In my own words

Words have power. Whether written or spoken, they can unite as easily as they can divide. In light of recent questions about my identity, I need to share my story, both for my own survival and self-worth and, hopefully, for others whose lives and careers may have been impacted by similar allegations. It’s my hope that by speaking out I can clarify questions that have been asked of me and perhaps contribute to a larger conversation about the complexities of determining Indigenous identity across Turtle Island.

Contrary to what the media has publicised, in all of my 22 years of professional artistic practice, I have never wavered from self-identifying as mixed blood (Métis) of Algonquin and French Canadian ancestry. I have always been transparent about what I know of my Algonquin/French Canadian roots and, until the fall of 2020, I’d never once been asked to provide “proof”. Therefore, when I was asked to provide a specific community of origin, I named the most well-known community where my family stories come from. When this was challenged by a community representative, I began a detailed process of inquiry that included reaching out to the community directly, and stepping back from my work and responsibilities in order to enquire further. I trusted I would be given the time to do this work. This didn’t happen. Instead, after CBC published an article that questioned my identity on December 17, 2020, the allegations blew up into in a relentless media storm: “questions” about my identity quickly became a declaration that I was a “fake” Indigenous person, with devastating consequences.

Over these last four months, I have listened to what was being asked of me, and I’ve undertaken the deeply personal process of investigation. This is a process that doesn’t fit neatly into the “now time” of social media or the instant judgements made on Twitter and Facebook. Pathways into ancestry can be complicated and involve a great deal of comparative analysis and cross checking — for those of us lucky enough to have any records to draw from — or to have family or community memory holders who can relay or confirm oral history. It’s a process that, by its nature, must allow for respectful relationship building and conversation, which takes time.

I firmly believe the process of retracing ancestry is not meant for public or media consumption. This discussion about my identity has caused a great deal of fear and destruction to the wider Indigenous community, as well as to me and my family. I would never wish this upon anyone. It is my sincere hope that this most painful dialogue will nurture healing and greater understanding and compassion for one another.

My Ancestry

My maternal lineage is non-status Algonquin ancestry with intergenerational mixed bloods, French Canadian (Métis) of the Gatineau Valley, Quebec.¹ Through my mother, I have traced my Algonquin ancestry through both my grandmother and grandfather’s lines. My father’s side of the family is of French-Canadian, Irish and Scottish ancestry.²

Me and my mom in Thunder Bay, where I grew up

I have always self-identified as a person of mixed heritage — specifically Metis, Algonquin and French Canadian. I grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario though my mother’s family all come from Maniwaki, a town situated in western Quebec that developed concurrently commencing in 1850 with an Algonquin Indian Reserve (bound by the Gatineau, Desert and Eagle rivers). Our family has a connection to both Maniwaki and the historical community of Baskatong. My maternal grandfather, Walter Gagnon, taught me about the land and our family’s relation to it through the stories and knowledge passed down from his parents. His parents, my great grandparents, lived and raised him and their family in Baskatong, Quebec, a historical community that was known for its Algonquin and Métis population. Though Baskatong was destroyed in 1927, it was part of a larger regional and diasporic community bringing together Métis and non-status Indians of the Gatineau Valley.³

Baskatong was a village about 70 kilometres north of the Algonquin Indian Reserve that was officially named Rivière Désert and was designated as “Maniwaki Reserve #18”, more commonly known throughout the region as “the Maniwaki reserve.” The adjacent town, also called Maniwaki, was developed on land that was originally part of the reserve and evolved concurrently with it. The band council changed the name of the reserve to Kitigan Zibi Anishinaabeg in 1991.⁴

My forefathers and foremothers by my maternal family name of Gagnon had arrived much earlier to the Maniwaki area. Before that, a number of my Algonquin ancestors were recorded present at the missionary settled in 1721 at Lake of Two Mountains (Oka). Two generations of my direct ancestors can be verified back to Lake of Two Mountains from the late 1700’s to early 1800’s, after which their children moved into off-reserve Quebec near Maniwaki in the early 1900’s.⁵

My mixed Algonquin and French Canadian heritage, in particular, was reinforced over five generations of residency and intermarriages between Algonquin and French Canadians in the unceded Algonquin territory of western Quebec and, later, spanned across the Ottawa River into Northeastern Ontario. Through the colonizer way of paternal surnames, we are Gagnons, Gravels, Lacroix, Pichettes, and more. The existence of the mixed blood community to which my ancestors belong was known to both the Catholic church and the government.⁶

