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National Gathering on Unmarked Burials: BC Metis Federation Provides Welcoming Comments

On January 16, BC Metis Federation’s Director of Research was invited by the Special Interlocutor to provide welcoming comments at the National Gathering on Unmarked Burials: Indigenous Data Sovereignty and Community Control over Information and Knowledge. Many First Nations, Inuit and Métis Survivors, Elders, Families and Communities attended this third national gathering.

During the welcome speech, Desjarlais explained that ignorance of the Metis experience in residential schools is reflected in the general misunderstanding of Metis people in the Pacific Northwest.  In short, Metis people in the Pacific Northwest were robbed of their history and memory.

Director of Research Desjarlais stated, “In the conventional colonial model, research has mostly been done “on” or “for” Metis for the benefit of others. We committed to a strategy where we would assume ownership, control, and expression of all our stories, data, and traditions. I made it clear that research is a relationship! We gathered a team of local researchers from our communities across the Province of BC and developed a curriculum. As the researchers work in the archives and conduct interviews, they become self-determining in research.”

BC Metis Federation’s goal of building community capacity based upon a relational model is tracking with many themes at this conference. Topics like ownership, ‘access to records’ and ‘who controls the data’ were major themes in this conference. Themes of community-based research and community values and goals that shape the research process were discussed. Work is just beginning to build mechanisms on principles of data sovereignty that work for indigenous communities.

Desjarlais concluded, “There is so much history that needs to be understood on the lived experiences of Metis across the whole of the Pacific Northwest. Our initial research shows that Metis/mixed-ancestry peoples attended most residential schools in BC in significant numbers. We need a community-based approach to understand this history better and to recognize the intergenerational impact on families, kinship networks, on survivors, right up to today. We recognize that we cannot do this work on our own.  Knowledge partnerships are required to bring about reconciliation and lasting transformation.  If reconciliation starts with ‘truth’ then governments, institutions, industry, churches, First Nations, and other Metis groups need to stop denying our very existence as self-determining communities throughout the Pacific Northwest and come to the table to find meaningful ways to partner for the benefit of all.  We need willing partners who will work with Metis communities to advance our local goals and interests, whether accessing records, locating unmarked burials, or identifying our lost children.  This work is an essential part of our own healing journey.”

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I would most definitely be interested in doing online research from home. I would offer more but I’m kind of immobile at this time and healing.
I recently discovered that my Metis ancestors were not paternal from Acadia as I’d thought. Turns out to be maternal from New France. But they too had interests in the fur trade so it wasn’t too much of a surprise. Then of course came the woman who crossed paths with an ancestor who opened my eyes to a whole new truth than I ever knew.
The site listed the woman as wife to my ancestor, but she was not. She can be found in the ‘Hanging of Angelique’ by Afua Cooper. She was the slave of my ancestors in-laws. Yes, I know that my history involves ancestors who owned slaves. I can finally admit it – just so shocking to learn it at this age. We were never taught the truth either in school. Ms Cooper’s book was the first of many I selected from her sources listed in the bibliography. I’m on a break from reading at the moment, because as informing and full, they are also very difficult to read and depression sets in so I needs some breaks.

I would be honored to help in any way that I can. I too have some good sites now for information and of late have been receiving a lot of history from Academia.edu on Metis history. I can look further into there if you’d like or anywhere else you might suggest.

One disabled old broad, is offering her services. 🙂
Thank you

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