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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Stories of contemporary Métis identity in British Columbia : ‘troubling’ discourses of race, culture, and nationhood Legault, Gabrielle Monique


Politicians, the Canadian judiciary, Métis citizens, and scholars have attempted to develop definitions for the term ‘Métis,’ arguing that until there is agreement on the definition of ‘Métis’ and requirements for citizenship and homeland boundaries are agreed upon, the Métis will not be able to capitalize on self-government opportunities (Belcourt, 2013; Chartrand, 2001). However, the ongoing inter and intra-community conflicts regarding Métis identity suggest that there remains a lack of consensus over the appropriate use of the term ‘Métis’. This study argues for a re-thinking of current understandings of Métis identity as inherent and singular. Instead, Métis identity can be understood as a socially constructed phenomenon, whereby collective and individual Métis senses of selves have developed throughout history by drawing on contemporaneous dominant discourses and are thus, performative in nature. Employing an indigenist research methodology that centres relational accountability, this study involved interviewing 20 Métis people residing in British Columbia’s Southern Interior Region to understand the ways in which people identify as Métis in BC. Employing methods such as Critical Discourse Analysis and Narrative Analysis, participant narratives as well as the scholarly, legal, and political texts that inform contemporary constructions of ‘Métis’ were explored, with three dominant discourses centred on racialized, ethno-cultural, and nation-based definitions of Métis emerging. Participants’ stories illustrate not only the ways in which dominant discourses of ‘Métisness’ are reproduced, cited, and reified, but also suggest that some Métis people attempt to subvert dominant discourses through a refusal to identify with particular discourses. The diversity of experiences identifying as Métis demonstrate that there are distinct differences between the rigid identities that are constructed and expected by decision-makers and the fluid realities of Métis identities, thereby undermining assumptions of Métis identities as fixed, instrumental, passive, and power-neutral in lieu of poststructuralist notions of identity as constructed, fluid, incomplete, and thus, continuously evolving.

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