From 1870 to 1927, the Oblate missionaries of Maniwaki operated an “Indian Mission” in Baskatong. This small undocumented village community of mixed bloods had been living off the land and residing in their own cabins, working and sharing with each other as hunters and travelling seasonally through the territory. According to Algonquin Elders I’ve spoken with, my ancestors were considered to be squatters by local townsmen and were commonly referred to by the status, reserve-based Algonquin as “bush people”, acknowledging they had retreated, like many Algonquin, into the surrounding natural areas of traditional unceded Algonquin territory. In my family’s case, this was the area north of the town and reserve at Maniwaki. The majority of these non-status Algonquin or “half breeds” had either no right or interest to reside on the Maniwaki reserve in the 1920s. Due to gender discrimination in the Indian Act (1876), Algonquin or Métis women in relationship with non-Algonquin men were forced to leave the reserve, often choosing to live in the neighboring town of Maniwaki or in surrounding areas such as Baskatong. Children of these women were also deemed non-status and through continued intermarriage with either status, non-status, or “half breeds”, there eventually became distinct Métis groups in the immediate and surrounding areas within the territory.⁷ This included the community of Baskatong where my grandfather and his people resided until they were forcibly evicted and dispersed when the government of Quebec, in partnership with a private corporation, flooded the entire area to create a massive reservoir for hydro-electric power.⁸

My ancestral family surnames (such as Lacroix) are on the Kitigan Zibi specific census and, photographs of our family members are posted on the historical page of Kitigan Zibi Anishinaabeg’s website.⁹ I am a direct descendant of a dispersed Indigenous people from upriver in Baskatong, Quebec. My grandfather’s historic village lies under water in what is now called the Baskatong Reservoir.

A photograph of my family members, posted on the historical page of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg website

My great grandfather’s twin brother, William Gagnon, married Cecilia Natowesi — the mixed-blood daughter of Mani Jacko Natowesi Kiskanokwe. This marriage also connects me through contemporary kinship ties to status Kitigan Zibi Algonquin Elder, Annie Smith St. Georges — a leading collaborator in the Indigenous arts world and former Elder to the National Arts Centre.¹⁰ Annie is the biological grandniece to Spiritual Leader and Elder William Commanda (1903–2011). William Commanda himself recognized the need for the Métis in Western Québec to join with First Nations and Québécois to build intercultural bridges and coexistence.¹¹

An expert genealogist I worked with is able to prove that many people from the community of Baskatong, including some of my family members, were recorded on both the Baskatong and Kitigan Zibi census records because the ebb and flow between the two communities created so many kinship and familial ties, and cultural connections. These historical ties have also been documented in various texts.¹² The complexity of relationships and registered identities, the displacement of individuals and communities under colonization, widespread industrialization and government policies of assimilation have together conspired to erase our family ties and our shared histories, even from each other.

Colonialism ripped apart, displaced, and attempted to erase and divide Indigenous peoples. In order to survive, many were forced to hide their children, their names, and their identities. Racism created an imposed shame so deep that, if they could pass as white, many non-status, mixed-race and Métis identified as French Canadian to survive. The importance of family stories and oral histories passed down through generations is a telling resistance to this erasure.

Today

In the autumn of 2020, the producers who had invited me to direct Inconvenient Indian asked me to be specific about my community affiliation for the launch of the film.¹³ I named Kitigan Zibi. It was what I had been told was the closest historic connection to a “legally established” or non-flooded and non-forcibly dispersed Algonquin nation that represented that side of my ancestry.

It was never my intention to be perceived as a “registered/enrolled member” or “status- Indian” of Kitigan Zibi First Nation. The intention behind my recent naming of Kitigan Zibi was to geographically situate my identity, as I am verifiably connected to the complicated historical and cultural reality of the “Algonquin halfbreed” or Métis population of the Gatineau Valley. This complexity has been painted as though I was attempting to fabricate or appropriate a false identity for personal gain.¹⁴ This is simply not true.

My Personal Story

I was raised in a blue-collar working-class family in Thunder Bay, a northern Ontario town renowned for its issues of systemic and overt racism. As a youth, I learned about my heritage and culture through my grandfather who was a hunting and fishing guide for the majority of his younger years. His knowledge and respect for the land was a gift he passed down and it continues to shape who I am today.¹⁵

My grandfather in Baskatong

In my final year of high school, I competed for acceptance in a theatre program and earned a spot at Montreal’s Concordia University. I worked various summer jobs to pay my way, and graduated with a BFA before moving to Toronto to look for work as an actor. Over the next few years, I met and worked with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous actors and various theatre productions. This was in the early 2000s when there was nothing material to be gained through resources or funding opportunities by identifying as Indigenous. On the contrary, to identify in this way was, at the time, an act of defiance, solidarity, and resistance.

