9 Metis out of 10 are English-Speaking

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Happy Freegan Rob
9 Metis out of 10 are English-Speaking

125 years after Louis Riel hanging, it seems that English assimilation is rampant among Metis. Anyaways, that's what suggest some data released by Statistics Canada in the latest issue of "Canadian Social Trends"

An exploration of cultural activities of Métis in Canada: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2010001/article/11142-eng.htm

According to this study only one Metis out of ten can speak "an aboriginal language" (mostly Cree and Ojibway). French, Riel's language, is also only spoken by one out of ten Metis and Michif, the Metis French-Cree Creole, has under 3600 living speakers.

Any toughts?

remind remind's picture

They did not want to learn a second language, or grew up in the time where their languages were not taught, or encouraged.

 

You got any "thoughts" yourself, or were you making an announcement?

Yiwah

I'm one of the 1 in 10.  My community is Cree speaking, though there are elders who still speak Michif.  They'll insist it's Cree though :)  That strict deliniation of languages isn't all that strict in practice...many of us also pepper our Cree with Stoney words because we share our lake with two Stoney reserves.

Language retention among all aboriginal peoples is a pressing concern, but it is particularly difficult for Metis, especially outside of the Alberta Settlements.  We tend not to be grouped as closely as First Nations and a higher proportion of us are urbanised.  If we do speak an aboriginal language, it is likely because we grew up rural, and in close contact with First Nations.

It is for this reason that I believe urban initiatives are vital for Metis.  I've pointed out on other threads that Edmonton, Alberta, has a number of Cree immersion schools in 'native neighbourhoods' in the city.  I would like to see an expansion of those programs to include Nakota Sioux (Stoney), and Blackfoot...possibly Dene as well, but the numbers unfortunately do not support that.  There are no formal Michif learning opportunities in Alberta that I know of, and Alberta has the highest large M Metis population in Canada.  Our default is Cree, and while it pains me that I don't speak MY language, at least Michif was created from Cree and French, and speaking those languages is going to have to be good enough.

Caissa
Yiwah

Caissa, the link you've provided gives decent historical background but somewhat muddies the issue.

For example, it HAS been generally accepted that big M Metis refers to those who share a similar language, culture and history.  Little m metis is a term still used for those who are mixed blood, part First Nations and part something else.  Many people get the two confused, or do not understand the distinction, including a great number of people who call themselves metis.  Being half Ojibwe and half Irish doesn't make you Metis, it makes you half Ojibwe and Irish.

Sven Sven's picture

Yiwah wrote:

For example, it HAS been generally accepted that big M Metis refers to those who share a similar language, culture and history.  Little m metis is a term still used for those who are mixed blood, part First Nations and part something else.  Many people get the two confused, or do not understand the distinction, including a great number of people who call themselves metis.  Being half Ojibwe and half Irish doesn't make you Metis, it makes you half Ojibwe and Irish.

Thanks for those additional comments.

Taking your last example, for individuals who are "half Ojibwe and half Irish", what are the conditions which would classify some of those people as being (merely) "half Ojibwe and half Irish" and others as being Metis?

More specifically, how would any one of those individuals know which category they fall in and who decides that?  If it's up to the individual, then anyone who is "half Ojibwe and half Irish" could simply declare that they are Metis, no?

Caissa

Here is the link to the Metis National Council

http://www.metisnation.ca/

Joey Ramone

I agree with Yiwah that simply being of mixed FN and non-FN blood does not make a person Metis.  Another commonly accepted definition of "Metis" is: a person who self-identifies as 'Metis' and is accepted by an Aboriginal community as a Metis.

I'm one of the 9 in 10, having been brought up in mainly non-FN urban environment.  I know very few Metis in Ontario who speak an Aboriginal language, and those who do are all over 40.  Frankly, I think 1 out of 10 is high.  Note that the study only questioned self-identifying Metis over 15. 

The definition of Michif used in the study (French and Cree) is also too narrow.  There are Metis in north-western Ontario who speak a dialect of Michif based on French, English and Ojibway, and there is a Dene/French Michif dialect in the NWT.

Unionist

My thoughts:

I know little about the subject, other than what I remember from Manitoba history:

  • the Manitoba Act (1870?), negotiated with Louis Riel's provisional government, as part of Manitoba's entry into Confederation, providing status for both French and English;
  • the betrayal of that compromise with the Manitoba Schools Act (1890) - which, besides de-recognizing Catholic schools, eliminated French as an official language;
  • the eviction of the Métis from their land - the ongoing colonial economic and cultural devastation.

