Archie“I know some Métis people, they're not Métis. Don't try to tell them that they're Métis, and they're related to me. And they said no, they're not Métis. They wanted to stay what they are, because they know, if they, even today, [pause] you would find out that you're different from what you were taught and the way you were brought up. And all of a sudden, it falls on you, and it comes right to your face. And it challenges the way you are, the way you think, the way you were brought up, and where you're going. What does it change in your life? It changes your friends, it changes the way you're treated at your job, it changes the way that people perceive you. How can I put it, it's, you know, it's as, [pause] I think it's as drastic, saying you're a Métis, as a homosexual coming out of the closet. To that point. There's a lot of surprise sometimes.”

[The following interview with Archie Martin from Quebec was conducted on January 20 th , 2010 at Mount Allison University. The interviewers were Catherine Lapointe, Ashley Brzezicki, Dr. Marilyn Walker, the students of her Cultural Ecology course in the Anthropology department and guests from the Métis community. Featured audience members are Maureen Kitula and Rachel Willis, third and fourth year Anthropology students from Mount Allison University. Archie Martin is a Métis teacher and a highly respected individual in his community.]

Ashley: We were wondering what your genealogical background is?

Archie: As a Métis person, for sure I had to go back in time to find out who I was and where I came from. My people came from a place called Île Royale at that time, today they call it Cape Breton. We lived there in harmony with First Nations, but we did not live in the Great Fort of Louisburg, we lived on the outskirts in wigwams with mixed blood Europeans and Mi'kmaq people.

We lived in a place called, also, Milaquash and Bras d'Or, those were our lands, that's where we lived for many years. But when came the great War, we were not at war, but Europe was at war, and when Louisburg, Louisburg the Great Fort fell, we had to go at that time and hide into the woods to wait out this battle, as we would wait out a storm coming on the ocean, but it was much longer. They spent at least ten years, and we only came out ten years after by the baptism of Joseph Michel Petitpas was baptized, he was an adult at that time, we have the documents, he was baptized in Halifax. And from Halifax, my people moved up, were not deported in the deportation of 1755, we kept coming up the coast and hiding and trying to escape from the battles which were happening at that time in this territory where we're on today. They finally moved to a place in New Brunswick called Grand-Digue.

“Digue” in another time, in other words was called “les aboiteaux,” and people were living in this area, the Petitpas family were living in this area, and they lived there, and they lived from Grand-Digue up into Barachois and to back Cap-Pelé, Shediac and we were living as First Nation Métis. At that time, I'm sure that we looked more native, we had more the way of the Native People. When the Europeans came and married the Mi'kmaq women, we got the teachings from the motherbloods, from our mothers, the teachings of the First Nations. And we had the knowledge of the Europeans, so we had what you would call, like, a double identity.

For sure, it takes many years of tracing back your roots to your people. I think the first one in our family that got it going was my brother Al. [Laughs.] He got into looking who we really were, we had oral history for sure, that our oral history told us and there were signs that we were not white people. We were something else. At that time, when I was a young man, Métis we didn't really know what Métis meant. I never even heard the Métis word, I only found out, you know, at that time when I was in Quebec living in Quebec. A Quebecer came to me and told me that “you are Acadian”. I said “Yeah, I have Acadian blood.” He says, “you got a flag,” I said “what flag?” I didn't even know we had a flag. He says “yeah,” he showed me the flag. I said “that's France.” “No,” he says “you've got a little star here.” I said, “what does that mean?” That means, “Stella Maria” he says “the Blessed Virgin Mary.” And then he told me, he says “you have a national song for the Acadians,” I didn't even know we had the 15 th of August was our day, for supposedly, Acadian people. I didn't know that, I didn't know that. And we had the song was Évangeline. The only Évangeline that I knew before we left New Brunswick was a soft drink, a pop. Évangeline. It was sold in the area of Caraquet.

