Enculturation is the social and psychological process by which individuals learn about and relate to their traditional ethnic culture and identity. Enculturation is generally a lifelong learning experience in which cultural consciousness develops. However, it is, in many ways, a state of being rather than a process. Enculturation is measured by the extent to which individuals identify with their ethnic culture, feel a sense of pride in their cultural heritage, and participate in traditional cultural activities within their physical community. Enculturation is a more relevant measure of a person’s attachment to a culture and a community than ethnic identity. This is because enculturation requires ongoing processes that develop over time through factors such as kinship, learning and understanding norms and taboos, and from otherwise absorbing culture through deep connections. Ethnic identity, on the other hand, is a construct that may not necessarily include actual participation in culturally relevant activities or a connection to one's cultural heritage – such as a person who is more or less assimilated into general western society feeling a sense of ethnic pride in their French or Ukrainian heritage, even though they have no significant connection to these cultures or communities. Enculturation is especially important for indigenous people because of the numerous efforts to systematically and forcibly assimilate them or destroy their cultural processes throughout history (e.g. residential schools, relocation efforts, etc.). Other factors that have served to several the enculturation process include out marriage, purposeful assimilation, and adoptions.
It is important to note that enculturation is the primary psychologically factor in ethnic identity. Race, or simply having a measure of ‘blood’, while superficially important is an often a meaningless factor in comparison to enculturation. This is because simply having DNA – or possessing a measure of genetic ancestry – cannot make a person something that they are culturally not. A person who has lived their entire life as a Euro person has been enculturated into that identity. If they happen to find an ethnic anomaly in their family tree, or if they take a DNA test and find they have 4% Native DNA, this fact does not suddenly make them part of that culture. They might be able to add that found fact into their overall ethnic identity (i.e. their self-identified ethnic background), but without long-term connections to the culture, community, and other integral factors that normally come from natural enculturation it is illogical to make the broad claim to being a representative of that culture/ethnic community. A case in point is the admission of a self-proclaimed “Acadian Metis” elder, who stated in an interview that they had lived for decades identifying as French Acadian, but who learned through genealogical research that they had a long ago ancestor who was indigenous. When asked when they started to identify as Metis, this individual stated that they found out, “After I started doing research on it…That was just before I retired as I had more time”.
Can a person who spent (perhaps) 60+ years living as a European ever truly be part of, or have a valid claim to indigenous identity? Would a person who found out their distant ancestor was from Germany ever be able to be a German? It doesn’t seem possible given our understanding of the enculturation process – something that takes a lifetime and which is an ongoing process. That individual would have missed the cultural morals taught in childhood; could not have learned the social rituals that are acquired during adolescence; would lack the understanding of the ceremonies, beliefs, methods of social interactions, and (in essence) would operate like a floundering child within that culture and would never be accepted as a fully-actualized member of that culture and ethnic group.
The attempts to reconstruct the “eastern Metis” as a cultural community seems doomed to failure. Without an extant historical or contemporary cultural community, there can never be a functional constitution of a group that would ever be seen as a Nation or a people by an objective observer. This doesn’t mean that people who find out later in life that they have an indigenous ancestor should not be proud of that fact: they should. However, they cannot expect other indigenous people to welcome them with open arms, as their attempts at self-indigenization will almost certainly be viewed as illegitimate – because they lack the true indigenous ethnic experience that takes a lifetime to acquire. Attempts to make such claims cannot be expected to be left unopposed, as it is tantamount to cultural appropriation…or better yet enculturation appropriation.
An interesting historical area located along the Missouri River in central Montana (in what is now Fergus County) was the unique flats where Fort Carroll and Rocky Point developed.
Rocky Point was a crossing on the Missouri River, was just below the mouth of Rock Creek. There was a shale reef at this point which provided a solid bottom and a low-water ford. The flat area on the south side of the Missouri river became one of the many woodchopper camps along the river, while Fort Carroll was a trading post was built about 5 miles from Rocky Point in 1873 by Matt Carroll and his associates of the old Diamond R cattle company. Fort Carroll served as a trading post to the Metis and local ranchers who were settling the region, and for a time it was a busy stop for overland travel and for the river trade too.