It was the 1970s before the French language issue began to be rectified in Manitoba, with Georges Forest's challenge of his unilingual parking ticket (I think), and ultimately a Supreme Court decision requiring all Manitoba laws to be rendered into French, etc. But obviously generations worth of damage had been done.

That's all anecdotal and distant memory, so I'd appreciate someone more knowledgeable filling in. And I have no knowledge at all when it comes to the loss of the indigenous languages.

al-Qa'bong

The host of our Métis program (Saturday afternoons - the best radio on the dial at that time) sometimes mixes English, French and Cree in one sentence.

On his last show he read an announcement for a place that teaches Cree.  Afterwards he said something like, "These people will teach you the real Cree, not that....heh heh heh."  I should point out that he chuckles a lot during his show.

6079_Smith_W

I was talking to a fellow a few months ago about the decision to let the Canadians into Red River, and I ran across a breakdown of census numbers from around 1870.

Along with Metis, they list "mixed blood" as its own category. I know this includes a number of mixed-races like the ones you mention Yiwah, and that it was not a single developed culture like the Metis. I suspect they only did it because it was an undeniable reality. Unfortunately I don't have the information at my fingertips, but I do remember that Metis and mixed blood each constituted a larger group than any single race - Native, French, English, Scottish or Irish. I also can't remember it if was actually over 50% of the population,  but it was certainly close.

(edit)

These aren't the numbers I was refering to, but here they are for the whole province of Manitoba at the time of confederation. It's surprising that even outside the dominant Metis culture (which was itself mixed) mixed race people of other backrounds far outnumbered any one culture/race.

http://www.abheritage.ca/pasttopresent/en/settlement/first_peoples_metis...

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

There was also the fur trade culture itself that was mixed race.  BC's James Douglas is a good example.  Like many people around the world in the 19th century his genetic mix didn't stop him from self identifying as a loyal British subject.  Also the Acadian culture prior to the ethnic cleansing was large m Metis by the above definitions.  However after the decades of expulsion and the restriction of the Acadian and FN's nations on separate reserves the Acadian community ceased to have an aboriginal focus culturally so in this day and age most Acadians would not call themselves metis despite their ancestry.

RP.

Sven wrote:

Taking your last example, for individuals who are "half Ojibwe and half Irish", what are the conditions which would classify some of those people as being (merely) "half Ojibwe and half Irish" and others as being Metis?

More specifically, how would any one of those individuals know which category they fall in and who decides that?  If it's up to the individual, then anyone who is "half Ojibwe and half Irish" could simply declare that they are Metis, no?

I hope I'm not being presumptuous in answering this, and I am certainly open to correction, but I think to be metis one has to be a product of a hybrid European/Aboriginal culture, not merely the child of one indigenous parent and another non-indigenous.

6079_Smith_W

@ kropotkin

Speaking of British loyalty, the controversial military campaign to rescue General Gordon in Khartoum was made up of Canadian voyageurs, many of them Metis from Manitoba. They don't say so in this article, but I remember reading that General Wolseley specifically requested Metis sharpshooters.

http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/mb_history/42/kennedyvoyageurs.shtml

I'm sure everyone is aware of what happened the next summer.

In fact, I remember in John Ralston Saul's lecture on CBC Ideas about Canada being a Metis nation, as well as Bill Waiser's book "Loyal Til Death" that many Native leaders were consistently loyal to the treaty process (even during the NW Rebellion) and confederation and tried to make them work.

Even though Riel did not want the 1870 provisional government to blindly support the Canadians' offer, he declined to push the point at a crucial public meeting, and he turned down Gabriel Dumont's offer of a military resistance. He trusted that they would honour the terms bringing Manitoba into confederation.

Unfortunately many of the Canadians did not deal with the same good faith. It would be interesting to know if things would have turned out any differently if the regrettable execution of Thomas Scott had not happened. 

 

Yiwah

Sven wrote:

Thanks for those additional comments.

Taking your last example, for individuals who are "half Ojibwe and half Irish", what are the conditions which would classify some of those people as being (merely) "half Ojibwe and half Irish" and others as being Metis?

More specifically, how would any one of those individuals know which category they fall in and who decides that?  If it's up to the individual, then anyone who is "half Ojibwe and half Irish" could simply declare that they are Metis, no?

