fellow students were incredibly supportive and encouraged me to continue identifying and following this path of healing and reflection. As a result of identifying as Metis, becoming connected and integrated with the community and culture, I have experienced, and continue to experience, a great deal of healing, nurturance and support.

What has been a teaching you’ve received that has inspired you or helped you on your path?

Goodness, there are so many. I would say that one teaching that always sticks with me is a teaching about the infinity symbol. In describing how the infinity symbol represents the coming together of the First Peoples and European settlers, and how their intermarriage and children eventually evolved into the Metis Nation, an Elder reminded me that when you untwist the infinity, it forms a circle, highlighting our relationships with our First Nations and Inuit relatives. That’s been particularly important for me as I’ve engaged in work with the Aboriginal community of Toronto, remembering that while we are distinct Nations of people, we are all related.

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Were you always planning to do a PhD?

No! I had no idea that I would end up in graduate school. I knew in early adolescence that I wanted to study psychology and help people. How I was going to get there, I had no idea. I have been incredibly fortunate and blessed to have had the opportunity to attend school and gain as much knowledge as I have. As much as I have enjoyed it, I am definitely looking forward to finishing though!

What will you do once you’ve finished your PhD? 
Relax? Get 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis? Begin to wash that mountain of clothing that’s been building for the past 7 years in my closest? Definitely watch poorly rated television/Netflix for at least a few weeks (who else loves to hate Dawson’s Creek?!).
Once I move out of this stage of recuperation, I most definitely plan on practicing in the community. Whether that will be through my own private practice or while working at a hospital/community agency is yet to be determined, but the reason for completing this degree is to be of use in supporting and helping others as they make changes in their own lives. Culturally competent clinical programming and interventions for Metis people, to the best of my knowledge, are few and far between. If I had the opportunity to continue to conduct research, my main area of focus would continue to be on Metis peoples mental health and healing needs. I’ve also taught sessionally at the University level, and so would welcome the opportunity to do that as well. You know, as long as all of this doesn’t interrupt my Dawson’s Creek viewing schedule…
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Tera and I in O-town for the Halfbreed Hustle.

What has been your proudest moment?

The word proudest or pride is tough for me – I’ve always been taught to remain humble and remember that you are just one small piece of Creator’s big picture. I will say that one of the most humbling and honouring experiences that I have ever had was when I was presented with my first Eagle feather. To be recognized by our community for the work that I have engaged in was pretty unbelievable, as my life has been so transformed for the better as a result of doing this work. I carry that experience very close to my heart and spirit as I continue to walk the path that I’m on.

What advice would you give young Métis students considering university? 

You can do it. I had several people at different points along my journey question my abilities and at each turn I have taken great pleasure in proving them wrong. You have to have faith and confidence in yourself that you can achieve. That doesn’t mean that everything is going to be easy or always turn out exactly the way you want it to, but persevere, remain committed and diligent, and eat lots of nachos. Seriously, nachos help. Accessing our amazing Metis community also helps exponentially. I have made the most amazing friends through connecting with the Metis Nation of Ontario and its various programs. The Infinite Reach: Metis Student Solidarity Network in particular has acted as a lifeline for me in many respects and has enhanced my own sense of identity and belief in my abilities to achieve. The love, support, nurturance, and continuous laughter that is provided by this community is unbelievable and I do not feel like my graduate education would have been anywhere near as rewarding as it has been had I not connected in this way.
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Any final thoughts? 
I would like to say that I am incredibly lucky and privileged in many ways to have not only obtained the education that I have received, but for the very loving and supportive family, friends, and community that stand beside me. All of my accomplishments are 100% shared  with these people, because without them, none of it would be possible. I am so excited for the future of the Metis Nation, and am grateful that I get to work alongside this beautiful community of people.
Miigwetch!
PS: Here’s the video for Sisters.

I just wanted to write a brief thank you.

the homeland <3

the homeland ❤

To the creator, our Elders, our ancestors and our communities,

Thank you for being strong.

Thank you for being courageous.

Thank you for being proud.

Thank you for being unafraid.

Our generation stands on the shoulders of giants.

I had a conversation at home with one of my friends about Canada and Canadians. We were talking about “negative identity” (defined as: you are what you are not), for example when faced with the question “What is being Canadian?” a popular answer is “Not American.” – we as a society have a tendency to see ourselves as that.

We are First peoples, settlers, colonists and immigrants who have lived our own version of colonisation. We often have radically different histories and therefore what binds us varies. We do not have the same historic experiences as other colonies nor do our citizens share a common history.

However, when we want to talk about the beginning of the creation of this Canadian state. My ancestors are a part of that narrative.

Acadian, Plains Cree, Ojibwe, French and Irish blood runs through my veins.

I’ve spent this past weekend in Ottawa. I am the York University Infinite Reach facilitator and I’ve been here for training.

Our Infinite Reach sashs. They're handwoven.

Our Infinite Reach sashs. They’re handwoven.

 

It’s a fantastic program to encourage and assist Métis students at Glendon/Keele. I’m available as a resource, support and I will be running cultural events.

