Integration & Mobility

Discrimination Against Metis Women in Northern Saskatchewan

Summary

Metis women from La Ronge and area in Northern Saskatchewan were respondents interviewed by Doris and Irene Poelzer for their study on Metis women's experiences in their home-communities. Numerous respondents reported discrepancies in the types of work available for men and women. They also reported discrepancies in the wages of men and women, with men being paid more for the same work. For example, these respondents stated that the types of jobs available for women were those that restricted them to traditionally feminized work, such as caregiving/nurturing, feeding, serving or providing instruction. That is, although job opportunities are scarce in the northern part of the province, those that were available for women were typically concession work, cleaning, health-related, teaching and clerical. These women believed that they had the same intellectual capacities as men, and that they should not be restricted (Poelzer 1985, 21-22).

One stated, “Women need training for jobs...I don’t want women to have the kind of life I had before” (Poelzer 1985, 23).

There was also a need expressed for support from one’s community and romantic partner. For example, women who ran for public office positions such as the school board believed that they were discriminated against because of their gender, and thus received few votes. In another example, women found that men refused to take instruction from them because of their gender. Overall, some respondents felt that men ignored, underestimate or exploited their Metis female co-workers (Poelzer 1985, 24-26).-

Metis women in Poelzer’s study also spoke extensively on the impact of religion in their life and the community. This impact was construed as both positive and negative. One respondent noted, “The church has been so much a part of exploitation”, as it provided a variety of services including education, health, employment and welfare. However, this also provided church officials with a great degree of control over the community, in which they took advantage of their privileged position by humiliating some individuals and also keeping community members dependent and indebted to their services. For example, individuals in the community must be church members in order to access services (Poelzer 1985, 27-36).

As well, women as a demographic are more likely to live in poverty and are often perceived to be primarily responsible for child-rearing. The financial burden resulting from poverty and raising children often results in a greater degree of reliance on these services. Metis women in the communities surveyed noted that church control was exerted by shaming women who practiced family planning or separated from a violent spouse. They also noted that they would be shamed for living common-law, even though some women declared that cohabitation gave them a greater degree of control, equality and autonomy than marriage.

One woman described the social pressure (resulting from the internalization of Christian moral norms) this way:

“You don’t feel right when you stay with the man without marrying him. It is just that when you go to some places, somebody asks if he is your husband, and you have to lie most of the time. You say ‘yes’ and you are lying. So it hurts you that way...And when you get kids, somebody is going to tell (them) that ‘he is not your dad. That is not your mother’s husband.’ It is not very nice very much” (Poelzer 1985, 49).

Another woman reported a more direct form of religious pressure: “...The church feels that if you are living common-law, you are not following the religion...marriage is quite a big thing” (Poelzer 1985, 49).

In contrast, Metis women respondents reported that common-law arrangements allowed for an easier separation if men were discovered to be immature or abusive. They also reported that such an arrangement prevented male romantic partners from perceiving his wife as property, that is, of possessing rights of ownership over her body or labour. An arrangement of cohabitation, therefore, was perceived to prevent domestic violence as well as prevent men from becoming jealous or of forgetting their household responsibilities.

Overall, women who received social services through the church were made to feel obligated to meet the expectations of religious officials by adhering to their moral and purity ideals (Poelzer 1985, 31-49). 


 

Result

Prior to provincial government intervention and rapid economic shifts in Northern Saskatchewan, women relied on traditional means of survival, and their livelihoods were not threatened.  It should also be noted that the high rate of susceptibility of Indigenous women to physical and sexual violence did not exist prior to colonization.  Rather, its dramatic increase since the establishment of the settler state is indicative of implementation of systems of male dominance, inherent in western philosophy, politics and social organization, as well as in Christian institutions.  As it relates to the experiences of Metis women in Northern Saskatchewan, the majority of respondents referred to the power and influence of the Catholic church in their Metis communities as problematic. 

