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Darryl Leroux @DarrylLeroux
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For those following debate about the “Acadian-Métis”, a new report by Seb Malette et al. was released this week that claims to prove definitively the existence of a second Indigenous people in present-day NS. "An Ethnographic Report on the Acadian-Métis":…
The report engages in some of the same leaps of logic that have become common among proponents of the existence of an “eastern métis” people. Allow me to outline some of the more egregious efforts … I’ll provide a more detailed analysis at a later time …
1- Incredibly, in a 90+-page report, there is no consideration of Mi’kmaw perspectives on the existence of another Indigenous people on Mi’kmaw territory! Without a doubt, considering Mi’kmaw historical or contemporary perspectives would invalidate their conclusions…
As Mi’kmaw historians, thinkers, and activists have explained repeatedly re: so-called métis in Mi’kma’ki, had there been another Indigenous people in the 18th century, the Mi’kmaq would’ve included them in the peace & friendship treaties.
Rob Innes and Brenda Macdougall have demonstrated how the Cree, Assiniboine, and Saulteaux repeatedly attempted to include their Métis kin on the northern plains in treaties with the new CDN government in the 1800s.
The fact of the matter is that the so-called Acadian-métis were Acadian settlers (some of whom had limited Mi’kmaw ancestry), not Indigenous people recognized as such by the Mi’kmaq (or by their fellow Acadians).
2- Their efforts turn Mi’kmaw people in the past into so-called “métis”. The authors introduce, at the very end, the theory that at least one signatory of one of the peace & friendship treaties was “métis” and not Mi’kmaq…
The only evidence for their claim is that said signatory is mixed-race. Clearly, many mixed-race individuals were raised in the Mi’kmaw community by Mi’kmaw kin. Being mixed-race is not evidence that somebody is Métis in the sense that the authors develop…
Besides, why in the world would the Mi’kmaq, with their own citizenship orders and kinship-making practices engage an individual from an Indigenous people it didn’t recognize to negotiate with the British on its behalf?
One of the strategies that I have encountered repeatedly by scholars supporting the “eastern métis” is the erasure of the Mi’kmaq or Innu in the past as a way to “prove” the existence of the “métis”.
3- Again, in a report with over 200 endnotes, the authors engage with no, that’s zero, Indigenous thinkers. This is common in all scholarly work on the “eastern métis” -> its authors ignore living Indigenous people completely.
How are scholars in Indigenous Studies, for example, supposed to take any of this work seriously, when it utterly fails to engage with the latest work in the field? It appears that erasing existing Indigenous people is a pre-requisite in the creation of the “eastern métis”.
If authors had bothered to engage with Indigenous thinkers, it would become clear that indigeneity of “Acadian-métis” was non-existent, since they provide no evidence whatsoever that they maintained kinship relations and accompanying forms of responsibility with Mi’kmaw people.
4- On this, the authors celebrate Acadian male virility in a manner that is common in the “eastern métis” literature, never stopping to consider the agency or experiences of Mi’kmaw women. Here’s a passage that they present from an observer in 1644:
“The said de la Tour since the death of Sr. de Biancourt arrived in the year 1624, remained in the land & in the property of said Sr. de Biancourt, ran the woods with 18 or 20 men mixed with the savages & lived a libertine life, & infamous as crude beasts without exercise of ...
religion similarly not having the care to baptize the children procreated by them & these poor miserable women, on the contrary, abandoned them to their mothers as at present they do.”
Amazingly, the authors say noting about the alleged misconduct of these men. This is especially notable given that the apparent reason they cite this passage is to take it at face value in order to speculate about the origins of one of the mixed-race children in question.
Common in the “eastern métis” literature is a celebration of French masculine conduct with no consideration of sexual violence and/or efforts to transform Indigenous kinship norms...
Indigenous women remain sexual objects in the “eastern métis” literature, with no agency except for birthing the so-called “métis”.
This, despite the fact that commentators from the 1600s and 1700s openly discuss how the Mi’kmaq are incensed with Acadians because they continuously abandon their mixed-race children to Mi’kmaw women and the Mi’kmaw community, without any form of responsibility (or support).
