I wrote and published this text in French in July 2018. Following expressions of interest from non-francophones, including from Indigenous persons, I put together this translation, with help. The French remains the definitive text.
I want to talk about Acadians who make me ashamed. For once, I don’t mean elected officials. I mean Acadians who proclaim themselves « Métis » out of the blue because they just heard that there might be some benefits attached to that designation.
Most have known all their lives that they have an Indigenous ancestor. But favourable legal decisions for the Indigenous or rumours of easy money suddenly made them proud of this ancestor, no matter how remote or uncertain the ancestor may be. Of our 1,000 or so ancestors since the arrival of the first Acadians, they’ve decided it is the Indigenous ancestor or the handful of Indigenous ancestors who will define them from now on.
This new pride could have motivated them to support First Nations and demand that Acadian associations do the same.
No, the new pride of the born-again Acadian “Métis” only pushes them to buy a « Métis » card from the local scheming “metis” association, a card made to look exactly like a First Nations’ card. They will use the card to try to avoid paying sales taxes, they will flash it to demand hunting and fishing rights and otherwise try for the « big life » of First Nations, which were the arguments used to sell these cards. The number of people living in the Maritimes self-identifying as Métis in recent Censuses has exploded.
They are so proud of their Indigenous ancestor that some denigrate First Nations. Let us share quotes from their associations: « We are the first aboriginals. » « We are more Métis than the Métis in the West. » « We only want what the other aboriginals have. »
As a fisherman from Pont-Landry denounced in 2000: « There are fishermen who fight against Native people obtaining fishing rights, but who have their membership card (Métis) to claim the same benefits as them, should they succeed at having their rights recognized. »
These pretenders have also declared that there are Métis communities! It is not just in Amazonia that one can discover unknown tribes. In Acadie also! Some wannabe Métis say they grew up in secret communities of « Métis ». In these places, the « Métis » knew who they were. « Acadian » was code for Métis, or something like that, it’s unclear.
Some other so-called « Métis » say they never knew they were « Métis » – the fault of Acadie and historians – but they have just had their DNA analyzed and bingo! Those have not yet heard about the clause in legal decisions stating that one criteria for being Métis is to be a member of a Métis community. They may be revising their memories of their early life.
The fact that First Nations say there are no Métis or Métis communities in the Maritimes does not seem to trouble those Métis wannabes, who also do not worry about whether or not their new-found kin is proud of them.
When we forced First Nations on reserves, when we removed their children to put them in residential schools, these people and communities who claim to be of the same race did not come out of the woods. They sure do know when to have their moment of epiphany, when it is time to grab the loot.
Other Acadians and natives have denounced these opportunists.
« I’m not Métis … my mother would have told me », is how sociologist Joseph-Yvon Thériault titled his text published by Astheure in 2016.
« Acadians, stop this silliness. It’s shameful!” tweeted Acadian Vanelle @teesock this month in response to news that an Acadian « Métis » association says that the Western Métis language, Michif, is spoken in Nova Scotia.
« Twenty years ago, even Indians did not want to be Indian. Today, everyone wants to be, » Len Tomah, the regional leader of the Assembly of First Nations for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, declared recently.
« Throughout history, we resisted colonization and spoke out about the horrors against Indigenous peoples. Where were these Métis people all this time?” said Jarvis Googoo, a Mi’kmaq lawyer from Nova Scotia.
It is important to denounce this situation for several reasons. It is hogwash. First Nations do not deserve this and have a right to expect that their friends will denounce these « Acadians ». It brings shame to Acadie. These “métis wannabes” are falsifying history.
The worst potential consequence of these « Métis » shenanigans would be if it affected the rights and benefits of First Nations peoples. That would be the ultimate appropriation.
I am Acadian, so I am “métissée”, which is French for mixed – I have ancestors of various ethnic origins. But I am not Métis in the Canadian political and legal sense, even though I have several Indigenous ancestors.
Almost every human is mixed. That is love, history, rape, life. Among our ancestors are Indigenous peoples of Europe, Africa, North America, and elsewhere. It does not change our citizenship, our rights, or political realities. However, since I discovered that I have Scottish, French and Portuguese blood, I am selling « passports » to these countries. Are you interested? Ten dollars for a genealogy search, a little more for the passport and you should be good to ask for benefits and pensions available to citizens of those countries.
These self-called “Métis » remind me of Trump’s followers who, tired of being the losers of capitalism, decided that they don’t have to change that system: They can just believe in an alternative world, focus on easy targets.
The pretend « Métis Acadians » may feel they are heirs of an unfinished story. Which brings to mind another alternative world: A world where Acadians demand compensation, funding, and a territory where one can be Acadian. Does anyone sell cards for this alternate world?