Poelzer observed that internalized attitudes of male dominance and women’s submission to male leadership permeated the areas in which she conducted her research (1985, 58-59).  This researcher surmises that such widespread acceptance of these attitudes may be related to the influence of religious institutions in these areas.  In terms of the implications of these social problems, physical injuries inflicted by domestic violence can make it difficult and even impossible for women to search for work, complete work-related duties or attend their jobs, while also impacting their wellbeing greatly.  Psychological distress caused by domestic violence such as trauma, depression or anxiety can also severely impair an individual’s ability to function on a day-to-day level. Transportation to leave such situations may, and it very often, inaccessible to women - especially in rural or isolated communities in the North where bus services were and remain few and far between.  

In addition, women who leave environments of domestic violence may find themselves and/or their children houseless of facing housing insecurity. The Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan notes that women living in Northern Saskatchewan face extreme housing shortages.  The Metis women surveyed in Poelzer’s study confirmed this - they stated that the lack of availability of homes, in addition to the unacceptable quality of government-constructed residences have an effect on family living in terms of the moods, attitudes and relationships of individuals, and these dynamics compound the pre-existing stress arising from housing difficulties (Poelzer 1985, 74-81).  

This association also notes that women living on-reserve experience heightened isolation from domestic and sexualized violence crisis services.  Individuals who cannot access support services may resort to substance abuse in order to manage symptoms of psychological distress.  Moreover, women are prevented from advocating for improvement of these issues because of attitudes of male dominance in community development and public office.  Women can't advocate for change if they are not at the decision-making table - and those in power (men) rarely see these issues as important enough to warrant change.

As one Metis woman stated, "if a woman attends a community meeting, men say, ‘What is she doing here?’ or ‘This is for guys only’” (Poelzer 1985, 111).  These factors of political, social and economic exclusion and vulnerability can increase the likelihood of participation in criminal activity.  


 

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Uranium Development in Northern Saskatchewan

Summary

With the advent of Treaties 8 and 10, the vast resources of Northern Saskatchewan became available to exploit by the federal, and later the provincial governments (Quiring 2004, 40). However, much like many other dealings between First Nations people and the Canadian governments, a regime of exploitation established itself. In the case of resources in Northern Saskatchewan, so-called “co-management” regimes have been established. In principle, these structures are designed to incorporate First Nations people into decision making and benefit sharing processes, but in fact the opposite has occurred. According to Castro and Nielson “national laws, policies, and administrative structures continue to favor centralized control” (Castro and Neilson 2001, 236). In other words, colonial control. Again, according to Castro and Nielson “At the less participatory end of the scale are advisory councils, review committees, and other forums aimed solely at public consultation with state resource managers” (Castro and Nielson 201, 235). This type of organization limits the control and input that Indigenous people have in relation to their resources. An example of this type of organization can be found in the Northern Saskatchewan Environmental Quality Committee, or the NSEQC. According to Bethany Haalboom, the NSEQC “…has no regulatory responsibilities, with its ‘...function primarily to receive, evaluate and transmit information and recommendations... to exert influence on the way in which development occurs’” (Haalboom 2014, 283). Haalboom notes that while attending meetings of the committee from 2010 to 2012, various grievances were aired by First Nations representatives. While discussing a plan to transport uranium slurry by road, one representative notes that “Is there experience anywhere in the world with a spill of slurry or yellowcake? They mentioned the ship from Vancouver. These are rough roads—you keep emphasizing that the containers won’t break, but too many times you’re proven wrong; 1/17000 years chance of a spill, but what’s happening in Japan right now? I wonder what they were telling their people. Man can’t really predict—it can’t be guaranteed, ever.” In response, the industrial representative that was being addressed stated: “There have been spills in Saskatchewan and other places like Niger. We remediated and cleaned up, and satisfied regulators we had not injured wildlife and plants. We have measures in place so we never repeat these...risk is inherent to life on this earth, so it’s up to us to evaluate how much risk we’re willing to take. That’s why we come to talk to you...I would encourage you to follow the International Atomic Energy Agency website. The ship was brought back to Vancouver. The Cameco website has a clear update on what happened to that ship. There is also the CNSC website” (Haalboom 2014, 285). Other concerns were put forward concerned employment. According to one Aboriginal representative ““The north is where we make our living. You take these [environmental] risks at our cost, and we’re getting a few jobs. It’s not enough. We should get more, because we are taking a big risk to allow you to exploit our territories” (Haalboom 2014, 286). In general, a climate of distrust pervaded, as exemplified in this quote “Industry is always giving us these reports, but how much do they cover up? How much money is going to the SK government from industry? Northern people are going to be left with the ruins!” (Haalboom, 2016, 286).

