Updated: Nov 22, 2020
I've been thinking a lot about culture lately. How it breathes, how it moves, how
it sleeps. How it can live so resolutely in our bodies that we are led to the exact
people and places that we need—usually long before realizing that we need them.
This movement tangles us together with questions and expressions of who we are
in relation to one another.
A few years ago I met a nêhiyaw knowledge keeper at a youth gathering in Ottawa
who talked to me about how stories are what give culture life. Stories, people, and
places form constellations of who we are as Indigenous people and our sense of
identity evolves as we search for belonging within these constellations.
Understanding identity as a relational and spiritual process like this—rather than
a static box of who we are or are not—pushes back against colonial concepts
of indigeneity. It speaks to how we have agency in defining ourselves while also
being connected to collective identities as well.
As Métis young people, we have a responsibility to build our knowledge and assert
who we are individually in ways that reflect commitment to our distinct nation
and other Indigenous peoples. This doesn’t mean that we always need to agree
with one another, or that our political leadership should have final say over who
belongs. However, it does require us to carry a level of critical consciousness where
"Without this link between individual and collective, calling yourself Métis is more like putting
on a pair of blue jeans than it is a lived identity."
our sense of self is grounded in readiness to take action with others and an understanding
of our place within the history, current realities, and future of our people.
Without this link between individual and collective, calling yourself Métis is more like putting
on a pair of blue jeans than it is a lived identity. Something you might try on to look good,
but that you’ll take off as soon as you get uncomfortable or once they start going out of
style. It seems like a lot of people are trying on these Métis blue jeans lately. Some who
grabbed them by mistake and are realizing that they aren’t theirs to wear, and others who
have squeezed into them a lot more deliberately, doing harm as they strut around.
I’ve been fortunate in my life to have been introduced to many people who have helped me
navigate my sense of belonging as a Métis woman. Some of them have taught me through
love and encouragement, while others have pushed me through discomfort and conflict.
I’ve also been lucky to live and travel across a number of different territories that have
redefined my ways of understanding the world. These places have gifted me with stories
more valuable than any souvenir and with more knowledge than any textbook.
This process of knowing and being through these constellations guides how I try to move in
the world and how I want my children to walk as well. It takes work and accountability that
even the most perfect fit of blue jeans can’t pull off. //