An ode to Métis Land | Nicki Ferland
Updated: Nov 21, 2020
This Land bore my ancestors.
This Land is the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg, Cree and Dakota, and this place, at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, was a gathering space for many nations. Several communities lived and visited here to trade, build alliances, meet, and make relatives. Before this was Treaty 1 Land, before settlers made this their home,
This Land birthed the Métis Nation on the banks of the Red River.
More than just mixed, the Métis established unique languages, a distinct culture, a peoplehood here in this specific place, on this particular Land.
This Land knows my ancestors.
The Métis left their footprints on muddy banks and portaged their canoes on what would become downtown streets. They established this present-day metropolis, but the landscape would be unrecognizable to them now. Settlers constructed tall buildings that impede our views, and laid a concrete labyrinth on the prairies in the hopes that we would lose ourselves. Gone are the deep tracks from our squeaky carts weighed down with furs, bison, and family.
But look closely, the imprint of our caravans can still be seen in the wide lanes of Portage and Main.
Métis Land remains underneath the city, on top of it, above it, within and beyond.
This Land remembers my ancestors.
Traces that we lived and died here endure as deep impressions on the Land. Manitoba was brought into confederation by uncle Louis and his Métis government; Winnipeg, the heart of the Red River settlement, was built on top of our communities in the dust of our diaspora. Riel House still stands in St. Vital, and Saint Boniface bore our favourite Captain, Gabe Dumont. Walking by The Bay downtown, we remember when the HBC destroyed our fort during the Pemmican Wars. But we rebuilt it, and would celebrate other victories.
We memorialize a stoning on the river bank, and erect statues of our leader, While settlers level bygone urban Métis communities for a Rapid Transit corridor.
This Land belongs to future Métis ancestors.
The Métis are still here, walking in the footsteps of our ancestors, and remembering the roots/ routes they laid. Look down at our feet, their paths, the Land – pick up what our ancestors left behind for us. Honour our unique traditions, our particular ways, our spirituality and our ceremonies. In 2013, the Supreme Court proved what we always knew to be true: this Land holds unfulfilled obligations for Métis land rights. The future offers promises of a modern-day treaty for the Métis.
This was, is and will always be Métis Land, But you settlers are welcome to stay awhile.