Implications
The implications of resource development in Northern Saskatchewan can be examined through the lens of economic colonization of Aboriginal peoples in Northern Saskatchewan. According to statistics provided by Haalboom from 2012, the employment of uranium production company Cameco in Northern Saskatchewan consisted of 50.2 per cent of its employees being from the North, however only 41 per cent of that total were Aboriginal. Furthermore, the positions that First Nations held were entry level positions (Haalboom 2014, 287). As stated in the summary portion of this entry, there is a general feeling that work opportunities are not fairly distributed to Aboriginal peoples, with disastrous results. Citing Haalbooom, “…the long-term unemployment rates of northerners is four times that of the provincial rate, and in 2006 the median income of northerners was 60 percent that of the province” (Haalboom 2014, 287). With few job opportunities available to people in the North, poverty is the result. Citing Miles Corak “Children raised by low income parents are more likely to be low income adults when they are raised in regions with higher poverty rates” (Corak 2017, 34). Furthermore, Corak states that these low economic mobility areas “…tend to be outside of urban areas, distant from poles of growth….” (Corak 2017, 40) This combination of a lack of jobs, and low socioeconomic status for those employed, creates a colonial and exploitative structure, where those most affected see the least amount of benefit, while owners reap the rewards. This situation creates a cycle of poverty, which is to the benefit of the colonizer. Again, citing Haalboom, one Aboriginal representative of the NSEQC notes that “And the thing is you’re taking the resources, and what do we get in return? It’s nothing. Basically my Nation’s broke...” (Haalboom 2014, 287).
Date
1899-06-21 and 1906-07-19

Metis Ethnogenesis

Summary

Historian Peter Bakker writes that the ethnogenesis of the Metis began out of the pairings of people who were male European fur traders (French) and women who were Indigenous (Cree/Ojibwe). In Contours of a People (see "relevant resources" below), historians Brenda McDougall, Carolyn Podruchny and Nicole St. Onge write: "Studied together, the three characteristics [of Metis culture and nationhood that arise from these collected essays]—an expansive geographic familiarity, tremendous physical and social mobility, and maintenance of strong family ties across time and space—appear to have evolved as a result of an entrepreneurial spirit in a variety of economic niches associated with the fur trade writ large. The Metis were involved most famously in the large scale, commercial buffalo hunt specific to Plains Metis culture, but they were also involved in other important activities, including trapping and freighting, working on vast transportation networks that operated along waterways and cart trails, taking part in subsistence and commercial hunting and fishing operations, free trading, and performing contract jobs within the fur trade industry, all practiced in a variety of geographies encompassing plains, parklands, woodlands, and the subarctic. All these economic endeavors, and the cultural practices that subsequently emerged from them, contributed to a sense of shared community and contributed to the nationalist sentiment felt by many Metis today" (pages 7-8). These historians also discuss the formation of genealogical structures and extended family relationships as inherent to Metis identity. In light of the importance of kinship networks, the community fracturing and detriment to social well-being caused by land dispossession, diaspora and fragmentation of Metis people heading west becomes more apparent: "The link holding all of this together—mobility and geography—is found in the Metis conceptualization of family. Like many other societies throughout the world, the Metis created for themselves a system of extended family relationships within fixed communities and across these vast distances because of their tremendous mobility. Looking at subarctic Metis communities, Richard Slobodin argued that a widespread feature of Metis family and social life was an emphasis on family surnames as a means of inspiring and maintaining social and cultural unity. He attributed this particular cultural characteristic to the vastness of the region in which they lived, their relatively small population, and the range of economic activities in which they participated. Within a generation or two, the Metis developed a complex genealogical structure and shared knowledge by emphasizing those surnames as a key aspect of their identity" (pages 12-13). In the same book, historian Etienne Rivard notes the importance of Catholicism in Metis life, as indicated by primary sources: "Métis accounts also provide a sense of the importance of settlements in Métis community life. Describing the moral importance of Father Ritchot, Goulet emphasized the central role of the Catholic Church. Indeed, churches and religious figures regulated most of the central activities of community life in settlements—marriages, baptisms, funerals, and masses. The churches also affected patterns of settlement when they divided territory into parishes of specific religious adherence. Furthermore, Goulet stated that newcomers from Ontario in the 1850s affected the Red River communities, recalling his father’s sense of loss for the 'feeling of unity and friendship that had always been felt among those people of different races and religions'" (page 151).

