My story is that of many Métis. I have not always honoured and celebrated my heritage because like so many, I grew up not knowing my heritage.
I have come to learn that I am a descendant of Louise "Sauvage" Manitouakokou who died in Quebec in 1704. She is the first "Native" grandparent that I have been able to trace. This Grandmother (Nokum) was recorded in two Canadian censuses as being Algonquin. I am also a descendent of Menominee Mary Racet and her Chippewa/Ojibwe husband Pierre Carbanot. Pierre Carbanot signature appears on the Menominee Treaty of 1848. Just how many more of my ancestors are of mixed blood I don't know. I may never know. What is clear is that I am Metis.
For a video of this important part of my life, click on the portrait of my Grandfather.
In the 1800s, my family lived in and around the Great Lakes. They likely lived off the buffalo trade until the U.S. government began a campaign to settle and to mainstream them. They gave land to people of Native/mixed blood that these might become farmers.
Narcisse Beaudoin, another of my Grandfathers, farmed in Wisconsin and fought in the Civil War. His children moved west and settled in Saskatchewan in 1900. Pierre Mercier (shown here) is my mother's father. He is a descendant of Narcisse Beaudoin, Pierre Carbanot and Louise Sauvage Manitouakokou.
grew up knowing nothing of this. As in many French Canadian families,
there was talk of mixed blood however names of individuals were
always avoided. Our chances of success seemed better if we were
French and not Métis.
With the help of family and friends, I am on a journey of discovery. My first lesson was to come to appreciate the efforts my ancestors put into hiding our bloodlines. I cannot fathom such a life of shame and deception. And my story is not unlike that of thousands of other Métis people. We are a race who have been denied our birthrights. Whether the fault lay with the Canadian government, arrogant Orangemen or the Catholic Church, it matters not. What does matter is that our ancestors were made to believe that we were inferior.
I do not know the stories that were my grandmother's and her grandmother's before her. Nor do I know the songs that should be mine. When I share Native and Métis stories and songs with my daughter Victoria (pictured here), I tell her that I don't know which belong to us and that until such time that I do, she can claim them all as her own.
I am searching through records and papers and forms and into the hearts of my grandmothers and grandfathers. And I am seeking within myself. It has taken some time but I have learned that so much of what I am has come to me through my DNA, through my genes through memories that I have inherited from my grandmothers. I recognise her/their presence in me and I celebrate our family's collective memories. I now know that she, my Kokum, is my inspiration, my teacher. My successes are OUR successes. Marcee Nokum.
It will take time and money to uncover details that have disappeared or have been painstakingly hidden. What cannot be hidden are the faces on old family photos and the stories about our American Métis ancestors...and a voice that calls to me from deep within.
The picture shown here was taken in 1918. My father is in the arms of his mother. Her mother, Marie Louise Pilote, was Montagnais...Innu!
p.s. My Chippewa ancestors will be pleased and proud. Elder Nancy Jones of Red Gut dreamed a Spirit Name that she gave me in a ceremony at her home on the reserve. The Spirit Name I have been given is Zhiibaayaanakwad - Eagle who flies in and out of the clouds bringing messages from Creator.
Boozhoo nindinuwaymahgunug. zheebahyahnukwud indigo. wahbizhayshi nindoedame. quill lake saskatchewan nindoenjee.