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The Métis in Western Canada: O-Tee-Paym-Soo-Wuk

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The BeginningsThe People and Their CommunitiesCulture and Lifeways
Métis Association of Alberta (1932)

All the while, Adrian Hope was becoming more concerned about the deterioration in the state of the Métis, especially in their failure to help themselves. They were allowing themselves to float from society's mainstream which they had once dominated to the stagnant backwaters. Something more had to be done about it.

He knew what was wrong. Métis children were losing out seriously in education. Many were unable to attend school at any time and too many were leaving school before reaching Grade Four or Five. That was one problem and then there was the almost total absence of organization among the native people.

In 1928, a Native man named Joseph Dion and a Métis man named Adrian Hope joined forces to help organize meetings to address the plight of Alberta's Métis. Disease, illiteracy, and deepening poverty among the Métis were serious concerns that Dion and Hope believed must be brought to the attention of governments. The Great Depression had taken hold and almost everyone in Alberta was having financial hardships, Alberta's Métis, in many instances, were the poorest. They were also aware that they would get a better response if they were organized. Local Métis meetings were held in St. Paul and in St. Albert. Hope also travelled to Calgary to meet with other Métis to gauge their interest in organizing. Under the persistent leadership of Joe Dion, Peter Tompkins, Malcom Norris, and Jim Brady, L'Association des Métis D' Alberta et des Territories du Nord Quest was formed.

One of the first items that Malcom Norris put forward was to reject using the derogatory term ‘Halfbreed.’ He wanted the organization to adopt the name Métis to describe any person with Native and European ancestry, in any proportion. Dion, a devout Catholic, teacher, and a Treaty Native, thought one of the best ways for the Métis to resolve their challenges was to assimilate, with special regard given to their distinct cultural heritage. Norris was a well-established middle class Métis who lived in Edmonton for most of his adult life. Like Brady, he was a socialist who felt the Métis class struggle would be best resolved by allowing them to form their own economy and to form relationships with mainstream society in their own fashion.

Peter Tomkins, who grew up in the Métis community of Grouard (Northern Alberta) focussed on securing basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. Another member, Jim Brady, had limited formal education but was a well-read intellectual who had strong socialist leanings. Although these men had different opinions and perceptions about what would help Métis, they agreed the extreme hardships that many Métis suffered must be addressed.

In keeping with the Métis' strong sense of independence, organizing and identifying common goals often proved difficult. For example, there was a large population of Métis in the Wabamun, Alberta area. In 1939, Norris tried to organize an Interlakes Fish Pool. Forming a cooperative failed because the Métis fishermen preferred to deal individually with private companies so that they could go with whoever offered the highest price. The lifestyles and needs of Métis living in northern Alberta compared to the lifestyles and needs of Métis living in southern Alberta also varied. In the early days of the Métis Association of Alberta, northern Alberta Métis were largely Cree speakers who lived off the land and desired a land base. Southern Alberta Métis spoke mainly English, with some French, and were interested mainly in vocational training so they could obtain independent work.

On 28 December 1932, L'Association des Métis D' Alberta et des Territories du Nord Quest held its first convention in St. Albert. Joseph Dion was president, Malcom Norris was vice-president, and Jim Brady was secretary. Resolutions on issues such as the registration of trap lines, education, health, homelessness, and land were forwarded to the provincial government. Similar to the demands made by Riel and Dumont, the Métis Association of Alberta wanted a land base and political autonomy for Alberta's Métis.

Adrian Hope's name resurfaces once again in connection to the Métis Association of Alberta (MAA). On November 20, 1961 MAA was incorporated and Adrian Hope became its president. Later, Adrian Hope would become one of the four founders of the Federation of Métis Settlements. He also helped form the Alberta Native Communications Society.

In 1967, Stan Daniels became president of MAA. Under his leadership the organization experienced an explosive growth, with over 3000 members in 60 locals. With these numbers came considerable political clout. In 1969, the objectives of the Métis Association of Alberta were amended "to advance at all possible occasions the interests of the Métis People, and coordinate the efforts of the Métis people for the purpose of promoting their common interests through collective action."

SIDE BAR: In the early 1990s, MAA changed its name to the Métis Nation of Alberta.

Continuing to act as a voice for Métis people, 21st century Métis Nation of Alberta lobbies for improved housing, education, and economic conditions for its members. Additionally, it advocates and promotes public awareness of Métis history and culture.

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Liens Rapides

Metis Association of Alberta (1932)

Ewing Commission (1934-1936)

The Metis Betterment Act (1938)

The Alberta Federation of Metis Settlements Formed (1973)

MacEwan Joint Metis-Government Committee

Resolution 18 Incorporated (1985)

Metis Settlements Accord Adopted (1989)

Metis Settlements General Council

Metis Rights: Regina vs. Powley

Who Are Metis?

Harvesting Rights for Alberta's Metis

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