'It kind of is making a mockery of the struggles': Métis Youth Council member on spurious Indigeneity claims

·2 min read
Autumn Larose-Smith, a student at the University of Saskatchewan, says spurious identity claims make a mockery of Indigenous struggles.  (submitted by Autumn Larose-Smith - image credit)
Autumn Larose-Smith, a student at the University of Saskatchewan, says spurious identity claims make a mockery of Indigenous struggles. (submitted by Autumn Larose-Smith - image credit)

An Indigenous youth in Saskatoon says making spurious claims to being Indigenous destroys trust.

"It takes away from the value of our word," said Autumn Larose-Smith, a student at the University of Saskatchewan.

Carrie Bourassa is a professor at the university and the scientific director of the Indigenous health arm of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Bourassa has claimed for many years to be Métis, Anishnaabe and Tlingit. An investigation by CBC found that her ancestry is entirely European. Bourassa has since been put on leave from both positions.

Larose-Smith said she's been grappling with how this could happen with someone in such a high role in the university and within Canada as a whole.

"It kind of is making a mockery of the struggles that Indigenous people in Canada have had to face and still face to this day," she said.

LISTEN | Autumn Larose-Smith spoke with host Leisha Grebinski on Saskatoon Morning

Larose-Smith said that historically being Métis wasn't something that advanced you in your career or socially "it was something people had to hide."

Her great, great grandfather was a Second World War veteran. When he was living in North Battleford he had to hide his Métis identity just so people would hire him.

"He had to make the ultimate sacrifice to hide that part of who he was in order to just put food on the table," she said.

Larose-Smith said that created a lasting effect on her family line.

"To this day, four generations later, I'm working very hard to reclaim my identity," she said.

Larose-Smith was elected as the president of the Provincial Métis Youth Council this weekend. She's interested in her Métis history and her own genealogy.

She was followed by someone with the same last name as her on Instagram. She reached out and jokingly asked where that person was from, and it turned out that they were related. They started sharing stories and pictures back and forth.

"It's just a really incredible experience that I think is especially unique to Métis people," she said, adding that a lot of Métis people have done the research or have the privilege of doing the research to learn the names that are in their ancestry or genealogy. She said other Indigenous people might not have access to those names.

Larose-Smith created a video where she said it's not an insult to ask "where are you from?" because it's a means of creating connections within the Métis community. She shared the video on a Métis Facebook page and within a day, 30 people reached out and shared that they were related to her.

"It's just really a way for us to build those relationships and connections, which maybe we never would have had without that information," she said.

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