'It's about feeling seen': Métis collective hopes to bring young people together online from across Canada

Justin Wiebe said the collective is about bringing together people to reconnect and learn.

One of the founders said it's about bringing together young Métis people to reconnect and learn

Justin Wiebe and Lindsay DuPré were in Batoche, Sask. and are planning an in-person initiative this summer for Métis youth. (Submitted by Lindsay DuPré)

A new Métis collective hopes to connect young people from across Canada to build on their sense of identity and build a stronger Métis Nation.

The Mamawi Project launched on Instagram this month and Facebook soon after. The online collective members are all around early 20s to early 30s.

"As a collective we can make important things happen," Justin Wiebe said. Wiebe is from Saskatoon, Sask. and currently lives in Toronto.

The idea was to connect people who are already online to support each other, Wiebe said. They looked at other Indigenous collectives and decided to make a space for Métis young people. 

"It's about feeling seen," he said. "The Mamawi project is about us coming together as Métis young people, celebrating who we are and providing spaces for us to reconnect and learn."

The Mamawi Project launched online in April, 2019. (The Mamawi Project/Facebook)

There were gaps, member Lindsay DuPré said, for young Métis people.

"I'm a firm believer that change happens in a lot of different bases and platforms," she said. "We just want to play a role in helping the storytelling keep happening and to try and rebuild relationships."

A few projects they hope to start up include a weekly language post to highlight specific important words and a weekly profile of Métis leaders from across the country. The collective recently received a grant to plan an in-person gathering in Saskatoon.

"There are so many Métis people doing really important, really amazing things but not necessarily getting the attention they deserve for it," Wiebe said. "So social media is just a straightforward place for us to be able to share all of that."

The in-person initiative is tentatively planned for July 14 to 19 in Saskatoon, leading up to Back to Batoche Days in Saskatoon. The hope is to bring together young Métis people from across Canada with Métis leaders.

Justin Wiebe is from Saskatoon and currently lives in Toronto. (Submitted by Lindsay DuPré)

For Wiebe, having Indigenous spaces and groups is important, but having a specific Métis collective is "affirming, it's empowering, it's exciting."

"I've been fortunate enough to grow up in Saskatchewan, surrounded by Métis people," Wiebe said. "Which I know it's not a reality for all Métis people."

"It was really on our terms," DuPré said.

DuPré was raised in the Toronto area with her family originally being from Red River.

Lindsay DuPré is a Métis social worker who works with youth mental health in the Toronto area. (Submitted by Lindsay DuPré)

"For me, having a space with people who I love and trust and respect, who I may not get to see every single day but who are my family and my community has just meant the world to me."

People in the collective are from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, B.C., Northwest Territories and northern U.S. states.

"I was really excited when Lindsay and Justin kind of approached me about this collective idea," Lucy Fowler said.

Fowler grew up and lives in Winnipeg, Man., with a large Métis community but she missed out on meeting people out of province, she said.

Lucy Fowler is a Métis woman living in Winnipeg. She hopes the collective shows youth that there are many ways to be Métis. (Submitted by Lindsay DuPré)

"I felt very disconnected," Fowler said. "We didn't have the kind of tradition. So for a while when I was growing up I didn't think that I was Métis enough."

"I'm really passionate about this project because I want to make sure that others Métis youth growing up can see that there's a multitude of ways to be Métis."

The name 'Mamawi' was important as one collective member Kai Minosh Pyle studies different Indigenous languages. While they were searching for a name, Minosh Pyle suggested 'Mamawi,' meaning 'together' in Cree, Anishinaabemowin and Michif.

One of the online initiatives The Mamawi Project hopes to start is showcasing important words each week. (The Mamawi Project/Facebook)

Having a collective is an opportunity to think critically about their role in Canada, DuPré said.

"It was also important to our conversation continues to hold each other accountable as part of this community building work," DuPré said. "We want to be able to prompt questions and reflections on how we can do that better."

"It's about love, it's about collaboration," Wiebe said. "It's about all of us joining forces and figuring out what that future looks like."