White Settler Revisionism and Making Métis Everywhere
by Darryl Leroux and Adam Gaudry
Critical Ethnic Studies, 2017
A recurring theme in the narration of Indigenous– settler relations is the evocation of Indigenou... more A recurring theme in the narration of Indigenous– settler relations is the evocation of Indigenous– settler societal unification through intermarriage. Among the earliest proponents of this view was Samuel de Champlain, who famously told his Indigenous allies in May 1633, “Our young men will marry your daughters, and we shall become one people.” While the degree to which this vision resulted in the actual societal unification of Indigenous peoples and settlers is overstated, it retains an important place in the settler consciousness, particularly among Champlain’s cultural progenies, the French- speaking and/or French- descendant populations of North America. While postcontact Indigenous peoples later came into being, such as the Métis Nation on the northern prairies or the NunatuKavut in Labrador, they exist not as societies unified with settlers through intermarriage but as Indigenous peoples who emerged through self- conscious historical development as a people. Many French- speaking and/or French- descendant individuals, however, do not understand Champlain’s imaginative vision as merely a dream but rather as a reality where settlers and Indigenous peoples are one and the same. These vivid constructs pose significant political problems for contemporary Indigenous claims to self- determination insofar as they receive a sympathetic hearing from dominant white settler societies. These “new Métis” identities are essentialized in ways that capitalize on settler puzzlement over forms of Indigeneity based on kinship and belonging and replace these forms with an imagined past of racial mixedness leading to supposed societal unification. This article therefore examines what we call the “evocation" of métissage,” that is, the tactical use of long- ago racial mixing to reimagine a “Métis” identity that prioritizes mixed- race ancestry and disregards the historical development of Métis peoplehood.
Adam Gaudry, Ph.D. is a Métis Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Native Studies and Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta.
His research is primarily concerned with nineteenth-century Métis political thought, the formation of a Metis-Canada treaty relationship in 1870, and the subsequent non-implementation of that agreement. This project argues for the ongoing existence a “Manitoba treaty” between the Métis people and Canada necessitates the maintenance of a respectful and bilateral political relationship between treaty partners. This work is being revised into a book for publication. Adam also writes on matters of Métis identity, particularly the role of nationalism and peoplehood in informing Métis citizenship.
Adam received his Ph.D. from the Indigenous Governance Program at the University of Victoria, and his MA in Sociology and BAH in Political Studies from Queen’s University. For his doctoral research, Adam was the Henry Roe Cloud Dissertation Writing Fellowship at Yale University for 2012-2013. He is also a co-investigator on the SSHRC-funded Métis Treaties Project.
Adam has published articles in Native American and Indigenous Studies, The Wicazo Sa Review, aboriginal policy studies, and the Canadian Journal of Native Education along with chapters in edited collections on Métis identity, research ethics, and methodology.
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Native Studies and Department of Political Science , University of Alberta