So for sure Métis, we know First Nations, yes, we looked at my Grandmother, there were signs there that we were First Nations. But nobody talked too much about that, that was hush-hush. And, my grandmother healed us, with different herbal medicines. Maybe you didn't get the same healings as we did, they worked fairly good, and if you're ever stuck today they would work very good. When we were young children, Norbert is older than me, he's from the first section of our family, and Al, we had earaches. Our treatment, my grandmother put urine in the ear. And the best urine was from pregnant woman. Was the best one. So, when we had earache, they put urine and a little piece of cotton, when we had toothache, they put ash to make the teeth explode. We had all these treatments, when we had nails, we had poultices, eh, applied my grandmother was a master at that because we didn't have doctors and dentists and things like that. We lived really in the area, where I lived, right near the ocean, so we lived off the ocean and also, from what we could gather from cultivating different wild berries, also from moose, deer, we snared rabbits in the wintertime, we snared partridges, and we also snared little birds, we ate those. The way we snared those little birds, we had a piece of wood and we used the hair from the tail of the horse, and we made little lassos that we stuck in the wood, we put feed and bread, and we used to catch the birds by the feet. And in the spring we cultivated wild eggs, gave us a supplement to our food.

For sure, our ancestors were First Nations. Our ancestors were people from Europe. French Europeans that came to dwell here and to live here and try to make a life out of it. I can try to go back, and put myself in their ways. Our people from France walking with wooden shoes. Why did they wear wooden shoes? ‘Cause they claimed the land from the sea, made these big dikes, and they had to wear wooden shoes, they couldn't wear moccasins, it would rot because of humidity. And I guess they wouldn't float, cause they wouldn't be good enough to float but I'm sure that they prevented the feet from uh, catching, different disease. So the wood really protected their feet. And it looked very much, shoes at that time, the French people looked very much like the Dutch, but didn't have the long point in the front, they were more longer, because we didn't plant tulips here. Ya know the point is when they kick in the ground to make the hole to put the bulb, we didn't have that.

So, for sure, first nations, when these Europeans came, they were greeted. I think with love, and for sure they had nothing on marrying okay, these white people, okay, to their blood, because they had a problem. They were interbred too close, so when you hear that Native People gave their daughters away, and gave their, the white man thought differently. They thought it was more sexually, had nothing to do sexually, it had to do for the strength of our blood. Also in my bloodline, you will find African blood. Most Mi'kmaq people reserve, off reserves. Métis have African blood. People are surprised when we trace back and we find African lineage in our bloodline. We have those lineages because they brought slaves to Halifax. And these slaves, were about the same level as we were, as Métis people. And with the deportation and all that, went into slavery the same as the African people. And the African people brought a lot of good things to Canada, but they don't talk too much about that. The basket you see on the table, was shown to us by African slaves, they showed us how to make the big baskets. Because the Africans, in their country, they wear them on their head. You ever see the African woman, they have a cloth and the big basket, they were the weavers. We did weave small baskets for sure, but the big basket as those were shown to us by Africans.

So, my lineage I have First Nation, also I have some close 4 th generation Mi'kmaq to the Petitpas, also through my grandmother I have Babin that goes to the Grand Chief of Mediquando up towards the Maine, at that time there was not Maine. And he was the Chief of the Abénakis People, married into the Robichaud family through the Laborne de Belleisle, if you trace back, and also my family, the Robichauds, Petitpas, Laborne de Belleisle, we were the interpreters of the languages, we spoke all Native languages. We interpreted for British, we interpreted for French, for the Basques, which were the “Espagnols,” and also the Lebanese coming to fish the shores, we were the interpreters.

Catherine
: You said, first of all, that you learned that you were a Métis, later on in life; that you officially were even though you had sort of signs and signals of it. I was wondering how your family reacted, were they happy to know that yes, they were Métis. Did it not change anything?

Archie 2Archie: To start with the first question, my family, at that time, my mother, we talked to my mother, my mother blood, my mother she's a 3 rd generation Mi'kmaq, my mother certainly didn't want to be a Métis, my mother wanted to be white. And, as a young person, Indians used to come from Big Cove and spend the Sundays with us and we used to go picking cranberries and so on and so forth with Al. We're all together and they're all coming with a pick-up truck. In the back of the pick-up truck they used to have these old car seats and they'd sit the family in there.

They were like our friends. We couldn't really put together as young people, but my mother, she knew. They called my mother in Baie St. Anne when she lived there, a “Taoueille.” Taoueille is not very nice. It's like the English word would be a “squaw.” And in the Indian word a “squaw” means a whore. It's not very good words.

