Symposium spotlights the latest in Métis research
From April 27 to 29, Métis post-secondary students had front row seats to learn about the latest in Métis research.
They were among nearly 100 people who attended the Ways of Knowing: Promising Directions for Métis Research symposium in Ottawa, co-hosted by the Chair of Métis Research at the University of Ottawa and Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO). The event brought together scholars from across the homeland to share their work and create a dialogue about Métis-focused research.
The goals of the symposium were to provide an opportunity for post-secondary students to interact with academics, to see themselves in the research, to promote further education and to highlight research gaps.
“This is something that’s really extraordinary. There are very few spaces that are created specifically for Métis academics to talk about the work that they are doing,” said MNO President Margaret Froh.
“I’m hoping that we are planting some good seeds. We’re absolutely making some good connections and some good networking.”
Chair of Métis Research at the University of Ottawa, Brenda Macdougall, PhD, said many post-secondary students feel they don’t have anything to contribute to research, but the event showed the opposite. She said attendees were engaged in the forum’s many topics and they asked important and thoughtful questions.
“I want young people to actually see themselves in the possibility of actually being professors. It’s not a career people aspire to, but we can’t expect change if we aren’t the people there making those changes, so we have to pursue these opportunities,” she said.
“Each person that has presented saw something that was missing and decided to fill it. We can’t complain and then not actually do something about it.”
The symposium drew a prestigious group of speakers, including practising lawyers, experts, academics and professors from the University of Ottawa, University of Saskatchewan, York University, University of Winnipeg, University of Toronto, University of Calgary, and Carleton University.
“It’s just been a phenomenal gathering of minds talking about what are some of the other conversations we need to have,” said Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO)Youth Representative Mitch Case.
“By bringing everyone together and creating a specifically Métis space, we don’t have to explain who we are, we don’t have to justify why we’re talking about this, we don’t have to justify our existence, we can just talk about things that are important.”
Many of the researchers began their presentations with their own personal stories, indicating where they were from, their Métis heritage and also how they came to their research topics.
“I think that’s something that’s really important,” said Cassidy Caron, Métis Nation British Columbia Minister for Youth. “We are all struggling to uncover what Métis identity is and be a really strong and proud Métis Nation.”
Jean Teillet, Senior Counsel with Pape Salter Teillet LLP, gave the keynote speech called Walking in the Footsteps of My Ancestors, which highlighted her family’s history. She spoke about how important it is to tell Métis history through those personal stories.
Jason Madden, co-managing partner of Pape Salter Teillet LLP, also presented. He spoke about achieving government-to-government relationships between the Crown and Métis and what is needed to move forward on reconciliation.
The symposium featured a number of MNO citizens’ work and research, which was featured during panels that addressed a variety of themes.
Karen Drake, Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke during a panel about racialized law and legal orders’ impact on identity; MNO associate Director of Education and Way of Life Brian Tucker, PhD, spoke during a panel focused on life on the land; and later, Tera Beaulieu, PhD candidate at the University of Toronto and MNO Toronto and York Region Métis Council President, took to the podium to speak about urban Métis and Métis storytelling.
In between presentations by the speakers, there was time for questions and networking. Coming off the podium, attendees flocked to presenters with questions or comments about possible research and other opportunities.
The symposium put all of that research centre stage, and provided the opportunity for academics to showcase their work in one space, to point out the gaps that still exist in Ontario Métis research, and to encourage others to fill them.
“I think it’s about time we did this,” he added.
The final panel, about the intersection of education and reconciliation, featured speakers Jennifer St. Germain, PhD Candidate Carleton University and MNO Chief Strategy Officer; Benny Michaud, Acting Assistant Director, Centre for Indigenous Initiatives, Carleton University; and Sheila Grantham, PhD Candidate, School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies, Carleton University.
Following presentations and discussions, on April 28, attendees participated in a cultural evening with beading workshops led by MNO youth and a jigging workshop led by Ginny Gonneau with Alicia Blore on the fiddle and Liam Blore on guitar. Opening and closing prayers at the event were given by MNO Ottawa Region Métis Council Senator Parmallia Burgie.
The event was inspiring for youth, said Katelyn LaCroix, PCMNO Post-Secondary Representative.
“I think a lot of students are intimidated by research, so creating spaces where academics can be seen as people and not just these amazing, invisible authors is a way to kind of see research as accessible and as personal to their own stories, in their own lives.”
She added the entire event not only showcased the importance of community, but it helped create it by bringing everyone together.
“Youth need and want this. They crave this kind of connection and it’s exciting,” she said.