 

I think what is being missed here is that the Metis have a distinct culture.  It is not simply a matter of mixing in a little indigenous here, a little European there.  We have our own legal orders, our own socio-political contexts, and we have developed a history which grounds and defines us.  Yes, we started out as mixed bloods but that is nowhere near who we are as a people now. 

Being a mixed blood NOW simply does not mean what it did in the days when the Metis nation was just emerging.  Being mixed blood doesn't make you a part of the Metis nation. 

How does anyone figure out their identity?  If one is half First Nations and half something else, they have to figure out if they can be one, or the other, or both, and how that's going to work.  "Metis" is simply not a category open to them, unless they have a Metis parent. Just like "Ojibwe" is not a category open to them unless one of their parents is Ojibwe.

Who decides this?  Our people decide this.  We don't have a lot of confusion about who we are, anymore than the Cree are confused about their identity, or the Dene about theirs.

Yiwah

6079_Smith_W wrote:

In fact, I remember in John Ralston Saul's lecture on CBC Ideas about Canada being a Metis nation,

Personally I can't stomach Saul's assertions of "unconscious Aboriginalness".  It's one step away from the 'noble savage'.  Also while he pays lips service to understanding who the Metis are, he doesn't actually seem to get it, and says really all Canadians should be able to access their Metis heritage (by which he actually means First Nations heritage) if they just try hard enough...

Sorry, no.

 

6079_Smith_W

Yiwah wrote:

6079_Smith_W wrote:

In fact, I remember in John Ralston Saul's lecture on CBC Ideas about Canada being a Metis nation,

Personally I can't stomach Saul's assertions of "unconscious Aboriginalness".  It's one step away from the 'noble savage'.  Also while he pays lips service to understanding who the Metis are, he doesn't actually seem to get it, and says really all Canadians should be able to access their Metis heritage (by which he actually means First Nations heritage) if they just try hard enough...

Sorry, no.

Actually I was refering specifically to those two authors saying that Native and Metis people were honestly committed to cooperation, whereas many Canadians were in it for themselves. I was not saying that I agreed with all his arguments.

Yiwah

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Actually I was refering specifically to those two authors saying that Native and Metis people were honestly committed to cooperation, whereas many Canadians were in it for themselves. I was not saying that I agreed with all his arguments.

I've been seeing him quoted a lot lately, and I felt like commenting.

In any case, neither argument has much to do with the issue of language loss among Metis.

6079_Smith_W

@ Yiwah

Understood. 'scuse me.

Yiwah

Anyway, on the original post, I think it's interesting that the 1 in 10 isn't necessarily a useful generalisation.  [url=http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2010001/article/11142-eng.htm#a10]One quarter[/url] of Metis in Saskatchewan, for example, speak an aboriginal language.  Even more than in Alberta, despite our Settlements.  The break down in language is interesting too...almost entirely Cree among Alberta Metis, about half and half Cree or Ojibwe in Manitoba.  And of course, those of us from rural backgrounds tend to be more fluent than those of us in urban settings.

6079_Smith_W

@ Yiwah

I know it is only in the last couple of year or so I have seen bulletin board ads for courses in Michif, though I know there have been courses in Cree offered for awhile here in Saskatoon. Unless you are in a place where you are actually immersed in it, or at the very least have radio or tv, it's hard for it to be ingrained. I know the only times I have ever really gotten a handle on another language is when I had no choice but to speak it.

6079_Smith_W

@ Yiwah

About 22 years ago I met a fellow from what is now Nunavut at a conference in Winnipeg. He was promoting Inuktitut, and said that loss of their language could mean that people would no longer be able to get around without maps (and now GPS). His language has many specific navigational words that English does not, developed because their landscape has so few points of reference. As an example he mentioned two different words for a rise of land, depending on whether it was on the left or right side of a body of water.

So yes, loss of language can mean not just loss of culture, but loss of ways of thinking, and of ability to function and survive. There are people who manage to turn it around. I am sure the making of films (and other art) in their language gives it a greater change of remaining alive and growing.

Refuge Refuge's picture

Yiwah wrote:

I think what is being missed here is that the Metis have a distinct culture.  It is not simply a matter of mixing in a little indigenous here, a little European there.  We have our own legal orders, our own socio-political contexts, and we have developed a history which grounds and defines us.  Yes, we started out as mixed bloods but that is nowhere near who we are as a people now. 

Being a mixed blood NOW simply does not mean what it did in the days when the Metis nation was just emerging.  Being mixed blood doesn't make you a part of the Metis nation. 

