The Métis-ization of Canada: The Process of Claiming Louis Riel, Métissage, and the Métis People as Canada’s Mythical Origin
Keywords:Louis Riel, Metis, Canadian identity
The historical narrative around Métis political leader Louis Riel has undergone a extraordinary change since the 1960s—once reviled by Anglo-Canadians, Riel is now paradoxically celebrated as a Canadian hero, and this “Riel-as-Canadian” narrative has become a common trope in contemporary Canadian political culture. Emanating from the Canadianization of Louis Riel is a parallel colonial discourse that distances itself from past attempts to assimilate Indigenous people into Canada, arguing instead for the assimilation of Canadians into a pan-Indigenous political identity. Central to this dialogue is a discourse on “métissage” and “Canadian métisness” that is heralded as the founding myth of Canada. This paper deconstructs this logic, as put forward by Jennifer Reid in Louis Riel and the Creation of Modern Canada and John Ralston Saul in A Fair Country. Both works uncritically assume that Canada’s colonial problem is largely a failure of non-Indigenous people to embrace their underlying Indigenous political identity and acclimate themselves to this continent as a people of mixed political descent. This claim, however, is simply an inversion of colonization, a re-hashing of age-old colonial fantasies of unity, and an attempt to unite all the Indigenous and non-Indigenous polities in Canadian territory under a single sovereign entity—Canada.
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