Result

As noted below in "Relevant Resources", Metis historian Harry Daniels distinguishes between legal and political identities of Metis status. That is, legally, a “Metis” person is the descendant of someone who received a Half-breed land grant. Politically and culturally, however, the term Metis refers to a descendant of people who developed distinct socio-political communities on the Prairies and in the Red River area, demonstrating nation-specific religious, linguistic, economic and legal characteristics, as well as cultural traits exhibited in music and apparel (pages 18-19). The researcher notes that extensive literature exists on the importance of Metis (and Indigenous) sovereignty over categories of self-identification. There is also agreement amongst Indigenous scholars who write on this topic that state-imposed categories of legal identity are colonial constructions designed to reduce the number of "Indians" in Canada over time, and thus state financial obligations to Indigenous peoples. Further, these state-imposed identities do not conform to the definitions of community or poltico-legal membership as held by Indigenous peoples, and in doing so, do not recognize Indigenous nationhood. For more information, please consult: Andersen, Chris. 2014. “The racialization of ‘Metis’ in the Canadian Census” in "Metis: Race Recognition, and the Struggle for Indigenous Peoplehood," 74-89. Vancouver: UBC Press. See also Walter, Maggie and Chris Andersen. 2013. "Indigenous Statistics: Quantitative Research Methodology." Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Implications
Although historians are primarily cited in the "summary" statement of this entry, the researcher emphasizes that as a nation, the Metis community is the original source in terms of defining their ethnogenesis and identity. For example, Metis historian Harry Daniels confirms the statements of the historians mentioned in the above summary statement. That is, he defines the Metis people as a distinct nation which formed during the fur trade era from the mixed offspring of European fur traders and Indigenous women. He reports that this emergence is most visible in the 19th century - a century marked by events such as the Battle at Seven Oaks, the Sayer Trial, and the Red River and Riel Resistance. It should be noted that geopolitical struggles over rights to territory and self-determination can be construed as typically masculinist because of the emphasis on characteristics of “legitimate” political activity in the male-dominated public sphere. In contrast, the researcher notes that prior to and during these 19th century events, Metis women, as the designated “transmitters of culture”, labored in the background, cultivating many of the particularities of Metis culture, such as clothing and beadwork (see Maria Campbell's forward and Diane Payment’s chapter in “Contours of a People” book listed in resources section of this database as well as http://esask.uregina.ca/entry/metis_women.html). As well, many Metis women not only practiced their culture in the “private” sphere of the home, but also engaged in traditional Metis economic practices such as hunting and trapping, with some becoming well-known hunters and sharpshooters (as per Norbert Welsh's autobiography which mentions the hunting and trading activities of his wife, Cecilia Welsh-Boyer, and Maria Campbell's introduction in Contours of a People which acknowledges the hunting and sharpshooting reputations of some Metis women). Please see the entry on the "Metis Community at Batoche" for more information on Metis women's economic roles and their efforts to re-build the Metis settlement after the conclusion of the Riel Resistance of 1885. For contemporary applications of Metis identity, please also see the entry related to the Supreme Court's Daniels decision [2016] in "related resources" below.
Date
1700-00-00

Metis/First Nations Pemmican Economy

Summary

Pemmican was essential to the fur trade and consisted of flaked game meat (often buffalo), fat and fruit (often berries). It was valued not only for its portability, longevity and high caloric value, but also because it prevented vitamin C deficiencies - also known as "scurvy".