Freight would often unload from steamboats at the post and would travel on long, Metis ox cart trains, often moving goods three hundred and fifty miles to the miners in the Rocky Mountains. The ox cart trains would wind their way across the bad lands of northern Fergus country into the good grass country, the Judith Basin, passing Camp Lewis (now known as Lewistown) on out through Judith Gap and up the Musselshell valley, then on into Helena.
Every type of the westerner of that day might be seen at the trading post: Cowboys, cattle rustlers, half-breed hunters, miners, gamblers, and adventurers of every class. It was a busy place, with the arrival of the big bull outfits from Helena and the loading of freight from the boats to the endless line of wagons that made up the outfits. Every kind of business prospered, too; the saloon and the gambling joints doing more than all of the others combined. The post was the supply point for a vast territory as it was the head of navigation it was the same busy place, for the steamboats could come up the river late in the fall and the freight outfits could haul their cargoes as long as the boats could deliver them.
In 1875, the obstructions in the river channel had been cleared so that the boats could go up river as far as Fort Benton, and Fort Carroll died as quickly as it came into existence. The buildings were deserted; the population moved away.
Even after the demise of Fort Carroll, Rocky Point thrives for a few more years. In 1880, C.A. Broadwater, Helena merchant and entrepreneur, moved to Rocky Point and erected a building. He named the settlement Wilder after his business partner Amherst Wilder. He requested military aid and a detachment of 19 men was sent to this post probably from Fort Maginnis.
In 1885, Rocky Point consisted of one store, one hotel, one feed stable, two saloons, a blacksmith shop and the ferry run by Jimmy Taylor. The store was run by R.A. Richie and a warehouse 40 ft. x 90 ft. was run by M.F. Marsh who also ran his bar and hotel.
Rocky Point was recognized as a meeting point for many thieves and scoundrels. In 1884, local newspapers mention a series of horse-related crimes that resulted in the lynching two half-breeds. One of the horse thieves was a Scotch-Metis named McKenzie, who was accused of stealing a little blue mare from a prospector. Apparently McKenzie befriended the prospector, who was working the south side of the Missouri River. The prospector reported that as he was getting his supper, a stranger walked up saying his horse had run off. The prospector gave him supper and invited him to spend the night. In the morning the stranger was gone along with the little blue mare. The prospector walked ten miles to Rocky Point where he informed the authorities to be on the lookout for the thief and the horse.
group of cowboys and ranchers began scouring the country. One rider topped a ridge and spotted McKenzie with the blue mare and another horse. The rider captured him and took him to Rocky Point. McKenzie was given supper the evening before he was to be hanged. While eating his supper, he saw a fiddle hanging on the wall so he asked if he could play it. The fiddle was taken down and McKenzie started to play. He entertained everyone that evening with his beautiful playing.
The next day McKenzie was taken to Fort Maginnis where he was hanged.
On the next morning one of the local ranchers was riding in his wagon with his girl. He asked if she would like to see a man who had been hanged and she said "yes" thinking he was joking. As they topped a rise they saw a grove of cottonwood trees and something among hanging them. The woman expressed sadness for the poor man, and the rancher finally said, "He did play his fiddle right well, didn't he?"
See more: Forgotten towns of Fergus. By Johnny Ritch, FROM THE DEMOCRAT NEWS (July 4, 1957 newspaper reprinted) Dec. 17, 1912
If you scroll around Facebook, Twitter, or just regular old webpages, it seems that there is an ever-growing virtual community that has sprung up to promote self-indigenized people – especially those claiming to be eastern Metis. The reason for this is quite simple: the internet serves as a vehicle for virtual indigenization where people separated by many miles can come together to cobble together a “community” and “culture” in the absence of a real, living and breathing one.
