The Metis Identity : Through the eyes of Maria Campbell

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The Metis Identity : Through the eyes of Maria Campbell

by – Rinku Pawar, Issue XV, April 2016

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Introduction to the Author:

Rinku PawarAuthor of this article, Rinku Pawar, is a junior research scholar based in Jammu. She has completed her BA and MA in English literature. She is also a freelance writer.

Below, you will find a paper written by her. In this paper, she analyses the concept of metis identity.






Times Change but people don’t, history is made today by the same events as it was years earlier, and we as spectators come, witness and leave; only a few who suffer the pinch; rest down to per over what should have been but wasn’t.

Talking of one such Indo-Canadian writer and an aboriginal herself, is Maria Campbell, born in Northern Saskatchewan in a mixed racial family of Scottish, French, English, & Irish descent. Facing a youth full of hardship and discrimination from white and their full blooded, Indian kins, the aborigines kept on moving continuously in search of their “home-Land” thereby belonging to “No Land” Thus, begins the search for their own land “and the suffered like Maria Campbell, Lee Manacle, Jeanette Armstrong etc. and many more of their kind, structure, the entire period as a continuous un-ending struggle of ones “self” the “I” or “Identity”. Maria’s rebellious feelings find an outlet through her words and writings against the system. Her entire journey in the heartening auto-biographical novel ‘Halfbreed’ pens down the plight, the sorrows and the miseries of all the marginalized through her. As she quotes

I write this for all of you, to tell you about the joy and sorrow, the oppressing poverty, the frustration and the dream… I am not bitter, I have passed that stage. I only want to say, this is what it was like, this is what it is still like

The text offers an aspect of native people’s lives in Northern Saskatchewan through a half-bred Women experience. Discussing the meaning of Metis, they were Canadian people of mixed blood, Indian and white. Three centuries ago their mothers being Indian; fathers being explorers and fur traders who came from Britain and France. The Plains Indian considered them as white brothers and thus ended up settling with them. The race or clan that emerged after such an inter-mingling came to be called as the Metis People or the aboriginals. Such people happen to have a hyphenated existence i.e. cut or divided between two groups of culture and communities, but discriminated as an impure race so as to maintain their identity. For their prosperity they have backed on the “Indigeneous Knowledge” or the “une petite Michin”.

As Maria Quotes, “My people have walked behind other cultures picking up things their parents discarded, for generations; Metis meant, a light coloured Indians; In Canadian history, half-breed refers specially to the group of people who are part Indian and part white. These half-breed people did not have a choice regarding whether they would be Indians or whites or in-betweens; society defines them as member of a Native society and it still does today.

Today white halfbreed becomes a vulgar expression for mixed blood which seems to be a more polite term… However, half-breed to me was a powerful word (2002) traditions, sacred things, songs, prayers, everything… way of tying a scarf, a jig step. When you look at what we have as mixed-blood people you see all these things woven into something that become a new nation.

(Maria Campbell, the Book of Jessica).

Maria Campbell’s other works are Achimoona, People of the Buffalo (how the plains Indians Lived), The Book of Jessica (A theatrical Transformation), Riel’s People and the little Badger and the fire spirit, Stories of the Road Allowance People. All her works speak about the repressive view of the subjugated communities. Her work tell us about Metis folklore, eccentric characters, legends, fairy tales, the supernatural and superstitions, magic & music, fantasy and realism, adventure and allegory.

Since the Metis are commonly dismissed as in-authentic half-breeds neither settlers nor aboriginal. Maria Campbell universalizes or evokes the literary genre as the location for authentic psychological reclamation. She salvages and re- inscribes the derogatory and racist appellation “half-breed” as a position of pride and site of resistance against European colonial epistemological. So far Maria and many more of her kind, learning the old ways and stories associated with them is an observable act of decolonization. Culturally, Maria is marginalized in her epic Halfbreed where she escapes into the rich worlds through addiction, drugs, prostitution and infidelity. However, only to lose all the little that she possessed, her sufferings day by day make her weak; But strong at the same time like the do-do bound to resurge from her own ashes and take a rebirth. She turns out to be a do-do bird inspiration for many of her kind and finds a new way to struggle for the causes of her race. She becomes a social activist, a feminist, a reformer, a playwright a novelist, an educationist. She voices the demands and requirements of her people thereby giving them confidence and aspirations today for a bright and better tomorrow. As she writes “It is time for our people to live again.” In Halfbreed, Campbell finally talks back to the white man, on behalf of herself and other metis people, enabling them all to walk with heads held up.


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