Author:Michel Bouchard (University of Northern British Columbia)
Paper short abstract:
As Métis history is being debated in Canadian courts to determine who is Métis and what collective rights may be granted, the politics of who can claim to be Métis are exacerbated as well as the discord over what intangible culture is authentic and who can claim ownership of culture and identity.
Paper long abstract:
As states seek to recognize the rights of aboriginal, indigenous and ethnic minority populations within their boundaries, new tensions emerge as communities seek to define membership, inclusion and exclusion. This is evident in the Canadian context as courts, governments and communities seek to define who is Métis and can rightfully claim the intangible culture that is the Métis legacy which has gained both symbolic and potential monetary capital, as well as yet to be fully defined constitutional rights. Invariably, history—popular and academic—is the battleground, as differing definitions are based on contradictory readings of history. This is in turn muddied by the fact that the history was either buried or stigmatized for decades or even centuries. Under such conditions mythic histories are too easily imposed. Researchers thus must navigate turbulent waters seeking to be credible scholars not disregarding cultural and historical evidence, while having to present research that may contradict strongly held beliefs in the communities themselves, communities that can be too easily reified from within. This presentation will examine the challenge of defining (a) Métis nation(s) in Canada and the ways in which national narratives invariable create exclusionary boundaries that in turn can be used by the state to perpetuate colonial inequalities.
Cultural heritage in motion