There seems to be almost no limit to the ways in which people with a limited claim to being indigenous and no real connection to others in the real-life indigenous world can come together to imagine that they are really experiencing an indigenous existence. The virtual world helps them to shamelessly construe and construct what they imagine an indigenous community to be. It allows them to create a hodgepodge “society” where their imagination is validated, their assumed history is thrown together into a melting pot, and their present claims to being “real indigenous people” can be justified. It is the place where their future success is imagined.
The Internet allows these people to confirm biases and provide encouragement of relatively uncensored ideas with little shame – because they have no real skin in the game and no real community to hold them accountable. The virtual world makes it easier to build an indigenous identity where one may not exist, because the people sharing their internet “community” do not actually have to deal with them on a day to day base, or witness the mundanity of their regular lives within the real-world cities and small towns where they live as white people for most of the day, but become mighty indigenous warriors once they boot up their browser. The internet can even help them to forge entirely new identities when needed, claim new indigenous ancestors, and gives license to falsehoods that can hardly be countered because they can always click a small “x” at the top of the screen to escape when needed.
Of course, if one is brave enough, they can forego the “x” and just resort to name calling and trolling if someone calls them on the carpet for any reason…and if that doesn’t work, they can just block them and continue on their merry way because they know that they have the safety of the virtual “talking circle” to sooth their ruffled feathers.
Contrary to the idea that Metis identity is a "catch-all", racial term that mean mixed-blood, the actual genesis of the Metis Nation was the creation of generations of mixed-blood marriages, rather than the result of a marriage between a Native person and a European.
What was quite common was that after the initial European/Indian marriage, ALL subsequent marriages in a lineage were almost exclusively between mixed-bloods and eventually people who were part of the historic Metis Nation.
For instance, in the Magloire McLeod family tree, there is a good genealogical breakdown of a family line that shows significant mixed-blood intermarriage with the European ancestry providing little more than the initial admixture. In essence, European lineages were an almost ancillary fact in the matter in the genesis of the Metis Nation.
Purple = European, Green = mixed-blood, Yellow = Indian/Native, and Red = historic Metis Nation
Out of a possible 20 ancestors, only 3 are European, and after the initial inter-marriage and resultant children, no European bloodlines re-enter the equation again.
The Genesis of those persons who are later part of the Metis Nation occurred in the early 19th century and not in the 18th or 17th centuries. These persons were enumerated as Metis in a variety of ways (i.e. scrip or on the 1870 census).
The other side of this family (from wife Marguerite Lafournaise) there is almost no European/Native admixture and none of these individuals were enumerated as Metis on scrip or census in Canada, but were instead listed as Indian or Native on several censuses in the United States, or as mixed-bloods in the United States. The majority of this family was listed on various Indian census rolls for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota.
Although many of these individuals even participated in the battles at Batoche during the 1885 rebellion, most of these people were party to various Native Treaties and Agreements in the United States and are considered "Indian" for most purposes and are not part of the historic Metis Nation.
The thing to remember is that not every mixed-blood person is a Metis, and not every person born of a mixing between a European and a Native is a Metis. The development of the Metis Nation happened over generations of marriage between mixed-blood people in the territories of what is the historic Metis Homeland in western Canada and the northern United States which created kinship ties and the development of a unique and distinct culture that is known as Metis.
Following the 1885 Rebellion, life was difficult for the Metis. Many fled from Canada to the United States to escape punishment by authorities. With the buffalo decimated, they sometimes had to resort to extreme means to feed themselves. This account by the Northwest Mounted Police speaks of a group of Metis in the Sweet Grass Hills area of north-central Montana who took it upon themselves to start harvesting cattle in-lieu of buffalo - leading to a comical "reign of terror".
We were the means of breaking up a nest of [Metis] rascals in the Sweet Grass Hills last April.
A colony of about forty Canadian half-breeds, popularly known as “Rebellion half-breeds,” had settled there, having sought the seclusion of the United States in 1885. Not having any means to speak of and being correspondingly disinclined to work they had become an ever increasing nuisance to their not very numerous neighbors until, emboldened by impunity, they had at length established something very like a reign of terror.
