Map showing Métis homeland boundaries sparks online conversation

A new map outlining the Métis homeland drew criticism online this week from First Nations living within the boundaries that include three entire provinces, parts of two and part of the Northwest Territories.

Métis National Council says map's purpose is to define who the citizens of the Métis Nation are

The map detailing the Métis homeland sparked conversations online. Will Goodon with the Métis National Council says that the map is being used to identify people with historic ties to the Métis Nation. (Manitoba Métis Federation)

A new map outlining the Métis homeland drew criticism online this week from First Nations living within the boundaries that include three entire provinces, parts of two and part of the Northwest Territories.

The map was passed as a resolution and released earlier this week by the Métis National Council.

On the map, the Métis homeland encompasses all of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, extending into parts of northwestern Ontario, northeastern B.C. and southern N.W.T. The boundaries of the "blue blob" and its intended meaning became the source of much debate on social media.

Will Goodon, minister of housing for the Manitoba Métis Federation and a delegate to the general assembly of the Métis National Council, said the map was not meant to be used lay claim to territory to the lands outlined, but rather to help Métis governments decide who their members are.

"This is something that I think was necessary now to be put forward because of some of the external issues like what's going on in Nova Scotia, Quebec," said Goodon.

Goodon is referring to groups in eastern Canada who are self-identifying as Métis.

"There's some real dangers there and that's one of the reasons why we thought we had to put the map out," said Goodon.

"Because of the the way that all of our cultural symbols are being usurped by people who aren't us."

In the 2016 Canadian census, the Métis population had the highest increase among Indigenous groups with a 51.2 per cent increase. The number of people who call themselves Métis​ soared nearly 150 per cent in Quebec and 125 per cent in Nova Scotia between the 2006 and 2016 censuses.

Will Goodon says the map is not a land claim, but is being used to define who Métis citizens are in Canada. (Métis National Council)

Although the map is not new, the Métis National Council plan on using the map in future to identify who is a member of the Métis Nation and who is not.

"One of the things that we wanted to put out there as well is that our our Métis Nation citizens who have a connection to the nation's homeland will be protected by our Métis governments, no matter where they live," said Goodon.

Self-determining membership

When Lynn Acoose, chief of Sakimay First Nation in southern Saskatchewan, first saw the map online this week, she wondered if it had anything to do with the Federal Recognition and Implementation of Indigenous Rights Framework.

Earlier in November, the federal government announced that the framework wasn't going to be implemented before the federal election in 2019. ​Métis leaders have been pushing to get the framework approved.

"They're in the process of trying to limit the definition of Métis people so that these rights will flow from an agreement that they're currently working on," said Acoose.

However, she thinks that these processes are used as a divide and conquer strategy by the federal government to pit Indigenous groups against each other.

"We were part of a larger kinship system that didn't necessarily divide the Métis and the First Nations people," said Acoose.

Sakimay First Nations Chief Lynn Acoose says she thinks Indigenous groups have the right to define themselves as they see fit. (Jason Warick/CBC)

That kinship system is something that Goodon agrees with.

"If you go and look at the Métis citizens who live in the three Prairie provinces, we're all related to each other," said Goodon.

Both agree that the lines of division are arbitrary and Acoose believes that Indigenous groups should be able to decide who their members are.

"I don't think that that's our business, as Anishinaabeg or Nehiyawak or whoever we are," said Acoose.

"I think that if that's their process, then they should do that. It's not up to us to tell other people or other nations how they should define themselves."

About the Author

Lenard Monkman

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He is the co-founder of Red Rising Magazine and has been an associate producer with the CBC's Indigenous unit for three years. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1