But at that time, when my dad went to war for five years, they didn't like my mother too much. They came during the night, broke the windows, Norbert was a young child at that time. Maybe if you, Norbert, has remembrance of that. Also they came down in the night with bags of salt and salted down her well. Uh, these were things that were done to my mother during the 5 years living with the French Acadians. Maybe was personal, but I've kinda found out later on in life that it was mostly because we were “des sauvages.” Maybe we were a little bit sauvage too, because we were pretty bad when we were young. [laughter/inaudible speech]. We were bad but, at least we admit it. We don't want to give them all the wrong. And the second part, your question was?

Catherine
: I guess it would be, did your life change at all when you found out that you were officially Métis?

Archie
: No, not really. I always thought, like, I was different. Why didn't they accept us? I always asked the question, we have a big French school, why didn't they accept us at the French school? Nope, we had to go to English school. So, we weren't allowed to go to French school. These were questions popping in my head. Like, if you went to Baie St. Anne, it wasn't a very good place to go look for a girlfriend. They didn't like us too much, but maybe that was because we were bad a bit. But, we had to go far, maybe Grand River to get a girlfriend, and we had to be careful too because we're very closely related. We still kept that, being close to one another, and intermarrying very close. Maybe it's not so good, you know, to inter-marry too close, but we had to be careful. I went to Negawack, and got a girlfriend in Negawack, and took her home and my brother said “no, no, can't go out with her, first cousin” and she's across the river, you know? So, we had trouble getting along with the people, we were different.

My Grandmother gave us good signs that we were First Nations, she lived like First Nations. My Grandmother, if you would see her today, she looked Native, she dressed all in black. She had two little buns, one here and one there. My Grandmother, the food she ate was different from Acadian people. She ate like rabbit heads, fish heads, there was chicken feet, the legs of chicken, wild eggs. And she showed us many things from the land, but my Grandmother had to be careful on the phone with my Mother, not to tell us or teach us anything about First Nations. She had to be extremely careful. So, and at that time, for me, as a Métis, I didn't know I was a Métis at that time. I knew I was different and some of our neighbours, living close to us, were the same as us because they were treated the same way. And then the neighbours which were the Carls, living there, they were treated a different way. Even if they were English or French, you could different, you know, the treatment and the way you were accepted.

So for sure, at that time, it was not spoken very much, it was still very much hid for who you were, what we where and where, we didn't even know where we came from, we only knew we were there; at Baie d'Agouine, or Baie St. Anne, Escuminac, Pointe Sapin, Kouchibouguak, and it was our territory. And, we lived as much as we could, we lived like we could. For sure, our parents, we all had big families, and for sure our parents, they wanted the best for us. And they didn't want to start throwing a stick in the wheels, you know? They wanted, they wanted maybe that to go away. And even today, I know some Métis people, they're not Métis. Don't try to tell them that they're Métis, and they're related to me. And they said no, they're not Métis. They wanted to stay what they are, because they know, if they, even today, you would find out that you're different from what you were taught and the way you were brought up. And all of a sudden, it falls on you, and it comes right to your face. And it challenges the way you are, the way you think, the way you were brought up, and where you're going. What does it change in your life? It changes your friends, it changes the way you're treated at your job, it changes the way that people perceive you before that you announce. How can I put it, it's, you know, it's as, [pause] I think it's as drastic, saying you're a Métis, as a homosexual coming out of the closet. To that point. There's a lot of surprise sometimes. _____________________________________________________________________________

That the way you're prescribed after that, you say who you are, but you're that. Can't change that. And the more we're going the more that people are accepting that. Governments are trying to say that we don't exist, but we exist.

Ashley: I was wondering if I could change the topic a little bit because Marilyn told us a week ago that you have some kind of very special documentation from an old king of France. And so we were wondering if you could maybe tell us what it says, how you got it, things like that?

Archie: When Jacques Cartier came in the 1600s for sure people leaving France, coming to live in a savage country wanted guarantees. And for sure the king of France at that time, in the 1600s was o.k. to give guarantees for people living here. I'll read it to you in the old French and I did a rough translation with a friend of mine and I'll read it to you in the rough translation after I finish reading it to you in the old French. You will see that the words are different than the regular French that you know if you understand and speak French.