They openly boasted that they were in the habit of killing and that they intended to kill all the cattle they wanted for their use, and that they would burn out any one who should interfere with them or inform on them. Their leader went a step further and bragged that he would shoot anyone who should attempt to arrest him. I believe it is a fact that at one time a certain cattle ranch in Montana stationed a man in the hills to watch these half-breeds with a view of bringing any cattle killer to justice, and that he imbibed such a wholesome dread of the half-breed leader’s vengeance that he arranged to be out of the way when any slaughtering was intended. It is credibly said that the half-breed knocked at the range rider’s door one day, and inquired “Is so and so in? Tell him I am going to kill to-day.” The story further goes that “So and so” discreetly lay low for that day.
Be that as it may the settlers used to complain bitterly of the depredations of these rascals for which there seemed to be no remedy. It was intimated that the half-breeds were in the habit of occasionally crossing the international boundary in their nefarious pursuit and, as we had no means of watching their settlement in Montana, the settlers were requested if possible to give us notice of their coming on to Canadian soil. Pursuant to this arrangement, on the 21st April a settler in the hills sent word to Corporal Dickson at Writing on-Stone that a party of the half-breeds was on its way into Canada. The country at the foot of the hills is very much broken up into coulées and the messenger guided Corporal Dickson to the wrong place. So that, after being out watching all night with no result he went back to his detachment. Next day the settler, who had been following the half-breeds, rode to Writing-on-Stone himself and conducted Corporal Dickson and a constable to a place known as half-breed coulée. Hard by there was a pile of bones which has always been looked upon as correctly marking the boundary, and the half breed party was some distance to the north thereof. So that neither the American settler nor Corporal Dickson had any doubt as to the jurisdiction of the Canadian police. When day dawned Corporal Dickson first of all secured the half-breeds’ horses and hid them at a short distance. There were three half-breeds in the party and presently two of them started off to bring in their horses. Taking the precaution to arrest the man who was left in camp before he could reach his fire arm, Corporal Dickson then discharged the rifle and guns which he found in the camp, and the reports brought back the other two men, who were easily secured in detail. The slaughtered remains of a cow and calf were found in the camp, the cow’s hide bearing the circle brand of Conrad Brothers. The cow had been shot in the head, the rifle bullet being found embedded therein. The prisoners were brought here and duly committed for trial. A surveyor, who was sent out to determine the exact location of the international boundary, found that the half-breeds had been arrested at a spot about twenty-two chains on the American side thereof, and the prisoners were then held for extradition at the request of the the Attorney General of Helena. When brought before the extradition commissioner here the prisoners’ counsel argued that they were not fugitive criminals within the meaning of the Extradition Act, and the judge finally adopted that view and discharged them from custody.
Needless to say, they did not return to their old haunts. A little later a troop of United States cavalry visited the Sweet Grass Hills and the half-breed settlement there was broken up.
1895 Sessional Papers, Volume 28, Issue 9, By Canada. Parliament
The number of self-identified Metis in Quebec and the Maritimes is estimated to now be in the hundreds of thousands. In part one of this two-part series, APTN’s Justin Brake takes a closer look at self-identified Acadiens-Métis in Nova Scotia and whether their claims of indigeneity are harmless, or harmful. Watch the video below.
Dibaajimowin would like to thank the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs and the Métis National Council for their recent Memorandum of Understanding respecting each other's nationhood and agreeing to work collaboratively on the problem of pop-up groups and individuals claiming to represent Metis in Nova Scotia. This was a necessary action that serves to tackle a growing problem that affects indigenous people across Canada.
The assumption and inflation of distant indigenous ancestry (real or assumed) by otherwise non-indigenous people is a phenomenon that can be read to reveal an often sinister meaning with possibly serious consequences for actual indigenous communities and people. This is because such people often selectively (mis)use and inflate their assumed indigenous identity for very specific political ends, be it a desire for hunting rights, educational assistance, government funding, or just to satisfy some narcissistic need to make themselves special.