I found that storytelling was infinitely more empowering when I was behind the camera. I could make films about issues that mattered to me. I turned my focus from acting to trying to become a full time independent filmmaker. I couldn’t make a living at this, so I worked at odd jobs and eventually found my way to film festival programming. In 2008, I was hired as an Associate programmer at the ImagineNATIVE Film Festival and worked on contract with them on and off for over six years. It paid very little, but it was a way to learn and support other Indigenous artists and their work.

One of my first short films “Choke” (2010) was about Indigenous students at Dennis Cromarty high school who had to fly to Thunder Bay to access secondary education.¹⁶ Many of these young people struggled and some didn’t make it home alive in the end. Telling stories through film was a way to give voice to the issues that plagued my Northern community, and it became my passion and purpose.

Throughout my career, I have enjoyed the freedom to learn, grow and connect with many Indigenous artists. Collectively we have fostered an urban Indigenous community. I have felt supported in this community and have found great joy and purpose in supporting others. Like many of the fellow artists I admire, I dedicated a lot of time towards creating more opportunity for representation and autonomy inside the greater arts-scape. In this way, organizations like Native Earth Performing Arts, ImagineNATIVE, The Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto, The National Screen Institute, and Women in the Director’s Chair, have been forms of professional or industry community building that I have engaged with and have been active in from 2003 through to 2020. In this time, it has never come to my attention that anyone has doubted who I am or where I come from. I remain a dedicated advocate for Indigenous representation and the autonomy to tell stories that celebrate Indigenous culture, resilience, and resistance.

Oceti Sakowin Camp at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s occupation against the Dakota Access Pipeline 2016

It is both an honour and a great responsibility to tell our stories — a responsibility I don’t take lightly. I have never been more acutely aware of this than when I joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s occupation against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016 for the Viceland series “RISE”.¹⁷ For nine months I worked with a small crew to document the frontlines of a peaceful protest turned warzone. It unified Indigenous peoples across histories, geographies, and ideologies. As people put their bodies in front of bulldozers, snipers, and armed tanks, we all became aware of what we were sacrificing. Being in Standing Rock changed my life and taught me the value of what it means to stand — to really stand, unwavering — for what you believe in.¹⁸ Mni Wiconi. Water is Life.

Like so many artists, it’s often been through my work that I’ve grown to know myself and others. It’s been through that work that identity, culture, and community have fused into commitment. This is also what has made it so difficult to understand the recent accusations that say I have stolen from the Indigenous arts community.

Let me be very clear, I have never applied for a grant where I did not meet eligibility criteria. All of my self-produced work that has received Indigenous-specific grant support has been assessed and approved by professional, established Indigenous administrators and/or artists.¹⁹

Contributing to Community

I have worked hard to give back to the Indigenous arts community, as I’ve always been taught. I’ve hired dozens of Indigenous people behind the camera, mentored emerging artists, and have advocated for increased representation and capacity for Indigenous people and women in the film and television sector.

On the production of Trickster, together with my fellow executive producers Jennifer Kawaja and Julia Sereny, we fought to institute an Indigenous hiring policy that saw 40% Indigenous representation across all production departments. Never before has the national broadcaster, CBC, adapted work by an Indigenous author, produced by a film crew with Indigenous representation at every level. We were shooting on Indigenous territories, creating economic opportunities in northern communities, training up-and-coming Indigenous talent, as well as supporting three Indigenous female directors with the goal of preparing them for series television directing. We were aiming to reach 50% Indigenous hires in season two, and promote at least one of the female directors, as was always the intended plan.²⁰ The fact that the series was cancelled is a travesty.

The Impact of Cancellation

The article first published by the CBC in December, 2020, as well as subsequent articles and the social media frenzy that followed, resulted in a difficult and challenging time for the Indigenous community. It also profoundly damaged me, personally and professionally, asking questions not only about the validity of my identity, but about my honesty, morality, and integrity. I was not afforded proper time to respond thoughtfully, and I became the target of a violent social media backlash.²¹

During these past months, I have received death threats and hate mail. I have been falsely accused of cancelling the show, Trickster. I resigned from the production with the expectation it would continue on without me, with others at the helm. And, contrary to the rumours, I did not impede the production from moving forward and had no input on the ultimate cancellation of the series.