‘‘C'est l'article 19, Ordonnera, sa majesté, que les descendants des François, qu'ils habiteront au dite pays, ensemble les sauvages qui seront amenés à la connaissance de la foi. Et eu feront profession. Sauront creuser et rupeter naturel François. Et comme telles pourront venir habiter là, en France. Et il y aura comme tell, acceuira, traita, suscepta et accepta aux nations. Tous en ci que les vrais renécolles et originaires François, sans êtres tenus de prendre aucune lettre de déclaration ni de naturalité.''

That's what he wrote. I'll give you the rough translation. Orders from his majesty King Henry of France. That the descendants of the French who inhabit the said country along with savages, which would include half-breeds, Métis, and so on, who are brought to the faith and profess such faith (in other words, baptized) will be registered in the census and recorded reputes as being as natural French. And in such, will be allowed to move to France when and if they chose and will be given full rights as French citizens without having to provide any letters of declaration or naturalization. This is what the King of France gave to the Acadians or the French of New France. At the moment this document is in court in the province of Québec against the French government. It's that any French that meets this criteria can have dual citizenship. Up to now, the government of France has agreed to give dual citizenship to all French natural that came after 1763, after the signature of the Treaty of Paris. They do not want to respect or they, no, I don't want to say they do not want to respect - they're trying to get away from this document so that all the population at this time will be, if they desire, as the document states, to become French naturalists. So we have to wait and see; right now it's with the France Justice Department. The lady, she is the keeper of the seal, at the Justice Department of France, it's in her hands at this moment as I talk. I thought would be a nice document to say that a lot of our treaties were not respected, so let's not all blame one side. There's many sides to a story and when we have the documents in hand, and these documents are kept at the Montreal library and the government of Québec has these documents. We're lucky to have them and be able to proceed. We tried to do it on a friendly basis, they refused, and now it's into the courts. You can only work into the courts for something like this.

Ashley: So how did you come across this documentation, did someone give it to you or did you do a little research, or…?

Archie: No it was, seeing that I do a lot of culture, tradition, Métis culture, First Nation- I met this lady which had this document. Her name is Marie Mence-Vallée. I didn't know really who she was and she spoke a little bit about this document. Which I didn't know if this document really concerned me as a person, being Métis, or the First Nations or being French, but she was fighting to get her French passport. And that's when I seen the document, the “descendants of these people”, well, we're the descendants of these people. So, right away I started to read everything, she sent me everything that, up to date, all the work that's been done. The lawyer that's taken it to court is a lawyer, his name is Niron he's a historic lawyer. He knows historical, he works in historic documents and he's a lawyer and he's taken the case in hand, against the government of France. So right now that's where we are with that. And at the same time it became a little bit, something that I read every day to get all the information and the knowledge of this –where we're going with that.

Catherine
: Does anyone from the class have questions for Archie?

Archie
: You can ask me in French, my French is a little bit- un peu comme le parlé Chiac. Une grosse accent là, mais, c'est un parlé d'en bas d'ici.

Rachel: I actually have a question. You said you were involved in cultural activities and knowledge and I was wondering how you went about sharing that knowledge, both amongst members of the Métis community and outside of that community.

Photo of Pierette and Archie Martin     

Archie 3Archie: We've put together…when I took my pension, with my wife Pierette (who's right there -pink shirt), we put a little company together which we call Koshukwan... [Mi'kmaq word, unsure of spelling] o.k.? Which describes our spirit, our culture, in the Mi'kmaq language. For sure, where I wanted to go with that is that I wanted to be able to get more knowledge for me, my family, and to be able to give it out. So what we do during the summer is a bit what you see here. We have tipis, we have many things which are Métis, First Nation. I will later on give you a demonstration on the way we lit fires, and the way- in wet, windy and cold days (we did not have matches). On who we are, where we came from and who are our people and especially where we are going with all that.