5- Finally, the authors mobilize a variety of documents, primarily from the 1800s, to support their conclusions. But ultimately, their own arguments fall under the weight of the contradictory evidence they present.
For example, the authors rely heavily on François-Edme Rameau de Saint-Père’s work on the Acadian community (first published in late 1800s). They say nothing about Saint-Père’s body of work, nor his reputation, which is convenient …
since Saint-Père first promoted the fanciful idea that the Lejeune sisters were Indigenous even though they’re French — an idea that many amateur genealogists and “Acadian-métis” and “Québec métis” organizations continue to promote today.
Further, the Lejeune sisters are not the only French women that Saint-Père magically turned into Indigenous women for the purpose of his evocative argument linking the Métis Resistance on the northern plains and the existence of a "mixed-race people" in Mi’kma’ki.
Regardless of his political motivations, Saint-Père’s work has largely been debunked by serious historians today, given his dedicated efforts to turn French women into Indigenous women. The authors present Saint-Père’s work without comment.
6- The remarkable efforts to create an Acadian-métis people by a variety of researchers and organizations continues to push ahead in the face of widespread opposition by actual Indigenous people(s) on the ground.
As I explained in an interview last week, it's far past time that people like me -- with Acadian ancestors going back to the 1600s -- step up and oppose these efforts to rewrite history, which ultimately impact on the treaty rights of actual Indigenous people today.
I've come up with a response to one of the authors, who posted a series of tweets in response to my critique of the report. I'll tag you all here in case you would like to see the types of arguments that are being used to support the "acadian-métis" ... and then take the tag off!
Actually, at no point in the report do the authors establish that Mathieu Mius was Mi’kmaq. These are the different things that they claim about him and/or signatories of the Peace & Friendship treaties, in the order that they appear:
From 2.5: “The Mius family, who are long-standing Acadian-Métis (Sang-Mêlés people) from the Cape Sable area, were signatories to the amended 1726 peace and friendship treaty between colonizers and Indigenous leaders. Their descendants were part of this distinct Métis population
(or caste) per evidence that will be reviewed in this report.”
From 15: “The Mius family were signatories of the 1726 Friendship Treaty, which Mathieu Mius (from the family of Francois Mius) signed as one of representatives of the many “Indian tribes;” the Treaty offering the extra indication that he was from Cape Sable, thus establishing...
the crucial geographical connection with the community of Sang-Mêlés people of that region, as evidenced in this report.”
From later in 15: “This observation about the existence of a distinct language reinforces the cultural markers already examined, including the exclusionary prejudices targeting the Métis of Nova Scotia, significant endogamic marriage patterns, a geographical proximity over 350...
years, the signature of a Friendship Treaty by a member of the Muis family from Cape Sable, and an Acadian people identified by numerous collective and distinctive ethnonyms used across Canada to identify other Métis peoples.”
From Appendix III: “Although this particular section regarding Mathieu Mius contains a few pieces of circumstantial information, many additional documents have been used throughout this report to demonstrate that Joseph Mius d’Azy I and his descendants were, and have been...
long-time residents of the Cape Sable Region and that his descendants who returned to the region post-Deportation were considered to have been Sang-Mêlés, Métis, and Bois-Brûlés. A compelling piece of evidence to support his identity lies in the fact that...
Mathieu Mius signed the 1726 Ratification of the Peace of 1725 Treaty as a “Chief of the Indians of Cape Sable”.”
“The Mius family, who are long-standing Acadian-Métis (Sang-Mêlés people) from the Cape Sable area, were signatories to the amended 1726 peace and friendship treaty” – illustrates how the authors literally turn Mi’kmaw signatories of the 1726 treaty into “Acadian-Métis”. PERIOD.
We could go back + forth about what the authors meant, but their own words make plain their argument … they use fact that several signatories of 1726 treaty on behalf of the Mi’kmaq were mixed-race as purported “evidence” for existence of distinct “Acadian-métis” people.
From the first point, let’s take the claims in the report by the priest from the early 19th century at face value. Even if what you’re calling “pure” Acadians discriminated against “mixed-race” Acadians, that doesn’t prove that these mixed-race Acadians were Indigenous...
Mi’kmaw political institutions in the past and the present don’t recognize those descendants of 1 (and possibly 2) unions from the 1600s as Indigenous ... PERIOD.