Implications
It should be noted that Pemmican was in such high demand that it led to a war, known as the Battle of Seven Oaks. This event has been described by some scholars as formative in the process of Metis ethnogenesis - that is, their emergence as a distinct nation. For example, the Metis victory at the Battle of Seven Oaks resulted in the creation of a national anthem and flag. This reflects the degree to which the production of pemmican was integral to the economic practices of the Metis. First-person testimony from Metis persons Adeline Sparvier and Norbert Welsh reveal that pemmican was frequently used for travel and trade. Historians George Colpitt and James Daschuk (authors of the books "Pemmican Empire" and "Clearing the Plains" respectively - see "relevant resources" below) confirm that pemmican was an indispensable foodstuff to the North-West. It was also used and produced by First Nations people for similar purposes - a portable foodstuff for travel and highly useful for trade.
Date
1600-00-00

Metis Community at Victoire

Summary

A primary source interview with Joe Vandale indicates that some Metis fled the Batoche area following the end of the Riel Resistance.

Implications
Fear of government discipline and punishment for being associated with the Riel Resistance resulted in Indigenous peoples being forced to leave their homelands, resulting in an undermining of social cohesion and support networks. Mr. Vandale notes that his grandfather resisted sharing details relating to the events of the resistance - this could be indicative of the traumatic and/or life-threatening nature of these and other events which necessitated migration.------------ The establishment of predominantly Metis communities has provided a haven for Metis people to engage in cultural traditions. These traditions include community gatherings with cultural-specific music and dancing, Catholic religious practices and the speaking of Metis languages. The broad kinship support systems within these communities have also provided solidarity and solace when faced with racism.
Sub Event
A number of Metis fled to Victoire from Batoche following the Riel Resistance.
Date
1885-00-00

Introduction of Road Allowances

Summary

A road allowance is land that had been surveyed and set apart by the government for future roads and development - it was the margin between provincial land and Crown land. The state simultaneously denied Métis land rights and also would not allow them to purchase land. The decision to permit Métis families to move onto road allowances was one that further perpetuated their economic marginalization. Some Métis found and occupied abandoned shacks and rail cars as housing was not provided on road allowances. After 1885, the Métis were effectively legally ignored by all levels of government until the 1930s, when a surge of Métis political organization engaged in consciousness-raising and mobilization.

 

Implications
In addition to a lack of access to education and healthcare, being restricted to the road allowance with no access to farmland and limited work opportunities meant that families were often relegated to finding temporary, low-paying work. Racism and prejudice also factored into the struggle for many Métis to find long-term, well paying work; Métis were socially relegated to undesirable jobs due to hiring discrimination and an assumption that they were incapable/unreliable. As well, the search for such work resulted in a high level of transience and disrupted schooling for Métis children that were able to attend. Many Métis families experienced poverty, and this was particularly severe during the Great Depression when conditions worsened both economically and environmentally (the Dust Bowl).
Please see related entry titled "Metis Loss of Education Opportunities Due to Forced Transience and Lack of Government Funding."
Sub Event
Metis were denied their land rights following the Red River Resistance and Riel Resistance. The land dispossession of many Metis resulted in their taking up residence on unoccupied road allowances on Crown land. Other landless Metis did not or could not reside in road allowance communities, and attempted to find shelter on other land.
Date
1885-00-00

Metis Ethnogenesis - Creation of Michif Language and Use of Other Metis Languages

Summary

The Gabriel Dumont Institute, an institute for the preservation of Metis culture and education defines Mitchif (also known as Michif, Mechif, Michif-Cree, Métif, Métchif, French Cree, Michif/Mitchif-French and Métis-French) as "a very distinct dialect of Canadian French which has Cree and Ojibway syntax. Michif-French was once the object of fierce ridicule by Francophones—Breton French and French Canadians (Canayens)—who considered it as a “bad” form of French" (see "relevant resources" below). Primary source interviews (excerpted below in "relevant resources") describe many Metis languages, in addition to Mitchif, being spoken in Metis homes. These languages include French, Cree, Saulteaux, Dakota and Chipewyan. English became more commonplace in Metis homes as Metis children began to attend public and residential schools. Although, Metis people (particularly older speakers) have also adapted English to their own uses, creating a unique Metis dialect of English. There is also a history of loss of Metis languages due to a combination of factors. Experiences of racism both in schools and the larger community fostered an internalization of shame regarding Metis ethnic identity. This furthered the government's goals of assimilation of Indigenous people, as some Metis people hid their identity and learned to speak English in order to better integrate into mainstream, non-Indigenous society (please see related entry on cultural dislocation of Metis people through education and the related entry on general Metis experiences of racism). This was done to avoid discrimination - especially in education and employment (related entry on general Metis experiences of racism provides some evidence of this).