It's important to know where we are going. So we have to look at the past to say yes, this is where we are coming from. Now, I have that knowledge (where we are going with that). So I think in the schools, for sure, that in Québec, they are trying to learn more about First Nations. There was a big squabble with the provincial government over an issue of when they wanted to give all the spirituality of all the people. For sure they chose Mi'kmaq spirituality in Québec to give to primary school, to younger (5, 6, 7 year olds). And they put a head project to give the spirituality of Glooscap. One of the government officials didn't even know who was Glooscap. He went on the internet but he couldn't write it so he wrote it all crooked and he got all the information all crooked and he went to the parliament and monsieur Dumont and he made a big issue. So I had to write to Mr. Dumont and straighten him out a bit. Tell him to write it right and you'll get the right information. And he was talking as if, trying to bring us back when the first Europeans came to this land and thought we were “des payans” in English it's pagans. Which we were not. We had our spirituality. And one time I was giving, in a church, I was giving a performance (First Nations) reconstruction of First Nations, Métis, into the church and the priest told me, he says: your faith is difficult to understand. And I said to the priest our faith is so simple they laugh at us.

Because the faith is Mother Earth, is the things that we do every day, our prayers, it's a living prayer. Something you pray every day but it's a living prayer. We don't have to say words to pray, our thoughts- the way we think, is a prayer. If I have a good thought for us, it's a prayer. So he says: yeah but, you know, like the Catholic religion. And I said well that's difficult, because, especially when you don't know how to read, that book is…a lot of stuff in that book that we don't understand. I said you can give ten scholars a passage of your bible, and ask them, one away from one another, and you'll get ten different answers for that little passage. So for us it's difficult to understand what you mean, but we get the picture of it all. For sure that the way we are and to know where we're going today is that we don't push away our heritage. I'm a Roman Catholic, I don't push away the Roman Catholics away. And, it doesn't mean that I go to church every Sunday, but I don't push them aside. It was what was given to me. What was given to me I respect. As much as I respect my Métis roots, and my heritage from my First Nations blood. I respect that and I keep that. I keep it very closely to my being. Because for me it's very important to me. I don't have to walk around with feathers every day to prove or, I don't walk with a shirt like that all the time, I just brought this to get into the mood, to show you a little bit how we dress. For example, what country are you from?

Maureen: Kenya

Archie
: Kenya! If I go to Kenya and they're in celebration, they dress differently when they celebrate. Because it's a custom, it's being proud of who they are, and to show us who my ancestors. They did that a long time ago and we do it by tradition. We continue the tradition. And we want to be proud, and what we want is to be recognized as who we are. See?

Catherine
: So could you tell us a little bit about what you're wearing and what it means to you?

Archie
: The shirt I'm wearing for sure I cannot wear something that's different from what I am. We have here ribbon. It's called a ribbon shirt. But the Métis do carry different colors of ribbon. The ribbons here are represent the four races left here on earth. We have the white race, we have the yellow race. We have the Africans, the black race. And we have the red race. If you mixture, and you mix that, the color becomes the color of mother earth. So it's very important as a Métis person, I respect all races. Because we are mixed from all those races. But here in Canada, being part French and part First Nation, I am Métis. For sure, the government recognize some of us but has a hard time to recognize all of us. So that's why the shirt itself represents the mixture of the people of mother earth. The collar with teeth, not teeth, I mean with the claw, represents “moui” for me. “Moui” is our sacred animal for the Mi'kmaq people. “Moui” is the black bear, he is the medicine animal. He is the one that gave us all the medicine that we know very well today. We carry that close to us because he fed us, he showed us the medicine and he gave his life for us. He is a survivor and we survive because he is a survivor. For me, that's all I need, really, is that- be able to survive. If I would put you all in the forest today, how many would of you survive?

Ashley: [Laughs] Not very many.