The National Film Board pulled the documentary Inconvenient Indian from the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals, and cancelled a US distribution deal with Ava DuVernay’s company, Array. The contradiction in all of this is that the years dedicated to bringing forward these stories into the mainstream media have been silenced.

My work, often made in collaboration with — and celebration of — Indigenous artists has been silenced and withdrawn from distribution. Awards that were earned for overall merit — not Indigenous identity — were rescinded. The Canadian Screen Awards unilaterally elected to disqualify Trickster for “Best Series” award consideration, a decision that has undermined the work of over one hundred Indigenous and non-Indigenous talent who contributed to making the show. Yet when I asked the academy for clarification around the disqualification and also offered to provide support documentation, I was told that information around the decision was “confidential and final”.

Because the CBC consulted a genealogist who quickly called my ancestry into question based on interpretations and opinions of my family lineage, I am responding with fact-based, documented genealogical and ethnographic research that establishes my Indigenous ancestry and takes into account my kinship and cultural ties to show a more well-rounded view of my identity. I have now verified, through paper documentation, what I always knew to be true. These lineages have also been studied and are among the approved ancestral lines for at least two contemporary organizations that represent the interests of non-Status and/or Métis communities in Canada, making it possible for me to apply for membership.

It’s worth noting that I have heard criticism around the fact that genealogy has entered into this larger discussion about my identity.²² I agree that no one’s culture should be reduced to genealogy alone. Blood quantum arguments are a colonial construct that play into essentialist prejudices and serve to ultimately eradicate Indigenous identity.²³

How is Indigeneity Defined?

What makes one Indigenous and how is Indigeneity defined? More significantly, who gets to define it? If we ask “who can legitimately claim to be Indigenous?” we must determine what it means to be Indigenous through defined criteria. Currently this criteria is unclear. If it were to become clearly defined for us all, I fear it would ultimately risk erasing the history and identities of many Indigenous peoples across these lands. We need only look as far as the Indian Act policy to see evidence of this.²⁴

Many self-identifying Indigenous people are of mixed heritage, so what aspects of an individual do we choose when officially defining them as Indigenous? Is it blood quantum, kinship, cultural practice, an ancestral link, or an identification card that makes a person Indigenous? Is it the ability to speak the language, live on your ancestral homelands, or engage in ceremony? Or is it trauma? It has often been said that if one has not suffered trauma as an Indigenous person, that is not being Indigenous enough, as though resilience is not subjective. But how does one assess another person’s personal or historic trauma and resilience? My ancestors ensured our family would survive by setting aside our direct ties to community. My grandparents instilled in me a pride in who we are. I can only believe that this was in hope that I could fully speak our truth one day. We cannot irrevocably tie identity to trauma if our ultimate goal is to create a world where the next generations will be liberated from pain and walking in strength.

The effects of this type of identity policing are devastating to many in the Indigenous community, particularly artists and academics.²⁵ I would like to imagine a future where we can engage in productive and respectful dialogue, where everyone would be granted the grace to work through the nuances of these issues at a community level. The cruelty and psychological violence of cancel culture has no place in any community, Indigenous or not. Hate speech, misogyny, and accusations and misinterpretations of one’s personal history are dangerous behaviors. Attacking people over blood quantum upholds and serves colonialism. This type of behavior destroys lives — lives we have fought too hard to preserve, reclaim, and celebrate.

If the antithesis of shaming is empathy, then we must nurture and uphold our relationship to one another by acknowledging our interconnectedness as human beings. There’s a reason many Indigenous people end their prayers by saying: All my relations.

The journey towards understanding one’s identity is a lifelong pursuit. That’s where story comes from. It can be both painful and celebratory and it is ever-evolving, shaped by both our past and present experiences. But, in the end, we always connect back to where we started –- standing with our ancestors.

Like my ancestors that came before and as my mother has taught me, I know who I am; I know who I have always been and will continue to be: I am a sister, friend, daughter, partner, collaborator, and comrade. I am an artist and activist, of non-status Algonquin, Métis and French Canadian heritage. I will not apologize for that.²⁶

[1] My ancestral connections are in relation to the history of the mixed Algonquin/French Canadian population of the Baskatong region of the Gatineau Valley. My direct bloodlines have been verified by multiple professional genealogists using source documentation evidence. These lineages have also been studied and are among the approved ancestral lines accepted for potential membership to at least two contemporary organizations that represent the interests of non-Status and/or Métis communities in Canada.

