Dear Métis Nation Leaders,
As you know, our Métis Nation has endured over a century of exclusion and marginalization. We have had our rights ignored and connection to land trampled by others’ self-interests. Our once strong ties with other Indigenous nations have also been severed in many ways, often because of colonial tactics that have aimed to divide and conquer us.
In the past week, we have been sadly reminded of our strained relations with other Indigenous peoples, and how in many ways it is our own Métis leadership fuelling these divides. Specifically, we are referring to the Métis National Council’s (MNC) response to Grand Chief Verna Polson’s requests to discuss the use of the 100 Wellington space—a building that sits on unceded Algonquin Anishinabeg territory. Trudeau has designated this as a space for Indigenous peoples across from Parliament Hill, however, by allocating solely to the NIOs (AFN, ITK and MNC) the leadership and inherent rights of the local Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation are being disregarded.
As Métis youth, women and Two Spirit people from across the Métis Homeland, we are ashamed of the MNC’s lack of willingness to find agreement on this matter with Grand Chief Polson. We are embarrassed by the colonial ethics and ego beneath Vice President Chartrand’s words in recent media comments, and the lack of humility and respect being shown to the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation on their land.
Have you forgotten about your relationships and responsibilities to our Indigenous kin?
Have you forgotten what it feels like to be silenced and dismissed on the land that you call home?
On the very territory that the Métis Nation has had “key victories” toward self-determination, including recent self-government agreements, the MNC is choosing to exclude and marginalize the original caretakers of this land. Grand Chief Polson has now started a hunger strike; it should never have come to this. Our relations are more important than square footage in a building, and the wellness of Indigenous women cannot be treated as less important than agreements/seats at the colonial table.
As Métis we are guests on the unceded land currently known as Ottawa and it is our responsibility to be in respectful relations with its Algonquin Anishinabeg people. We have responsibilities to all of the lands and waters that we live, work and visit on, and just as we want our voices to be respected across our homeland, so too should we respect other Indigenous peoples on theirs. We can still bring forward the needs and priorities of Métis people in other places, however, this must not be at the expense of local nations.
Now you can try dismissing our concerns again as only coming from a few “activists,” but we will continue pushing to hold you accountable. We cannot accept when the words and actions of our leaders are harmful, and we must bring attention to the pattern of silencing taking place under male leadership within the MNC. Youth, women and Two Spirit people like us hold critical roles within the Métis Nation and in other Indigenous communities, and so the silencing of our voices must stop.
Healthy futures for our communities requires respect for all of our relatives, and we hope that these words will encourage others who feel the same to join us in speaking out and working toward a stronger Métis Nation.
Métis Nation leadership, we call on you to respect the leadership of Grand Chief Verna Polson and to work collaboratively with her and other Indigenous leadership in determining how the 100 Wellington space will be used.