Recounting the history of Métis in B.C.

Talk this Tuesday in honour of Louis Riel Day

By Lorene Keitch

Louis Riel Day will be celebrated early this year in Invermere, with a presentation by a Métis historian Tuesday, November 14th.

Brodie Douglas is a database records clerk with Métis Nation BC. His job is to flesh out the Métis history found within historical records.

“I’m a firm believer that Métis are the best-kept secret in Canada,” commented Mr. Douglas.

Mr. Douglas has shared his extensive knowledge with elementary right up to university students, general-interest audiences and specialty groups. The talk, he confirms, is for anyone with a general interest in history and an inclination of understanding where we came from and how our province was formed.

“I really hope that people will understand that Métis are a part of our indigenous landscape,” says Mr. Douglas. “It’s a real uphill battle to gain recognition that Métis are distinct, we have been here for over 200 years in the province, as well as we continue to play vital part in building the province and contribute to its cultural dynamics.”

The Métis history in the Columbia Valley is rich, with areas such as the Sinclair Pass named after Métis fur trader (James Sinclair). When David Thompson made his way into B.C. near Golden, he sent two Métis men ahead of him to cut the trail.

“Having arrived into the area in at least 1807, we remained in the area and very much developed alongside the Kinbasket and Ktunaxa nations, marrying into both and taking on leadership roles in both those nations,” Mr. Douglas reports.

In his six years of study on behalf of the Métis Nation British Columbia, Mr. Douglas has found that early records dating back to the 1700s identify Métis as a distinct group. Then there is a shift in the early 1900’s, when there was “almost a denial,” of the Métis people as a distinct group, Mr. Douglas explains.

Mr. Douglas delves into records anywhere he can find, including resources at Library Archives Canada, provincial archives, fur trade records, journals written by travel writers, census information, family histories, parish records, and more. And because the history of Métis in B.C. is tied to other provinces, he looks further afield as well.

“To take a look at local B.C. (history), we have to look all across Canada, because our experience is very unique, but it’s not in isolation,” Mr. Douglas explains. “It’s very much a continuity of the greater story flowing across Canada and indeed the greater Métis nation story plays very much on a local and regional level in B.C.”

Debra Fisher, president of the Columbia Valley Métis Association, invites anyone interested to come to this free event happening at the library at 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 14th, put on by the local Métis association and Métis Nation British Columbia. Refreshments will be served and, in honour of Louis Riel Day, Thursday, November 16th, there will be a celebratory cake.

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