Archie: But, if I gave-put all of you in the forest with one of my ancestors, how many of you would survive? All of you- he had the knowledge. And that knowledge, he got, from the animals, he got from Mother Earth, he got from “moui”. For sure, is that when the first Europeans came here, it was a survival that he married one of our women. We showed them what to eat to prevent him from catching scurvy. We boiled the leaves cedar, the white cedar, made them drink that- scurvy disappeared. And the spring came, we gave them “la pospière”, “les tétines de souris” which were scurvy grass, and he got stronger. We showed them how to walk on the snow, so we gave them snowshoes. But he's a European he doesn't know our ways. He put the snowshoes, he put big packsack. He sunk right underneath his armpits. First Nations didn't travel that way. We took the packsack off and we gave him the toboggan. Put the packsack in the toboggan. These snowshoes are made for your weight; don't put extra weight on them. After we showed him how to dress, we showed them how to make a wigwam. And for him it was survival. If he did not know this, and the same thing you would come in the forest with me, I will show you all those things, you would survive. I'll show you how to snare rabbits; I'll show you how to hunt, to make the traps. This is very important for the Europeans when they first came. And a lot of them took the forest with their wives. They didn't have religion chasing after them, they didn't have to obey, the rules and regulations of the European people, it was a paradise for them. So that's when they brought new women. That's when they realized: We must stop the white people from France marrying the First Nations women. Who did they bring? They brought boats full of women. They call them in French: “Les Filles du Roi” (high class ones). They emptied all the orphanages, I would say prisons too, and maybe a few from the streets. Which were living off the streets and doing the oldest- the oldest profession in the world and sent them here to New France and became the wives of our farmers and soldiers and so on and so forth. But, for nearly 30 years they married into the Mi'kmaq people. The Evenkis and Passamaquoddies. And the Maliseets. So, like it or not, people that were born from them became Métis. And we can't change that. But now, people know who they are, and the internet is one of the greatest tools to trace back and to give the information to one another. Without the internet I don't think we would be where we are today. But we're moving at a good pace to see where we are today.

Marilyn
: Did you have a chance to speak about your sash?

Archie: I don't know if you know why Métis people have these sashes, they are tied around the stomach, usually, they were tied around the coat. (Pierrette, pourrais-tu sortir la coat? “Le caban?”) When we start trading with the Europeans, we traded trade blankets. Pierrette has a few trade blankets. This one here (trade blanket) is a Royal Red, is the colors of Québec city. Three Rivers has four lines, four colors, which is called the blankets of the chiefs from Three Rivers. And the blue were from Montreal. These are the trademarks of the blankets. This blanket comes from England, it's 100% wool- very, very warm. And First Nations and Métis started to make cabans. What we call “la manteau en porte-feuille” – “pocket book coat”. This one here has the four marks on it, the trading marks. What would you be trading these blankets for? These would be traded for beaver pelts. Four beaver pelts for this blanket! The hair of the beaver, the beaver pelt you see on the table, must touch the line when brushed. This coat here is made in the way of the Norwester If you open the coat, it has the neck and this Métis was Catholic. He has the hood of the missionary. So you would see him, he comes from Québec city, he is Catholic, and he's a voyageur [could mean “traveller” or reference the “voyageurs” who partook in the fur trade without the permission of the French authorities in the early 17 th, late 18 th century] going to trade with First Nations. The sash was fabricated in Québec, in a small village called ‘'L'Assomption”. These were done by the hands with wool. The wool was either brought from Scotland or from England and it took, to make one sash for a guy my size, maybe one week. The women who were doing these were Acadian women coming from Acadia into Québec and working the whole winter making sashes. And the voyageurs, “cours-de-bois” [may be referencing “courreurs de bois” (runners of the woods) who engaged in the fur trade without the consent of the French authorities in the late 17 th , early 18 th century] or the Métis people tied that around the coat so the wind wouldn't get in. They would carry large bundles of furs with the sash on their back, or tie them to make sure they didn't lose some from the canoes. Also, they would use these sash if they got hurt, and used them as tourniquets. And they also used them to cover their ears and some of them used them as scarves. It was essential that these were survival instruments for the Métis people and First Nations too. They adopted these. The colours you see are the colours of New Brunswick. The red -which is First Nations, the green-which represents our forests, the blue which represents the sky and our water, and you'll see the white, which represents the Europeans people that came to live here. Also, you'll see a mixture of yellow, the same like my shirt, which represents Asiatic people when the immigration of First Nations came from the Bering Strait from the North to South. The mixture of people, the mixture of mother earth, the mixture of everything that we have here in New Brunswick. And the white also represents the snow. So the sash was very important for the Métis people.

Marilyn: Thank you very much.