Second, nowhere in the report do you “prove” that mixed-race Acadians “endured” the scalp proclamation! You indicate that the potential threat of falling under the British’s proclamation to scalp Mi’kmaw people caused “terrible alarm” among some of the mixed-race Acadians...
“who were allied to the greatest families.” Again, a desire to remake the past leads to questionable forms of hyperbole and overstatement.
As for 1/3 - So, you’ve already abandoned the argument above about Mathieu Mius! Now you’re claiming that those Mius family members who signed the 1726 (for example), identified in some records as “Indians”, but definitely representing the Mi’kmaq, were “métis”.
Let’s go over the logic: 1. British identified Mi’kmaq as “Indians” + 2. Daniels decision (2013) says that Métis and NSIs should be considered "Indians" under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act (1867) = those Mi’maq identified as “Indians” in 1726 are in fact Métis.
Wow. Wow. Wow. So, not only do mixed-race Mi’kmaq in the past become “Acadian-Métis”, but the Mi’kmaq select signatories from a second distinct “Indigenous” people that they don’t even recognize to represent them in treaty negotiations with the British.
That this remarkably inventive narrative hinges on a Supreme Court of Canada judgment, the ultimate representative of colonial power, makes it even more troubling.
It also seems necessary to respond to the gross misrepresentation of Mi’kmaw voices currently practiced by “eastern métis” opinion leaders. For instance, what exactly is the purpose of including the letter by Mi’kmaw historian and elder Dr. Daniel Paul?
Dr. Paul specifically points out dangers involved in so-called “métis” people claiming s.35 Aboriginal rights, precisely what your report argues the “Acadian-métis” should be able to access. In this letter he’s disagreeing with the position that the authors take in their report.
As is well-known, Dr. Paul has spoken out forcefully and repeatedly against existence of distinct “Acadian-métis” people in Mi’kmaw territory, including in public debate with "eastern métis" leader several years ago.
This letter from 2013, shared by Mi’kmaw activists 2 weeks ago, further confirms his position:
I understand that “eastern métis” opinion-makers are desperate to obtain support for their claims from Indigenous peoples but misrepresenting and manipulating the words of a well-respected historian is simply unacceptable. Dr. Paul’s position is well-known in Mi’kma’ki.
The reason that Saint-Père’s work is taken with a huge grain of salt today is because he remade French women into Mi’kmaw women. I’m not doing the deformation, he was! I suggest that the authors learn more about the works that they use as sources …
Again, my statement was based on the authors’ inclusion of the following statement by a French figure in 1644: “The said de la Tour since the death of Sr. de Biancourt arrived in the year 1624, remained in the land & in the property of said Sr. de Biancourt, ran the woods with...
18 or 20 men mixed with the savages & lived a libertine life, & infamous as crude beasts without exercise of religion similarly not having the care to baptize the children procreated by them & these poor miserable women, ...
In addition to this statement, other commentators at the time (e.g., father Briard) remarked on how the fact that Acadian men abandoned their children to Mi’kmaw women and the Mi’kmaw community without any form of responsibility incensed the Mi’kmaq.
The authors say nothing about the misconduct of Acadian men … which likely includes some of my own ancestors, btw. I’m not suggesting that Acadian men were “mass rapists” (talk about exaggeration!) …
I’m turning our attention to the well-documented violence of the contact zone, as have feminist and anti-colonial thinkers for at least a generation.
Finally, … in the title of the report, it’s called an “ethnographic” report. Now you’re calling it an ethnological report. Which is it? [hint, it’s certainly not ethnography]
Second, I have witnessed “Acadian-métis” leaders speak rather violently about how French men “took” Mi’kmaw women in public venues and online, and I’ve spoken with and witnessed Mi’kmaw women vocally oppose this type of objectification...
In my opinion, the type of writing in the report – that ignores completely the patriarchal and misogynist efforts to transform Indigenous lifeways that are still ongoing – helps perpetuate violence in our society.
I think I’ll stop my response there + put a close to the back + forth. I’ve skipped over part where authors support 1896 report that “Acadian” is an Indigenous language, where they ignore their own sources that call the “Acadian-métis” simply “Acadian”, etc. etc.
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