What a beautiful time to be an aboriginal person in Canada.

As Métis people, we are part of the fabric that formed this Canadian state. The creation of Manitoba, thanks to Louis Riel, helped shape Confederation in Canada. Our ancestors worked as fur traders, guides, warriors and interpreters.

We exist in historical limbo, we are a mix of European settlers and First Nations people.

Half breeds, Bois-Brûlés…

Not First Nations, not European.

We have surpassed some of the discrimination, but there is still much to defeat.

As Senator Roland shared with us (and forgive me, I am paraphrasing) “The difference between the Métis and colonisers was that the Métis adapted to their environment. We looked at the gifts of mother earth and the ways that were there and we adapted. Colonisers came and brought with them their world and took from the land in order to replicate what they already had.”

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One of my favourite definitions. Courtesy of Settler Colonial on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/SettlerColonial?fref=ts

That’s a powerful message.

I am the descendant of settlers and indigenous people. That is my identity and when I see movements like #idlenomore coming to life, I get excited.

I won’t get too political here, but I did meet with Chief Theresa Spence (very briefly), gave her a hug and said miigwetch for her courage and dedication.

The community fire at Chief Spence's camp.

The community fire at Chief Spence’s camp.

(Note: Chief Theresa Spence is the Chief of Attawapiskat and is currently on a hunger strike. You should do your own research on her, I refuse to link any articles because I feel that most of the reporting is incredibly biased, sometimes racist and often full of misinformation.)

This land is my sacred land, this is where my ancestors lived. What are now called Alberta, Ontario and Michigan were once the parts of Turtle Island my ancestors lived on in their ways.

Southern Georgian Bay has been my home since the Chippewa roamed and the Metis paddled down from Drummond Island to Penetanguishene in 1828.

I feel my roots here  and I am proud to continue to share my heritage because it is important. It is important to the story of this Canada. Our story is tragic at times, but we are also triumphant.

Our senators said, if we don’t write our own history – someone else will.

I think it’s important for any settlers who are coming to Canada to realise and acknowledge this history – it also wouldn’t hurt any settlers who’ve been here for the past 200 years to maybe re-evaluate their opinion of aboriginal people and our experiences within Canada. Research the truth, instead of listening to politicians and mainstream media.

It’s also important to realise that this is more than just history, we are an evolving community that has existed for hundreds of years.

Aboriginal people are not stagnant.

We are reclaiming identities and experiences that are rightfully ours. We are reclaiming ceremonies and rituals that were taken from us.

“My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.”

– Louis Riel, July 4 1885

It’s been over 100 years, and we are now coming back – stronger and more determined than ever.

This year is one of great reflection, through that reflection I’ve stumbled upon the realisation that I need to grow up and begin to find a career path of sorts. I’m definitely going to drop by our Career Centre at Glendon and talk to them but the universe helps those who help themselves right? So here is my plea, a resume of sorts and if after reading this you’re interested in hiring me, please get in touch! My name is Krista. I’m a fourth year student at Glendon College. I plan on graduating in April of 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Canadian Studies. I’m a citizen of the Metis Nation of Ontario and a very proud aboriginal woman. My primary interests are the outdoors, Aboriginal culture and heritage, public speaking, history, queer community work, writing, photography, working with youth, videography and social media. I love being challenged and I thrive when I’m passionate about my work. I work well in team settings and have a long history of taking on leadership roles within student groups and organisations. I have work experience with elementary school aged students, leading tours and working with curriculum based educational programs. I also have work experience which include filling out reports, assisting in leadership development, night shifts, organising events, developing programs and creating campaigns. I can chop wood, start fires, build small structures and I am a quick learner. I am very comfortable being outdoors and I am an avid kayaker. I’m perfectly bilingual in French and English. I am also very comfortable in Spanish. I love writing and you can see examples of my work here on my blog. I am very comfortable with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and tumblr. I have Standard First Aid, I need to renew my CPR and AED training but am more than willing to do it. I also have Positive Space training and WHMIS. I have thousands of hours of dedicated volunteer work as well as paid work and I would be more than happy to provide a full resume, it is available in either French of English. If I sound like someone you would like working at your company/organisation please leave a comment and I can head over to your website! I’m currently looking for a summer job, perhaps with a company where I can later find full time work. Thanks for reading! I sincerely hope this inspires you to perhaps get in touch with me!

It’s exhausting because every introduction goes the same way…

Me: “Hi, my name is Krista”

Random: “Oh, hi! I’m [insert generic name]”

Me: “Oh awesome! We should be friends…”

(How the person I’m talking to sees me)

(Option 1)

Random: “So do you have a boyfriend?”

Me: “No, I don’t date men. I’m a lesbian.”

(How the person I’m talking to now sees me)

At this point the conversation takes one of five turns:

1. “OMG you’re a LESBIAN – that’s so cool! I never would have guessed – you don’t look like one! Tell me what that’s like?!”