Implications
For more information on the cultural patterns relating to the use of these languages, please consult the entry on loss of Metis languages as a result of the mainstream education system.
Sub Event
While Michif is a distinct language that is the result of the development of the Metis nation, it is also common for Metis people to speak other Indigenous languages, such as Cree and French.
Date
1816-06-19

Indigenous Migration to City During and After World War II

Summary

At the end of the Second World War, and as use of the illegal government-imposed pass system ended, Indigenous people began to migrate to urban areas in increasing numbers, seeking employment and education opportunities. In the primary source listed under "Relevant Resources" (on this page),Dorothy Askwith notes that the number of Indigenous people in the city increased after World War II had broken out as a result of Indigenous enlistment.

Implications
The government had not kept its treaty promises as it related to assisting Indigenous peoples in transitioning from a subsistence livelihood to one based on participation in a capitalist, cash-based economy. Relocation to the city often meant a better chance of making a survivable living and of access to education and other resources. However, living in the city also had the potential to result in a loss of community and cultural connection, and introduced new challenges such as frequent experiences of racist discrimination.
Date
1939-00-00

Cultural Dislocation - Loss of Metis Languages and Culture through Education System and other Forms of Assimilation

Summary

Intentional cultural dislocation began with the treaty era and residential school era. Metis children attended residential schools, day schools and mainstream schools. Although the churches participating in residential/day schools wanted Metis children to attend, these children didn't qualify as "Indian", occasionally resulting in their rejection and subsequent attendance of classes in mainstream schools. However, mainstream or "white" schools also often rejected Metis children, leaving them in jurisdictional limbo and without an education (as an aside, a number of Metis children were in regions where the government refused to construct schools, later preventing the ability to find gainful employment - please see related entries on Metis education). For those who attended school, one of its results was the alienation of Metis children from their language and culture. Primary source interviews indicate that the public education system at the time privileged the language of the dominant culture - English - and children were instructed to speak this language only. -------- This privileging derived from usage of the education system as a tool to assimilate Indigenous children into mainstream western culture. In particular, Metis languages (Michif, Cree, French) were perceived as inferior to English. Although Metis history is central to the formation of the prairie geographical landscape, it was not considered “important” or legitimate Canadian history, and thus was rarely mentioned. When it was acknowledged, Indigenous people were portrayed as savages and Metis political actors, such as Louis Riel, were perceived as socially deviant and psychologically unstable criminals. Metis children were also shamed and harassed for their ethnic heritage at school. --------

Implications
A gradual loss of Metis-specific languages, including French, Cree and Michif is indicated through the process of intergenerational transmission of language. For example, a number of Metis individuals interviewed had parents who spoke English in addition to their Indigenous languages of French, Cree and Michif. These parents less often taught their children Cree and Michif because of cultural pressures to assimilate and due to internalized ethnic inferiority. The individuals interviewed also noted that they often had grandparents who did not speak English, but instead spoke either French, Cree, Michif or a combination of two or three of these languages. While the creation of a language barrier can prevent transmission of cultural values from parents to children, it is particularly harmful as it relates to the roles of Old People and Elders - individuals who often only speak an Indigenous language and are typically designated as transmitters of a vast reservoir of nation-specific knowledge and wisdom. Thus, the loss of language not only resulted in the loss of an ability to communicate in Metis-specific languages, it also resulted in an inability to transmit philosophies inherent to Metis culture. --------
Sub Event
Primary source interviews indicate that the public education system privileged the language of the dominant culture - English. This resulted in the loss of language, and consequently, the ability to communicate and preserve concepts inherent to Indigenous cultures. In addition, many Metis children were unable to obtain an education because, in an effort to make a living, their family moved too frequently.
Date
1870-00-00

