Montreal

'Fake Indian': Founder of self-proclaimed Mikinak Indigenous group harassed over status card

The former chief of the Mikinaks, a so-called Indigenous community that gained infamy in 2016, is now fending off harassment from people angry that she's received Indian status.

Lise Brisebois no longer with group, but says she's had threats after receiving Indian status card

After receiving her Indian status card, Lise Brisebois says she's been harassed and threatened on social media. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

The former chief of the Mikinaks, a self-proclaimed Indigenous community that gained infamy in 2016, is now fending off threats and online harassment because she's received Indian status.

Lise Brisebois said all she wants is peace, but her notoriety for founding the so-called Mikinak community makes it difficult to escape attention. 

Earlier this month, she learned that someone had shared a photo of her status card on Facebook, ridiculing her. 

​"They say that I'm not an Indian. That I'm a fake Indian," Brisebois said.

I had to disconnect my home phone because I was receiving threats ... And they write me privately [on Facebook] and they call me all sorts of names.- Lise Brisebois

"I had to disconnect my home phone because I was receiving threats ... And they write me privately [on Facebook] and they call me all sorts of names."

When Brisebois read one comment suggesting that someone should "finish her," she said she reported it to the Kahnawake Peacekeepers. 

"I said I want it to stop. I want them to stop saying mean things to me." 

Brisebois first grabbed headlines in 2016 when she founded the Mikinaks, under the Confederation of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.

Brisebois, pictured here in 2016, used to be the so-called chief of the Mikinak community, but she's since cut ties. (Communaute Mikinak)

At the time, Montreal-area Mohawk leaders blasted the new group, calling it "nothing but lies" and an attempt to evade taxes.

Brisebois said she later severed ties with the group, and no longer calls herself their chief.

"I have had a lot of heartache. And now it's anger," Brisebois told CBC News, saying she was fooled into trusting the wrong people.

Brisebois closed that chapter, but continued to pursue her status. 

"Why is it important to have my status? It's not just for me. It's for my ancestors too, so that they'll be recognized."

She said her grandmother's first husband was Indigenous, but when he died and she remarried a non-Indigenous man, her grandmother lost her status.

'Non-natives, with just a little bit of native blood'

This fall, when Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada recognized that lineage, Brisebois found herself in the middle of controversy once again.

Though Brisebois says her background is Algonquin, the government registered her on the band list of the Mohawk community of Kanesatake — just west of Montreal — because her grandparents apparently once lived in the area.

I don't tell the Canadian government who's Canadian and who's not. They shouldn't be coming here and telling me who's Mohawk and who's not.- Serge Simon, grand chief of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake

It's a decision that Ottawa has no right to make, according to Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake.

"The federal government, in its paternalistic policies, is determining who is a member of my community. Instead of us doing that for ourselves," said Grand Chief Serge Simon.

Simon said the Mikinaks threaten his community's membership, culture and standing in the world.

"These are not native people with a little non-native blood. These are non-natives, with just a little bit of native blood. There's a difference," Simon said.

Mohawk Council of Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon says the Canadian government has no right to decide who is a member of his community. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

"I don't tell the Canadian government who's Canadian and who's not. They shouldn't be coming here and telling me who's Mohawk and who's not."

Brisebois said she understands that her history with the Mikinaks has its consequences, but she wishes people would give her a second chance. 

"You're judging me without knowing me," she said. 

About the Author

Jaela Bernstien is a national reporter based in Montreal. She's covered a wide range of news topics, ranging from criminal trials to ice age caves, and everything in between.