(Problem: You’re assuming what a lesbian is. Then you’re Othering me, it’s cool to want to get to know someone and their experiences,[in fact it’s great that you’re so positive about it!] but it’s not cool when you’re making me feel like an alien.)

2. *Conversation ends awkwardly*

(Problem: This just sucks and means you don’t want to be my friend because I’m gay OR you were a straight dude trying to hit on me – in that case I’m sorry to disappoint [not really though])

3. “Um, would you make out with my girlfriend in front of me?” “Would you make out with your girlfriend in front of me?” (Or another inappropriate sexual advance)

(Problem: Whether you think it is or not, this is a form of sexual harassment – it’s completely unacceptable. To make the assumption that because I’m queer, I want to kiss your girlfriend is offensive, ridiculous and you’re minimizing me as a human being. It is incredibly degrading to have someone ask you to display your affection for your partner for their entertainment or gratification.)

4. “Why do you hate men?”

(Problem: This is a negative/Hollywood stereotype and an assumption. I’m not even going to answer you if you say this to me – it’s super annoying)

5. “You’re going to burn in hell – that’s disgusting.”

(Problem: You’re just a jerk. I feel like if your god exists, s/he’s going to like me a lot more than you.)

(Option 2)

Random: “So what’s your background?”

Me: “I’m Metis

Random: “What does that mean?” (*BONUS POINTS if they don’t ask this*)

Me: “I’m an aboriginal person.”

(How the person I’m talking to now sees me)

At this point the conversation takes one of three turns:

1. “OMG YOU’RE NATIVE! THAT’S AMAZING – TEACH ME EVERYTHING! I LOVE YOUR PEOPLE, SO STOIC AND WONDERFUL!”

(Problem: assumptions and othering – I guess it’s cool that you’re excited to meet someone who’s part of a collection of peoples who have been (/continue to be) oppressed, but I’m also just a person. I’ve been going through a personal reclaiming process for the last 3 years, so I don’t know everything – nor can I teach you. I’m 20 years old, I don’t have magical life secrets. Plus each of the First Nations/Inuit/Metis communities have different teachings, realities and experiences.)

2. “Did you grow up in a reserve?” “What’s it like living on a reserve?”

(Problem: You’re making an assumption. Not every aboriginal person has lived on a reserve, it doesn’t make you “more” or “less” aboriginal to have lived on one.)

3.”Why are you in university… am I paying for you to be here?” “No offence – but you look white, are you sure you’re aboriginal?” “What percentage are you?” (Or another racist comment)

(Problem: You’re making more assumptions and straight up being ignorant and racist. I’m in university because I did well in high school – no your dbag tax dollars aren’t paying for me to be here and if you understood anything about the PSSSP you wouldn’t be being saying something so ignorant. The tone of my skin does not make me “more” or “less” aboriginal. My “percentage” is none of your gosh darn business nor does it matter, don’t you dare try to tell me who I am.)

It’s just exhausting, every time I share anything personal it turns into a lesson where I often end up having to defend myself. Or I’m asked to speak on behalf of all lesbians or Metis/aboriginal people and give that perspective.

It’s especially difficult when I’m talking about my race/background, because it carries a long and complicated history that I don’t always feel like getting into (in that moment).

Truth be told, people generally give me option #1 and it’s great that they want to educate themselves but I often feel myself becoming their token aboriginal or lesbian “friend”. I could just lie and hide it, but these are parts of me. I’m proud to be a queer aboriginal woman and I shouldn’t be shamed for it.

I have some really great friends who make wonderful allies, but they didn’t approach me abrasively. They didn’t come at me with their preconceived notions of what it “means” to be a lesbian, nor what it “means” to be aboriginal. If they had those ideas, they kept them to themselves and approached me with an open mind.

It’s important to want to learn about other cultures, experiences, identities and realities – it’s what can make you a strong ally and good friend. I’m happy to share my experiences, I just prefer approaching the subject on my terms – after all it is my life.

(Who I have been throughout the conversation and will continue to be)

Just try to think about what you’re going to say before you say it and then ask yourself these three questions:

“Am I being racist/homophobic?”

“Am I assuming something?”

“Is this the right way to approach the subject?”

Just be considerate, we have feelings too.

PS: I will not immediately hate you if you’ve said/done any of those things. Just think about it next time. 

RESOURCES!

There’s a lot of other really great ways to learn about queerness, aboriginal peoples, etc. that don’t involve asking an individual every single question you’ve ever had on the topics:

1. The Internet! You can always Google it.

2. Queer student groups, check out Juan’s post on queer student services at Glendon/York!

3. You can drop by the Aboriginal Student Association at York to pick up pamphlets or even drop by one of their events.

4. Me. Yes this is ironic (if you didn’t understand the intent behind this post anyway). I am the Infinite Reach Facilitator for Glendon/York; so I will be running events on Metis culture/heritage that anyone will be welcome to join 🙂 Plus I have a ton of previous experience working with Glgbt* (check Juan’s post) so I don’t mind it when it’s in that context.

This isn’t about being afraid to ask questions – it’s about considering how you frame them. 🙂