Metis Experiences in Residential Schools

Summary

In regard to Métis children, churches were eager to admit them to their boarding schools as it aligned with their goal to convert Indigenous children. However, ­the federal government policy on provision of schooling to Métis children was conflicted. It viewed the Métis as members of the ‘dangerous classes,’ Residential Schooling was implemented to ‘correct.’ However, from a jurisdictional perspective, the federal government believed that the responsibility for educating and assimilating Métis people lay within provincial and territorial jurisdiction. ­There was a concern that if the federal government began providing funding for the education of some of the children for whom the provinces and territories were responsible, it would find itself having to take responsibility for the rest.

 Because provincial governments and school boards were often unwilling to build schools in Métis communities or to allow Métis students to attend public schools, Métis parents who wished to have their children educated often had no choice but to send them to residential schools. Falling between federal and provincial jurisdictional conflicts, Métis children who attended Residential Schools often "slipped through the cracks". That is, their attendance was undocumented, one reason being because the boarding schools they attended were not recognized as official residential schools.

Métis children attended most of the residential schools from Saskatchewan that are named or discussed in the final TRC report. Métis children suffered in the same ways as other First Nations children did, undergoing experiences such as: high death rates, restricted diets and starvation, crowded and unsanitary housing, harsh discipline, heavy workloads, neglect and abuse (psychological, spiritual, physical and sexual). Many Métis children remember feeling rejected and discriminated against as they were too "white" for the Residential Schools, and too "Indian" for the provincial public schools. Many former students describe the trauma of being separated from their families.

For an example of Metis experience at residential schools, please consult the interview excerpt contained below under "relevant resources", in which Helen Sinclair describes the cutting of her hair and the subjection of students to the hazardous procedure of non-hospitalized tonsil removal, conducted without the consent of her legal guardians (parents).


 

Result

In 2006, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was settled between the Federal government, First Nations and Inuit representatives, and churches. Owing to the fact that Métis attendance in Residential sSchools was poorly documented, combined with the lack of recognition of several Métis boarding schools as "official" Residential Schools, many Métis people were excluded from the compensation and settlement process. Métis individuals and communities lobbied and continued to lobby for the addition of schools to the official lists and records as a means of acknowledging their experience as well as their eligibility for compensation.
Métis experiences in Residential Schools shows that the impact of Residential Schools extends beyond the formal Residential School program that Indian Affairs operated. The history of these provincial schools and the experiences of Métis students in unofficial schools are not as widely documented due to the nature of unofficial schooling. 

Alphonse Janvier, who spent five years at the Île-à-la-Crosse school, recalls the anger and hurt he felt upon arrival at the school, where he was put in a barber's chair and stripped of his long hair. Métis children were also stripped of their culture and prohibited from speaking their Metis languages such as Cree or Mitchif. Facing hunger, harsh discipline and widespread abuse, many children ran away from the schools. Cultural trauma following hundreds of years of colonization and oppression have left Métis and First Nations communities socially, economically and politically scarred.

Apology and compensation: In 2006, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was settled between the Federal government, First Nations and Inuit representatives, and churches. Owing to the fact that Métis attendance in residential schools was poorly documented, combined with the lack of recognition of several Métis boarding schools as "official" residential schools, many Métis people were excluded from the compensation and settlement process. Métis individuals and communities lobbied and continued to lobby for the addition of schools to the official lists and records as a means of acknowledging their experience as well as their eligibility for compensation.


 

Sources

Capitaine, Brieg, and Vanthuyne, Karine, eds. Power through Testimony: Reframing Residential Schools in the Age of Reconciliation. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2017. 96.