[2] I grew up understanding my Mother’s ancestry as the primary foundation for our family identity. I was told that my father’s ancestry was French Canadian. The very recent engagement with professional genealogists has since revealed that there is also Irish and Scottish ancestry on my father’s paternal side. However, this heritage and its related cultural influences did not play a part in shaping my identity to date (as I was not aware of them until very recently).

[3] The existence of the historical Mixed-blood regional community (the Outaouais Métis) of the Gatineau Valley was then known by the government, who refused in 1896 to let the Métis from the Gatineau Valley and Mattawa join the reserve in Temiscaming (north of Baskatong), as father Nédélec was requesting (Bouchard, Malette, Marcotte, Bois-Brulés, BC, 2020, p. 118–123).

[4] April 19, 1991 — registration number 134802 “The band changes its name to “Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg”. https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/earthsciences/pdf/land-surveys/KITIGAN_ZIBI_ANG.pdf

[5] As determined by primary document, church record marriage certificates.

[6] The existence of the community to which my ancestors belong was known by the Catholic Church, as attested in 1894 by Mgr. Lorrain then in charge of the Pontiac region, stating that we find “few Whites, Sauvages (Indians) and métis who are numerous in the Ottawa diocese, on the Gatineau (which leads to Baskatong) and La Lièvre River””(Bouchard, Malette, Marcotte, Bois-Brulés, BC, 2020, p. 182).

[7] Stephan McGregor, in Since Time Immemorial: Our Story. The Story of the Kitigan Zibi Anishnabeg (2004, p. 216) also attest the presence of my people, when stating: “the Algonquins joined up with Métis, Irish and Scottish lumberjacks.”

[8] “Moreover, from 1870 to 1927, a small village inhabited by Algonquins, Métis and Euro-Canadians was formed at the sources of the Gatineau River, at Baskatong Lake. In 1929, the small town disappeared under water with the commissioning of the Mercier dam and the creation of the current Baskatong Reservoir” (Bouchard 1980: 86–88).

[9] Kitigan Zibi website — http://kzadmin.com/PhotosHistoric.aspx# (Page 3, photo #1)

[10] Facebook post by Annie Smith St Georges “She is the grandniece of my grandpa and grandma who were originally from Michomis Baskatong QC.”

[11] Le Devoir, May 24 1973, p. 4. William Commanda, Algonquin, recognizing publicly the Métis in Western QC.

[12] Scholar Jacques Frenette describes the community of Baskatong as following: “a small village inhabited by Algonquins, Métis and Euro-Canadians was formed at the sources of the Gatineau River, at Baskatong Lake. In 1929, the small town disappeared under water with the commissioning of the Mercier dam and the creation of the current Baskatong Reservoir. The Algonquin families who gathered in the village in the summer, notably the Smiths, the Tolés and the Carls, then relocated to the Desert River Band that they considered to be kin and an affiliated population.” (Frenette, 1993: 43).

[13] The first time I published Kitigan Zibi in my biography was after my producers asked me to specify a community affiliation for the purposes of the National Film Board press release for the Toronto Film Festival premiere of the documentary film Inconvenient Indian. This release was published online through the NFB site in September 2020.

[14] “No one who was motivated purely by gain would be willing to take up the challenging and psychologically intense struggle to reclaim an identity that has been historically so marginalized, with boundaries that are so disputed. Many non-status Algonquins willingly make the journey into “Indianness”, despite its difficulties — not for personal gain but because their families, landless and living in racist environments, had been unable to wholly claim an Algonquin identity or entirely leave it behind.” (Bonita Lawrence, Fractured Homeland: Federal Recognition and Algonquin Identity in Ontario, 2012 — p. 95).

[15] I have always believed that if I cultivated my relationship to the land as I was taught to do, I would be practicing and upholding my identity and culture and, no matter where I lived or worked, this foundational teaching would carry me. “In the absence of knowledge or language and connection to land, Aboriginal people are vulnerable to state-sanctioned notions of identity, such as focusing too much on what it means to be Indian rather than what it means to be connected to the land.” (Bonita Lawrence, Fractured Homeland: Federal Recognition and Algonquin Identity in Ontario, 2012 — p. 194).

