On June 21 Canadians celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day and many churches observe a day of prayer. Rene Inkster reflects on the readings appointed for the Anglican Church.
I pray that my words will be acceptable to You, Creator; and to the people who read them.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean; the ordinances of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
Bowsur, tawnchi, hello. I am a mixed blood person, born in Regina, Saskatchewan and also a Canadian history researcher. My name is Rene Inkster. I honour my Cree, Scottish and Métis heritage.
The first ancestors to create my Métis heritage were James Inkster and Mary Gump. James, a carpenter from the Orkney Islands, north of mainland Scotland joined with Mary, a Woods Cree from the west side of the Hudson’s Bay at Brandon House (one of the Hudson’s Bay Company trade houses) in 1794. They had three mixed blood (also known as First Peoples, Native, Indigenous, and Aboriginal) children. Because Mary was likely mixed blood herself, I consider myself and my siblings to be seventh generation Métis. All the generations from James and Mary down to my great-grandfather married other mixed blood people. In 1885, because Louis Riel Jr., one of our ancestral leaders was labeled a traitor to non-indigenous efforts for industry and resources; all mixed blood people were vilified. So, like many Métis men, my grandfather and father married English women hoping to stem racism against their families.
To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them by name; by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.
Because of my work as a researcher, I believe that the unique mixed blood people that would one day become the Métis began on the East Coast of North America in the late 1400’s, when Portuguese and then French fishermen over-wintered with East Coast First Nations. Centuries later, my family was one of many in the fur trade movement that supplanted fishing. Before the fur trade ended in the area that would become lower Manitoba, it had extended across the continent North from the Hudson’s Bay to Louisiana in the South, and from the East Coast to the Rocky Mountains across the continent.
These few facts I write about here are important to me because my split-cultural connection came after 1794, and well after French governance because my ancestors always kept the mixed blood legacy the French had fostered with the First Nations with whom they traded. The growing awareness of a unique culture developed across the 17th and 18th centuries from French roots, and after the 18th century included the English, who brought indentured Orkneymen (among other nationalities) to work in the fur trade. My family was one of many in this latter fur trade movement.
This history is important to me, helps me to stand upright with the Creator and His Son, and shoulder to shoulder with my neighbours, and to move beyond the painful past we First Peoples experienced. This knowledge is also important to me because like the Michif (French for mixed blood) people my ancestors kept the legacy to forever pull the two parent cultures together by equally honouring both. It is important to my culture because we developed from the mingling of French, Scots, and later the Irish and other Europeans with First Nations into a vibrant and socially distinct aboriginal people who embrace others readily. It is also true that we live across North America so we have developed into different community enclaves across the land, unlike First Nations that had and kept their original land bases.
We teach our young to respect the land, to learn and respect the ways of the people whose land we live or travel on; and to live in harmony with neighbours and our environment. We are a spiritual people, and hold family dear.
Over time, it seems we have been forgotten by the cultures that made us so we rely on the faith that God the Creator will continue to succor and lift us up. The readings for this day reflect the teachings of the Anglican Sacred Circle and give me hope that all who are Anglican gain solidarity and strength in our common society.
John 1: 11-13
He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.