How does anyone figure out their identity?  If one is half First Nations and half something else, they have to figure out if they can be one, or the other, or both, and how that's going to work.  "Metis" is simply not a category open to them, unless they have a Metis parent. Just like "Ojibwe" is not a category open to them unless one of their parents is Ojibwe.

Who decides this?  Our people decide this.  We don't have a lot of confusion about who we are, anymore than the Cree are confused about their identity, or the Dene about theirs.

Thanks for this clear explanation, it frustrates me when people call my son Metis because I am "European" and his father is Cree.  It has happened twice because he is only a few weeks old, once by a non-FN who just assumed and one by a FN person who was saying it in a derogatory way.  The non-FN didn't seem to care when I explained and I just ignored the FN person because I didn't like that they were being derogatory about my son and that they were using the word Metis to do it.

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

Ironically, using the 'blood' definition of métis would mean that very, very few people who consider themselves true FN could escape the fact that they too are likely of mixed blood, just as my children are likely 1/64th aboriginal (thanks to their great-great-great grandmother from the courier-du-bois line of family history).

remind remind's picture

Hey ya....CONGRATULATIONS refuge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yiwah

Refuge wrote:

Thanks for this clear explanation, it frustrates me when people call my son Metis because I am "European" and his father is Cree.  It has happened twice because he is only a few weeks old, once by a non-FN who just assumed and one by a FN person who was saying it in a derogatory way.  The non-FN didn't seem to care when I explained and I just ignored the FN person because I didn't like that they were being derogatory about my son and that they were using the word Metis to do it.

Your son is half Cree, half whatever you are.  I never understand why that is a difficult issue for others to understand.  I know many, many First Nations people who are half non-aboriginal, and who have absolutely no confusion about what it means to be both First Nations and "something else".  I'm sorry you've had that kind of ignorant response.

Yiwah

Lard Tunderin Jeezus wrote:

Ironically, using the 'blood' definition of métis would mean that very, very few people who consider themselves true FN could escape the fact that they too are likely of mixed blood, just as my children are likely 1/64th aboriginal (thanks to their great-great-great grandmother from the courier-du-bois line of family history).

 

I've been trying to figure out what bothered me about this post, and it finally came to me. 

In general, the people I have come across who erroneously use the term "Metis" in any sort of blood quantum fashion, are not First Nations.  In fact, I very rarely have any difficulty with First Nations people when I tell them I'm Metis.  They usually know what that means.  I'm saying 'in general, rarely, usually' here despite the fact that I have NEVER actually met a First Nations person who didn't understand who the Metis are.  I am allowing for the fact that there must be, somewhere, First Nations people who don't know this.

There is debate among Aboriginal people about certain groups calling themselves Metis, and whether or not they qualify as Metis, or simply a mixture of indigenous and European...but that debate recognises that there are 'legitimate' Metis.

So the people pushing this whole 'Metis means part indigenous, part aboriginal' line aren't actually Aboriginal people, in my experience.  Nor is there some sort of hidden shame among Aboriginal people about 'possible mixed blood.'

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

Sorry to have gotten under your skin; it certainly wasn't my intention. But clearly 'blood quantum' isn't an exclusively settler concept, as Refuge pointed out.

And if was my claim of distant relation that bothered you, allow me to point out that the relation isn't mine at all, but through my wife's family. I have other connections, though - first cousins who have status, and a cousin who was adopted and has re-entered her birth mother's community. She is currently fighting to regain her children from CAS. I started this link to try to learn more about the issues she's facing, but unfortunately there's been little response.

Yiwah

Lard Tunderin Jeezus wrote:

Sorry to have gotten under your skin; it certainly wasn't my intention. But clearly 'blood quantum' isn't an exclusively settler concept, as Refuge pointed out.

And if was my claim of distant relation that bothered you, allow me to point out that the relation isn't mine at all, but through my wife's family. I have other connections, though - first cousins who have status, and a cousin who was adopted and has re-entered her birth mother's community. She is currently fighting to regain her children from CAS. I started this link to try to learn more about the issues she's facing, but unfortunately there's been little response.

No worries, it wasn't that it got under my skin, something about the focus of the post just kept me rolling it around and around in my head for a bit.

Refuge Refuge's picture

remind wrote:

Hey ya....CONGRATULATIONS refuge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Thanks Remind.  He's happy and healthy but a tad needy right now which means my posting on babble is a little spotty as I tiptoe away from his tikinagan....shhhh.