Métissage does not a Métis make: SANB supports Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn's statement
Photo credit - Parks Canada - Photo taken during Mawiomi event in Kouchibouguac
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Earlier today, the Société de l'Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick (SANB) learned of a press release issued yesterday by Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn Inc, an organization representing the Mi'kmaq chiefs in New Brunswick, denouncing the claim of Aboriginal rights on their territory by people identifying themselves as "Métis-Acadien". The SANB shares the Chiefs' concerns in this regard and is troubled by the impact that this movement may have on the Acadian community's ongoing efforts towards reconciliation.
The history of the Atlantic Provinces is rich and complex, informed by multiple influences and actors from diverse backgrounds. Fortunately, there are historians and legal experts from these different communities who can sort out the historical truth from preconceived notions, often the result of family histories distorted by time or popular myths.
As for the question of historical and current alliances between the Acadians and the Nations of the Wabanaki Confederacy, including the Mi'kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Peskotomuhkati, the vast majority of historians of both Indigenous and settler origins agree: since the beginning of colonization in 1604, the Acadians and the Wabanaki have maintained cordial and strategic diplomatic relations, which has resulted in a relationship unique in North America between colonial and Indigenous Nations.
In fact, Acadians recognize in their national narrative the importance of the First Nations to their survival during three specific periods: during colonization, during the French-English wars and during the Deportation. In his book A Great and Noble Scheme, the American historian John Mack Faragher notes the strong influence of Wabanaki culture on the Acadian identity (for example: place names, legends, way of life, etc.).
As the Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnnl points out in their statement, the Mi'kmaq and Acadians in New Brunswick share a long history of cooperation that must be valued. However, this relationship brings with it special responsibilities, prompting the SANB to join the Chiefs in denouncing the claim by some to a "Métis-Acadien" identity in New Brunswick.
"In French, we use the general term métis – lower case – to designate a person whose father and mother do not share the same ethnic origins," says Alexandre Cédric Doucet, president of the SANB. "However, this term has a very specific legal meaning in Canada when used to denote a specific ethnocultural community or identity," continues president Doucet.
"Métis, capitalized, refers to a distinct and recognized Indigenous Nation living primarily in central Canada, descended from unions between various Indigenous Nations and primarly French settlers. The Métis are one of three recognized Indigenous groups in Canada, along with the Inuit and First Nations, and have their own language, culture and historical traditions," Doucet said.
"While there has been and continues to be intermarriages between Acadian and Indigenous individuals and families, historians and legal scholars do not recognize the existence of a distinct Métis Nation in Eastern Canada. To claim this is an unhealthy form of cultural appropriation that becomes particularly problematic when used to claim rights or funds (e.g. scholarships) that should normally go to the true Indigenous Peoples of the territory," concluded Doucet.
The SANB encourages all Acadians and Francophones in the province to celebrate the invaluable contribution of the Wabanaki Nations to our history and to the development of our Acadian identity. However, it is important to celebrate these ancestral ties as well as our historical and current friendship in a respectful manner, by listening to and supporting our oldest allies in their fight for equality and reconciliation.
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