The Métis Nation – Saskatchewan just signed an agreement with the University of Saskatchewan which states that all opportunities intended for Métis people at the U of S will need to meet the Métis Nation's citizenship criteria.
It's becoming increasingly important to have a registry so Métis people can access opportunities and benefits, says Tammy Vallee.
Vallee, registrar for the provincial citizenship registry, says having a registry helps develop new programs, opportunities and partnerships.
Being Métis has been a hot topic at the organizations like the U of S, who have been trying to come to grips with Indigenous identity fraud.
Most recently the U of S suspended health researcher Carrie Bourassa, who claimed to be both Tlingit and Métis but has provided no genealogical proof of either.
Vallee says while a small number of people have been denied being registered as Métis, most of those applicants have just been unsure about their ancestry.
"I don't think we've ever had anybody who tried to put in an application just to see if they could," she said.
"Most people are submitting their applications based on oral history or based on old definitions of who they think the Métis were and how that would relate to their family."
Curtis Boyer, a faculty member at the Johnson Shoyoma Graduate School of Public Policy, said universities are coming to realize self-declaration isn't good enough as a means to identifying Indigenous peoples.
"One of the things that I think is important to realize here that the university signing this agreement with the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan is that the University of Saskatchewan, in developing its model for the future for improving that process, is in fact recognizing that it is the community that exists outside of its own walls," Boyer said.
"The Indigenous community, the Métis community has the right to define its own people."
Adam McInnis, a PhD student at the U of S and president of the Métis Nation local representing students and faculty at the university, said when he was in medical school a number of people self-identified as Métis.
"We had to provide proof, but students would come in, provide their card and then they would disappear and you would never hear from them again," McInnis said.
"So we're actually having a discussion right now with the admissions process of, how do we verify admission for Indigenous applicants based on identity, culture, value and languages?
"And this agreement allows us to better reflect that for the Métis."
McInnis said it is important for students to be proud of who they are and be a part of the community and be a part of the Métis nation.
Vallee has been helping develop the registry since 2009 and said it is fascinating how closely related Métis families are all across the Prairies.
"The work that we do today is also the foundation we give for our children and grandchildren tomorrow," she said.
Children who were registered a decade ago are now able to access university funding or first-time homebuyers money.
"That wasn't stuff that was available to them 10 years ago. But now it's here for them and something to help them change their lives going forward," Vallee said.
Vallee said there is an increased pride and sense of identity in being registered as Métis.
"A lot of people will tell us that they just weren't sure where they fit in and where they belong," she said. "And getting their card or their youth certificate helps give them that sense of pride in their identity and who they are and who their ancestors were."
Vallee said in the last 10 years they have registered 19,000 people and another 4,000 people are working toward getting their Métis citizenship number.