After the removal period of the 1800’s, the United States Government’s will to legislate the Métis people/nation out of existence included bringing in religious groups to convert us and even to change our names. Today’s version of identity theft? Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota for example at one time had a considerable population of Métis. Since the United States Government did not want to deal with such a widespread and diverse group as the Métis, the Turtle Mountain community of Métis were assimilated into the Chippewa Band of Native Americans and were forced into the Reservation system. Within a short period of time many Métis were lost due to the government’s genocide and then apartheid programs.
Those who refused to abandon their culture and their way of life often gathered together in small isolated communities. When the fear of repercussions were too great to live together in small communities they scattered and then gathered secretly and met without the knowledge of government officials or other outsiders.
Those who refused to assimilate and who genetically favored their Native ancestry were often forcibly removed from their homes and/or families. In the 1800’s “Indian Schools” came into existence and the phrase “Kill the Indian - save the child” came into prominence, this included many Metis.
The United States government felt the Métis were nothing more than “dirty half-breeds.” Faced with political and military strength, along with the wrath of the U.S. Government, the Métis were forced to split up and hide both who and what they were. If they stood up to the government they risked not only losing their land, their property, and even their lives, but also losing their children as shown by the government policies of the time which did not differentiate between Full Bloods and Mixed Bloods. Consider the following quote. In 1881 Hiram Price, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, advocated to the American people by saying that it was their moral duty to: "…domesticate and civilize wild Indians is a noble work, the accomplishment of which should be a crown of glory to a nation. But to allow them to drag along year after year and generation after generation, in their old superstitions, laziness and filth, when we have the power to elevate them in the scale of humanity, would be a lasting disgrace to our government."
Even though the Metis do not consider themselves to be Indians, what choice did we have? If we stood up we would lose even more. By keeping quiet the U.S. Government created a doctrine that more or less said: since you did not stand, or stay together physically, culturally, religiously…etc. you have failed to meet our standards to be recognized as a legitimate and separate peoples that sustained and/or maintained your culture and or heritage.
Over the years the fabric of America has changed. Courts have become more accessible to minorities. Prejudices, while not eliminated are no longer the core value of our National policy. Now is the time to come out of hiding and begin to reclaim our culture and our heritage. How many people have you heard say: one of their relatives or ancestors were Native American; or they wonder if they were because they feel some kind of pull towards Native beliefs or spirituality; or they just feel as if something is missing? The true Spirit of the Métis could not be eliminated by the U.S. government.
It should also be noted the “Métis” are not half, as in the term “half-breed,” of anything. The Métis are not “part” Native American or “part” White, or part of any other race for that matter. When the two races were mixed those many years ago an entirely new race was created i.e. “Métis.” We are not “part” anything; we are not “mixed.” An entire new nation, an entire new race of people were born. A new Culture was born: a new language was created; new religion; new music; dance, and a new way of living was created. The Métis people banded together and they became “one.” Today it is both correct and proper to consider one’s self as “Full Blooded Métis,” not “part” anything.
One can only imagine how many people in the United States today have no idea, no knowledge what so ever, that they are the decedents of such an admirable and phenomenal people. We are “unique” and we are “special.”
Now is the time to begin our journey home.
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