Commandeering the role and the voice of indigenous people is an act of colonial power whereby those who have always enjoyed the benefits of white privilege can (on a whim) construct a particular identity that allows them the ability to trespass on the spaces of actual indigenous people without the need to suffer any of the real consequence of being an indigenous person beyond self-identifying when it is beneficial. Indeed, the number of white people (or people with the most tenuous claims to indigenous identity) are now fabricating indigeneity to obscure, if not dispel, actual indigenous voices in the public sphere.
Voluntarily highlighting, if not inflating one’s claim to a particular ethnicity (e.g. self-identifying without a real connection) – is a common feature of the contemporary white experience. This is especially so when the ethnicity being claimed is one that is seen as ‘neat’ or ‘special’. Such people who do this rarely harm indigenous people. However, given recent statistics from census returns and the number of “pop-up” indigenous organizations in the US and Canada, the problem is growing – and can be seriously problematic when such claims are used to gain a tactical advantage in the assertion of their voices as the loudest in the room. In such cases those claiming indigeneity are staging an extreme form of anti-indigenous activism because their ability to leverage their white privilege can actually amplify their positions in a weaponized use of their claimed indigeneity.
Therefore, it is important to stand up against the myriad of fake and fraudulent groups seeking to press their newfound claims of indigeneity above those of actual indigenous people. Claims that seek to silence indigenous people or to diminish their hard fought gains should always be opposed. It is the duty of every single indigenous group to stand up and make it clear that such actions will not be allowed to pass unopposed.
Photo 1 taken from http://www.metisnation.ca/index.php/news/mi%E2%80%99kmaq-metis-nation-leaders-come-together-to-discuss-nationhood
Photo 2 taken from https://globalnews.ca/news/4234783/eastern-metis-canada/
Even though the US/Canadian border was established in the early 1870s, the Metis mostly disregarded this artificial “medicine line”. One of the main groups who operated between what was US territory and what was now Canada were the nomadic Métis bands known as the ‘hivernants’ (or overwinterers) who hunted the buffalo wherever they roamed and traded at posts along the upper Missouri River.
Often called the Cypress Hills hunting brigade, this group of hunters included Plains Saulteaux, Cree, Nakota and Métis buffalo hunters who regularly gathered on the Milk River plains along the border at Cypress Hills then followed the herds along the Milk River and down into the Judith Basin of Montana and east to the Grand Coteau near the Mouse (Souris) River. They were one of the bands who were part of the great assembly of the Nehiyaw Pwat alliance which was also known as the Iron Alliance — a historic poly-ethnic group that hunted, fought enemies, and married between each other, creating a ‘Iron’ alliance of peace and mutual prosper.
Many of the families associated with this band were enumerated on the 1850 Minnesota Territory census and had close ties to the Pembina settlement, and a number of men were also part of the Pembina and Red Lake Bands — receiving half-breed scrip under the Old Crossing Treaty of 1863.
Some of the names from the band included: Trottier, Wallette/Ouellette, Bottineau, LaFountain, Laverdure, Wilkie, Berger, Charette, Fagnant/Fayant, Caplette, Dumont, Gariépy, Peltier, Malaterre, Jolibois, Breland, Delorme, Vilibrun, Parenteau, Thomas, Davis, Marion, Lemire, Morrisette, St. Germain, Robillard, Laplante, Gladue, Brien, Morin, Poitra, Hamlin, Vallie/Vallee, Racette, LaPierre, Swain, Fiddler, Grant, Belgarde, Houle, Lafournaise, Langer, Larocque, Champagne, Short, Amyotte, and many others.
Following the diminishment of the buffalo and the defeat at Batoche, some of the band members scattered around Saskatchewan and Alberta; others went to Montana and became the landless Indians of the Little Shell. Many other band members moved to Turtle Mountain in North Dakota and Canada, where they had long-standing family ties. Those on the US side of the border obtained Indian status (in most cases) and settled onto the Turtle Mountain Reservation.
