I Am Métis (Part II)

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I am Metis.

I practice saying these words to myself. Often. Still.

I look at my fair skin and my grey eyes and my baby-fine, mousy-brown hair and I say the words. I close my eyes in my cluttered kitchen in my suburban home and picture the swaying grass on the banks of the Red River and I say the words. I walk through the mall that sits on what was once a Metis settlement and I say the words.

I say the words in my mind until they sink into my heart and flood my soul.

I am Metis.

//

I’m going to let you in on a little thing I am working through. I still struggle when I enter Indigenous spaces. I crave these spaces. I am eager to enter these spaces. I will show up almost anywhere and anytime I know First Nations, Metis or Inuit people are gathered in community. I know I am welcomed. I know that there is a space for me, but still, I struggle.

I don’t want to make a mistake. I don’t want to offend. I don’t want to cause harm or hurt. I try to sit at the back and leave space for others. I watch and I listen. I study the movements, the expressions and the belonging of these people. My people. I watch and study, in the hopes that next time, next time I’ll feel different. Next time maybe I won’t feel so awkward and nervous and out of place.

Awkward. Nervous. Out of Place.

But still, I show up.

I keep showing up.

These last few weeks I have been hopping from event to event. World Water Day March, a panel discussion on Canada’s apartheid, a rally for Bill-C262, another panel discussion on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls are just some of the events I’ve taken in. Each time I arrived, I felt jittery and out of place. Each time I tried to calm my heart and settle myself into the space. Each time I had to be intentionally present and lose myself in the crowd in order to find ease. Each time, it was so much work to just be that I began to wonder if I would ever feel as though I belonged.

And then last week happened.

I had submitted an article last November for a publication that was releasing a special Metis edition. Last week I learned that my piece was picked up and the launch party for this edition was being held in my city. I was excited, honoured and nervous all at once. I had a friend visiting from out of town, so I asked her to join me at the launch party.

As we drove to the venue, I tried to make light conversation, but All Of The Feelings were present and begging for attention. But the feelings would have to wait, I realized, because All Of The Memories were pushing in. I could barely breathe. I was thinking of the piece I wrote about my Papa who had made me Metis in the first place. I was thinking about the neighborhood we were in and how I used to play on these very streets as a child. These very streets where I wouldn’t walk alone now as an adult, because of the crime and poverty and despair so evident on every doorstep.

All the Feelings.

All the Memories.

All the Thoughts.

And me.

Me.

Metis Me.

Just Regular Me.

We walked in to the venue and I became as a deer in the headlights. The organizers called the contributors to the back room to hand us our copies of the magazine and ask for volunteers to read their contributions aloud during the event. I didn’t volunteer and returned to my seat.

Once the program began, my nerves melted away. I heard artists, poets and writers share their experiences and perspective of being Metis in Canada. I heard my story, my feelings, my thoughts coming out of their mouths. I saw so much of my heart poured out in their art. I was breathless and on the edge of my seat. I wanted to shout, “Me too!” but instead I clapped and cheered in solidarity as writer after writer raised their voice.

The evening was winding down and the host asked if anyone else wanted to share. My hand volunteered my voice and my feet followed my hand’s lead. I was in front of the mic, fumbling to find my page before my brain had a chance to back the train up. My voice was small and crackly as I said the words.

I am Metis.

And then I read 698 words of my own truth to a group of strangers and felt more at home, more free, than I could remember feeling in ages. These were my people. I think it was the first time I’ve ever been in a space of predominantly Metis people and heard our unique truth shared so fully and so fearlessly.

The spirit of our father, Louis Riel, was with us in that room. We were his rebels, his patriots, his hoped-for future and we were rising! This is the cry of liberty he shouted 150 years ago. And I was shouting it too.

When I read the last word, I took a breath in the silence. I closed my eyes and felt my own freedom like never before. And then I heard the cheers, the hoots and the applause for our shared story.

I am Metis!

My people will sleep for one hundred years but when they awake it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.” —Louis Riel, Metis leader, Father of Confederation

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Read Part I of Nichole’s Journey here: I am Métis.

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Nichole Forbes
Nichole is just a regular gal loved by an extraordinary God. She believes in community, justice, freedom, reconciliation and the sacredness of storytelling. Her journey to connect with her Metis culture and history has been her own liberation song. She tries to live bravely every day and say the kind words that need to be heard. She raises her three Not-So-Wee-Ones in the middle of the Canadian prairies with her favorite person ever—her husband, Brad. Nichole blogs, writes and speaks on the things that fill her heart and frame her world. 
Nichole Forbes
Nichole Forbes

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