In 1982, the Canadian constitution included MÃ©tis as one of the aboriginal peoples of Canada, who may be entitled to certain aboriginal rights. Making aboriginal rights claims has required MÃ©tis, as a category, to be understood in a bounded, rigid manner, to fit with the wider legal system of categories of aboriginal peoples (First Nations, Inuit). MÃ©tis, as an identity, has been seen as a category based on aboriginality and mixed ancestry, but it is contested by many actors including the Canadian state, MÃ©tis organisations, academics and MÃ©tis themselves whether this means mixedness of ancestry in general (a residual category of aboriginal but not First Nations/Inuit), or a specific case of mixed ancestry in the Canadian interior in the 18th- and 19th-centuries (the Red River/Historic MÃ©tis Nation). The category of MÃ©tis is not only uncertain in the legal context, it is also unsettled in many other registers: political, personal, and social. This research, based on fieldwork in Edmonton, Alberta in 2012-13, discusses how the category of MÃ©tis is used, contested, and (un)settled, through several contexts. The contestedness of MÃ©tis is examined in the contexts of representation and self-representation of MÃ©tis identity, history and peoplehood: in Canadian courts as MÃ©tis claim aboriginal rights, in museums and festivals as MÃ©tis are displayed and display themselves in particular ways, within the MÃ©tis community, and in less formal environments as people talk about their self-identification and what MÃ©tis means to them as a folk category. The unsettled nature of MÃ©tis is made visible as MÃ©tis identity within these registers often does not overlap, for example as the self-identification and legal identity may not coincide. The separation between First Nations and MÃ©tis is particularly important, given its necessity in MÃ©tis aboriginal rights claims and in how MÃ©tis is viewed as a category of aboriginality separate from First Nations, but in practice this rigid separation is not so clear as people adjust their self-identification and recognition of others as MÃ©tis or First Nations depending on their understanding of their category of MÃ©tis. As the variety of ways of understanding MÃ©tis are made visible, it becomes clear that MÃ©tis is an identity and a category that is emerging within these legal, political and social registers, and remains unsettled, even radically unsettled.
|Date of Award||31 Dec 2017|
- The University of Manchester
|Supervisor||Peter Wade (Supervisor) & Penelope Harvey (Supervisor)|