[16]https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2011/05/08/seven_native_teens_dead_or_missing_while_away_at_school.html

[17] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/26/arts/television/vicelands-rise-relives-the-dakota-access-pipeline-protests.html

[18] I gave a Ted Talk about my experience in Standing Rock and how it solidified my beliefs and values moving forward. https://www.ted.com/talks/michelle_latimer_lessons_from_the_land_peace_through_relationship

[19] Although I stand by my heritage, I want to be transparent about what I have received in terms of arts council funding, as well as correct the record as has been reported in the media. The last arts council project grant I received was an Ontario Arts Council grant for $15,000 awarded in 2014. I also stepped back from a women’s screenwriting collective that had received group financing while I did this verification work on my heritage. It should be noted that the grants and awards reported in CBC’s the Dec 17, 2020 article are all USA-based grants (in no way tied to Canadian public funding) and none of these grants were awarded based on Indigenous identity. The Chicken and Egg Award (which, contrary to CBC’s reporting, is not related to the Sundance Institute) is awarded to a “mid career non-fiction female filmmaker”. As for Canadian-based awards, my short film, The Underground, received the Best Short Film Award at ImagineNATIVE in 2014. The production team included three Indigenous producers and was therefore eligible to receive this award beyond my affiliation as director. Aside from this award, to the best of my knowledge, my films have never received Indigenous-specific awards.

[20] Trickster hired 40% Indigenous crew across every production department in season one. This program consisted of paid positions for both trainees and professional crew positions. The producers budgeted this money from production fees, which meant funds were allocated away from the screen and into behind-the-scenes training. The trade unions permitted numerous new Indigenous members, thus increasing capacity for meaningful union employment opportunities beyond the production of Trickster. Second season employment initiatives had increased financial support pledged due to the success of the first season program.

[21] Despite numerous emails to CBC news and editorial management to ask about journalistic ethics and practices, I was not afforded proper time to engage in a meaningful way at the community level, away from the media. Time was needed to connect to community Elders and this process was further complicated by COVID-19, with a number of the communities and historical archives being closed to visitors due to health restrictions.

[22] “The targets are put in an impossible position. They are not provided with the source research material. Journalistic privilege is being used to bludgeon people’s identity and the result is a brutal and unwarranted public shaming. Typically, when the subject is a woman, they have stepped down from their job to avoid conflict.When oral history is denigrated, the target may need years and resources of both time and money to mount a concise defense. But who would believe them at that point, an expert has weighed in (and will weigh in again even when they do mount a defense).” (Daniel Voshart, CBC’s Misuse of Genealogy to Attack Indigenous Identity, Medium, April 2021)

https://voshart.medium.com/cbcs-misuse-of-genealogy-to-attack-indigenous-identity-a6dec9edcb69

[23] “From all quarters of Canadian society, the hegemonic view is that Indianness is biological, defined solely by blood and regulated through the Indian Act, and that degrees of Indian blood correspond with Indian status, which in turn corresponds with degrees of cultural purity…..For most then, survival as Indigenous people involves a process of resurgence…..However, resurgence also refers to the intensified struggle of unrecognized Indigenous people to assert their identities, to learn more about their own traditions, and to develop pride in themselves.” (Bonita Lawrence, Fractured Homeland: Federal Recognition and Algonquin Identity in Ontario, 2012 — p 114 -115)

[24] “The domestication within the state of our formerly independent notion of ourselves — our being a distinct peoples — the restriction of our identity and action to arenas built by Settlers, is maintained primarily by the limitation of our self-identification to the Settler State. Breaking out of this would generate enormous collective power in the unity of our voices and numbers, as well as resources. This expansive identity was woven through traditional teachings, but has been lost as restricted, colonial, narrow conceptions of self and community were imposed to break the solidarity of Onkwehonwe nations in their homelands.” (Taiaiake Alfred, Wasase: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom, 2005 — p 144)

[25] “We must all be aware of how identity politics creates further divisions among different associations of peoples, striving, for the most part, to rise above poverty and historic injustices. Divisions rather than unification, are what keep us down, exactly where mainstream systems want us because of the colonists’ desire to remain all powerful and monetarily rich.” (Suzanne Keeptwo, We All Go Back to the Land: The Who, Why, and How of Land Acknowledgements, 2021 — p. 166

[26] As I stated earlier, I believe the process and details of retracing ancestry is not meant for public or media consumption. If future policies by cultural institutions ask that all Indigenous artists provide proof and show their paperwork as part of the criteria for participation, I’ll be happy to present the specific information, researched and verified by an expert genealogist and a qualified ethnologist, with findings substantiated by Elders and Knowledge Keepers from the Maniwaki region in western Quebec.

Michelle is a filmmaker, showrunner, writer and activist. Her goal is to use film and media as a tool for social change.

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