"Power through Testimony" is a collection of essays from  on their experiences within Residential Schools. The authors also reflect on the post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. They emphasize the limited involvement and collaboration of the government and churches with the TRC. Moreover, the work on the TRC is framed in its historical, political, and social limits. In fact, the TRC does not examine other types of institutions that were equally damaging facets of settler colonialism. For example, schools for settler children subsumed Metis children's education in many cases where Metis children reported discrimination from students and school staff. The research broadens the perspectives on the history of Residential schools, showing aspects that are often obscured when research is being done. See “Learning through Conversation: An Inquiry into Shame” by Janice Cindy Gaudet and Lawrence Martin/Wapisan, p. 95. for more.

Satzewich, Vic and Wotherspoon, Terry. First Nations: Race, Class and Gender Relations. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1993. 112-146.

In the "Education and Job Training" chapter, Satzewich and Wotherspoon analyze the ways in which State policy has interrupted and changed Indigenous economies and redirected labour. Epistemological biases and the needs of Canadian capitalism shaped education and jobs, through coercive, punitive, and assimilating pedagogies. They address the paragraphs: human capital and struggles for educational control; the role of education in the colonization process; education and the process of state formation; segregation and the deterioration of Indigenous education; steps towards the integration of Indigenous peoples into the educational system; steps over the devolution of First Nations education; recent trends in post-secondary and vocational training.

Helen Sinclair, interviewed by Margaret Jefferson, “Helen Sinclair interview on Metis experiences of being adopted, attending Muskowekwan (Muscowequan) boarding school in Lestock and economic activity” (transcript), Gabriel Dumont Institute Visual Museum Oral Histories Archive, August 13, 1982.

In this interview, Metis woman Helen Sinclair (who was adopted by a First Nations family and attended Muskowekwan/Muscowequan boarding school in Lestock) details her experiences at the boarding school, including the cutting of her hair and a medical procedure that was conducted without their or their parent's consent in non-sterile conditions. She reports that one child almost died after the procedure: --- Margaret: "Do you have pictures of the girls you went to school with when you were younger?" --- Helen: "No." --- Margaret: "No." --- Helen: "No, they never gave us any pictures. But they did take pictures. But the one that had them pictures of our school days she had them pictures but she passed away, I don't know who had them now. But you had long hair, we had braids. And then I was (inaudible) my hair when sometime that, you know, cut our hair very short." --- Margaret: "Who was going to cut it?" --- Helen: "Pardon." --- Margaret: "Where were you going to get it cut at? Who was going to cut your hair?" --- Helen: "Oh there was somebody there that done that." --- Margaret: "Oh. Just to get it trimmed you mean not to get it all cut off." --- Helen: "Short, short, yeah short all of them. They took all our braids, I had long long hair. And then in 1924 when I was at the school there was thirteen of us girls and three boys went through an operation they took our tonsils out, right in school we didn't go to no hospital." --- Margaret: "Right in school?" --- Helen: "Right in school, they gave us that ether to sniff and oh boy I woke up with a sore throat and blood. My two sisters too, the ones that passed away they had their tonsils out. There was a whole, there was a bunch of us girls, thirteen girls and three boys." --- Margaret: "Well, did they always take everyone's tonsils out, or..." --- Helen: "Well, these thirteen girls had their tonsils out there, one just about died she had to be looked after by a nurse from Edmonton." --- Margaret: "Well why did they take your tonsils out, were they bothering you?" --- Helen: "I don't know. The doctor came and examined all the girls and boys that had big tonsils and they took them all out. All these, I mean these thirteen girls and boys." --- Margaret: "And then you got..." --- Helen: "We didn't know." --- Margaret: "You were sick after that eh?" --- Helen: "Oh yes." --- Margaret: "Well didn't they have to have the parent's, your mom and dad's permission?" --- Helen: "No they didn't do anything I guess. I never knew where my parents were. We seldom seen our parents, very seldom. My mother used to be in Alberta and my father would be up north, he used to go all over. Never couldn't keep track of them. And the priest used to take us to the sports, old man sports they used to have good times over there in the olden days. Good sports and race horses, and oh everything like that, dances at night on the grounds. Go to old man's and Gordon Reserve, and Lestock, and Daystar's and Raymore, Symons, (?), all over it was. We were able to get there. The priest used to take us Old Man's mostly that's for every year we'd be going." 


 

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TRC_Métis Experiences in Residential Schools