(2013) History of the Cypress Hills Hunting Brigade The Petition of 1878. By Lawrence Barkwell
(2016) Hivernant Métis Families, Brigades and Settlements in the Cypress Hills. by Jack Elliott
Ethnic identity crisis is a strange phenomenon indeed – especially when it comes to people who falsely claim to be indigenous (Indian, Inuit, or Metis). These People who have no right to make their claims, but because of something missing inside themselves they blatantly stake wild claims that can adversely affect actual Indigenous people. Now, we’re not talking about actual Indigenous people who were divested of their cultural identity by factors like adoption or government policies like relocation, who are undertaking a journey to discover their true Indigenous identity. Rather, we are talking about those who claim Indigenous heritage based on family lore, a mysterious Indian ancestor they found on Ancestry.com, or who just want to be Indigenous so they make it up.
Individuals who suffer from an ethnic identity crisis usually do so for an assortment of reasons. Some just want to be part of another ethnicity because they think it’s cool, noble, or they just like what the other culture represents. Others do so because of the apparent benefits that the think Indigenous people receive, such as the ability to get scholarships or to check a box on a job application.
Now some of these people might actually have an Indigenous ancestor, but that ancestor is long forgotten and their family has likely lived as European for several generations – fully assimilating themselves and happily enjoying the benefits of white privilege. However, the popularity of DNA tests, genealogical research, and some of the recent legal decisions in the US and Canada have peaked a curiosity in them. Maybe they want hunting rights; maybe they think that they can cash in on some of the rumored “easy money” that they think can be had by Indigenous people; but suddenly they are 100% Indigenous and proud of their “Indigenous heritage” no matter how remote or uncertain it may actually be. Even if their Indigenous ancestry comes from a (often dubious) great grandmother from the early 1600s, they make a decision that of all of the succeeding generations who have lived as white people, that single Indigenous ancestor will hereinafter define them and make them Indigenous.
Sadly, most of these persons suffering from an ethnic identity crisis understand the real truth – that they are really not Indigenous. Nonetheless, they dig in their heels and thump their chests with misplaced pride. Knowing that they don’t actually have a link to an actual Indigenous community, they might claim to be Metis using the racial definition of a person with mixed European/Indigenous ancestry as the basis for this claim. They might run out and join a “tribe” or a “Metis” group in order to get a card to bolster their credentials. In the most extreme cases they might even start their own group and recruit others of similar dubious Indigenous heritage to join them because there is safety in numbers. A lone person suffering an ethnic identity crisis making false claims is easily dismissed as a wannabe, but several of them together can shout really loudly and make a big stink about it – fooling those around them who might not be privy to their doubtful claims.
So what can be done about these people suffering from ethnic identity crisis? Sadly, not much. They will likely always be a thorn in the side of true Indigenous people and communities. They will continue to scream about their “pride”, shout about their (supposed) proof, and they will threaten those who do not believe them and who stand against the damage they do to Indigenous people. It’s sad, but it probably won’t stop any time soon.
Are you Métis, or do you think that your ancestors were Métis? Proving this is often more complicated than simply finding a long lost "Indian ancestor" and making the claim to being Métis based on having a drop of Indian blood.
In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the settlements awarded by the federal government to the Métis inhabitants of Manitoba and the former North-West Territories. The records created by the scrip commissions, and the Department of the Interior in its administration of federal land policies, are now consulted by a wide range of users. The records have become particularly important, however, in two key areas: in the debate surrounding Métis allegations into the mishandling of their rights, as an Aboriginal people, by the federal government; and in family histories, especially with those seeking re-instatement under the Indian Act.
The Library and Archives of Canada have a search engine that can direct a researcher to a photocopy of the original scrip document, or at least give a reference number to the library collection.
The link to do the search is accessible through the link below:
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities