Story by Morgan O’Neal
The Metis Nation in its relatively short but intense existence as a national governing body has never cultivated a public image of internal unity, and perhaps this is one of the good reasons it has gained respect over the years as a truly democratic organization dependent almost entirely upon the involvement of the membership at the grassroots and the action taken at the local level of a widely dispersed and dispairate group of people from various backgrounds and parts of the country.
The struggle to establish itself as a governable and autonomous community within the larger pluralistic and multicultural reality of Canada – a nation itself known widely as having not even yet come to a clear understanding and definition of itself (in any real sense beyond what is known as the negative definition in rhetorical terms). Definition by negation simply means that when pressed to describe ourselves as Canadians the best we can usually come up with is the well-known slogan that if nothing else we are definitely not Americans. And this, as far as I am concerned. has always been a good enough place to begin. And the Metis has always been shackled with both legs in the chains of non-identity: we are known at least in the sociology trext books of the universities of this country as the ”quintessential non-identity”. Not only are we not Americans, but we are hard pressed to come to the name Canadian; we have no status as Indians and no land ownership with which to begin to put down the kind of roots necessary to build a nation.
It is safe to say that we are closer to the breed of Gypsy that escaped Egypt thousands of years ago and after dispersing throughout the Indian sub-continent wandered around Europe establishng a negative reputation for qualities of mysticism and disappearing into the night after relieving the townspeople of bread and sausage and whatever else we could get our hands on. But the other side of this reputation was the music of Stephan Grapelli and Django Rhinhart and countless other guitarists and fiddle players. This seems to ring a bell too, as does the rodeo and the road allowance people and the elders that continue to try to hold us together by sheer force of will and resistance to the ongoing attempts to either wipe us out or assimilate us into the meduiocrity which is the reality of contemporary society.
So in light of this historical background it might be good to remember that Gabriel Dumont an Louis Riel did not agree all the time, nor did James Brady and Malcolm Norris, and the conservative Cuthbert Grant refused to support Gabriel Dumont and l’il Petite at the final stand at Batoche. But Dumont and L’il Petite did not shoot themselves in the feet like it appears the present batch of wayward warriors is wont to do. There is no need to run to the Canadian Courts to have this internal dispute over leadership settled. After all, from whom did the Metis learn their skills in propaganda and leadership, in democracy and political organization. These are the same people that put our leaders in jail a century ago, the same people who hanged Louis Riel by the neck until he was dead. The same people who imprisoned Poundmaker and Big Bear and sapped their strength so they died only weeks after being released from incarceration in Stony Mountain.
There is a bitter lack of explanation emerging from all sides in this unnecessary fight within the national organization. The Drum has been unable to get a response back from any of those provincial offices we have contacted, nor have we received an answer from whatever regime is in place at the national level. All we know is that the governing bodies at both the provincial and the federal levels are not handling the crisis in leadership that they themselves have created in a very proactive manner. Press statements are released on one day announcing interim leaders chosen by executive fiat and days later court orders come down from the black robed heights of Canadian jurisprudence ousting the latest leader to be named (and to add insult to injury the same court order forbids the democratically elected leaders of provincial Metis Associations even to meet and discuss the problem. Now it appears that the scheduled election of a new democratic leadership has been postponed without legitimate explanation.
The question is then, who runs the Metis National Council, the Harper government or the Metis people and their democratically elected representatives? In all his courageous resistance to assimilation by the Feds and in all his parodic showmanship in the Wild West Show of Buffalo Bill Cody, not once did Gabriel Dumont shoot himself in the foot with his trustry rifle L’il Petit. But the sons of the hero, in just one act of cowardice have blown the toes right out of their shoes. All we can do now is wait and see if the intestinal fortitude exists within the collective body of the Metis Nation itself, to put this sad episode behind us and move on to continue the work we know is necessary and overdo.