Rain hurried in after the snow this weekend and, instead of increasing snowdrifts, we now have crusty snow banks and patches of ice. Ah, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Anyway, the weather made certain I had time to listen to CBC’s “Producer’s notebook: My quest to discover my Métis identity.”
Her story left a deep impression. To know that others are asking similar questions, on the same journey back.
Rebecca Hass’s journey started out differently than mine, though. Her story begins:
“A card. A simple card. Changed my life forever. Revealing a secret on my father’s side of the family.”
When her dad died, Hass was shocked to find out that she was Métis. At least one cousin knew. He said he and other cousins had tried talking to their grandmother about it before she died. But "our grandmother wasn't allowed to talk about it. Denial. And--don't you ever talk about that again."
But there was the Métis identity card. It hadn't been destroyed. The legal record of her connections had survived, somehow.
As my mother tells our oral history, people tried to destroy all evidence of the Indigenous, the Indian, connection. She tells of photos burned, photos of our Cree connections destroyed. Anything that hinted our Métis culture and way of life. It couldn't--or wouldn't--be erased, though.
But not everybody was silenced. And not my mother's family. The opposite, really. They made noise. They formed a Métis family band. Mother, father, kids, grandkids: everyone. That's how they made enough money to get by in those times when being Métis meant you weren't one or the other of anything.
They were good musicians. They toured. They were on the radio. They released records. And Leon Robert Goulet is still known in fiddle-playing worlds for his old-time skill. My mom talks about the family parties, the music, the fiddle, the piano and organ. That was before we came along. Before everyone scattered and the music died off for a generation.
Still--my mother tells stories of people being shunned by branches of the family tree for being Métis or for marrying into our Métis family. It wasn't easy.
For Hass and her cousins, they were into their forties and fifties when they came face to face with their "hidden indigenous roots and its loaded stigma."
Hass and her cousins embraces their roots. She connects with cousins who had always known who they were and who had remained connected to the culture. She begins to learn. About the land and the people. About survival and culture.
She feels insecure. She doesn't know her place. She wonders "if she is Métis enough" to be accepted. But they tell her: “Your blood has woken you up. It’s not going to let you go back to sleep.”
There's more to the story. Listen here.