Where did your ancestors grow up? Who were their friends and rivals, where did they gather food and how did they live? For some people, answers to these questions are well-documented. But for Métis in British Columbia, many of these answers are difficult to find.
Rosanne Forget knows her personal history: her family originates in the San Clara region of Manitoba and moved to Terrace, BC when she was about two years old. Her grandparents have kinship ties in the Chetwynd area, and she can trace her heritage to Métis families including Martin Jérôme, Braconnier and Louis Riel. Recently, she’s taken on the work of collecting, researching and archiving the history of Métis in Northwest BC.
“There’s lots I didn’t know, and all it’s done is enhance my quest for knowledge. I want to know more!” says Forget, who is Director for the Skeena River Métis Community Association and a Community Based Researcher (CBR) for the BC Metis Federation’s Metis Terrestrial Investigations Project (MTIP). This project has led to the development of a Community-based research portal and blog, where Rosanne, along with other CBR’s capture their experience and share their findings.
With some training on what to look for (Métis in BC were often described and identified using conflicting designations, or not identified at all), Forget has plunged into the archives at the Terrace Heritage Museum and is exploring other resources. Even more useful that newspapers, books and photographs are the oral histories of Métis whose families have lived in this region for generations.
Share your story
Métis in BC have an opportunity to preserve their family’s history and stories, contributing to the archive being built by Forget and other Community Researchers across the province. Reach out to Rosanne Forget to start the conversation and share your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“These family histories help fill in the gaps about the kinship we’ve had, who we feasted with, what nations we traded with, and where we did berry picking, logging, mushroom foraging and other activities,” says Kassandra Sison from the BC Métis Federation. “By participating, you’re preserving your own family history, and you’re also helping change the narrative about whether Métis people have a place in BC.”
Interviews and other research for the MTIP project is community-led, using an Indigenous Research Methodology. That means building meaningful and lasting relationships, and gaining access to community knowledge in an ethical way.
“It’s important that it’s not strangers coming to the door to do these interviews. It’s somebody from the community, who publicly self-identifies as Métis,” Forget says. “There’s still some fear around identifying as Métis, and around sharing Indigenous knowledge in general, but a lot of those barriers come down once we build a respectful relationship.”
The archive being created is by the community and for the community. Individuals can share as much or as little as they choose, and have control over what information is shared publicly.
“We’re focused on positive memories, but talking about the past can re-open wounds. That’s why we’re committed to doing this work in a respectful, culturally relevant, trauma-informed way,” Sison says.
To learn more about the Community Based Research Portal and sign-up for updates from the research blog, visit bcmetis.com/programs-services/community-based-research-portal. To get in touch with Rosanne Forget to tell your story, email email@example.com or call 778-634-3878.
You’ll also be able to find Forget at Heritage Day in Terrace, Saturday Feb. 25 at the Sportsplex Banquet Room, where she’ll be sharing information about the research project and building connections with the community. She’ll also be hosting a community meeting in Terrace on Mar. 18.
For more information on upcoming events, visit the BC Metis Federation website at www.bcmetis.com.
Kassandra Sison –