The Métis Sash

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Name: Cody Swain (Métis Nation)
Subject Areas: Social Studies; Arts Education
Artefact /Place/ Skill: Métis Sash
 This may seem like a simple concept when looking at the Métis sash, but what I want to showcase is that there are very deep ties to one’s identity through the creating processes, the wearing of the sash and the overall symbolizing of Métis identity. I am encouraged to bring forward contemporary understandings of being Métis and the specificity of impact it has to the individual. For so many years people hid their Métis identities, my Great-Grandfather being one of those people. His need for survival was to deny his Indigenous roots when encountered; he feared prejudicial treatments and felt immense amounts of shame. My Father has always instilled in us that we are the generation of peoples who need to flip the narrative. To openly speak about our identities and to be intentional with our learnings with actions of Métis ways of knowing. In turn, this acknowledgment will honour those of our past who were not able to do so. The sash represents our past, present and future (a cyclical telling of one’s growth to identity).

Making Space

How might teachers prepare their students to work with this content? What background knowledge might be required?

In preparation for building learning opportunities using Indigenous knowledge, Teachers should:

  • Open discussion, teachings and research around the proper definition of Indigenous peoples in Canada with an emphasis of non-homogenous nations (not all the same).
  • The understanding that Indigenous Knowledge is vastly diverse and equally as important.
  • Métis core values and beliefs include strength, kindness, courage, tolerance, honesty, respect, love, sharing, caring, balance, patience. Teachers should instill these sentiments of definitions to the handling of material and new understandings.
  • The special relations that led to the development of Métis peoples with their involvement to the European explorers and the fur trade.
  • It is important to understand that traditional use of Indigenous items may change over time to a more contemporary definition and function. Research on the evolution of the Métis sash is important.
  • Understanding of the colour meanings within the Métis sash:
    • Red – the blood of the Métis that was shed through the years while fighting for rights.
    • Blue – the depth of our (Métis) spirits.
    • Green – the fertility of a great nation.
    • White – our connection to the earth and our creator.
    • Yellow – the prospect of prosperity.
    • Black – the dark period of the suppression and dispossession of the Métis land
  • Understanding of historical and practical use of Métis sash (traditional wearing amongst different genders). Defining ‘tumpline’ and the execution purposes for functional labour use.
  • Connections to other sacred or Indigenous knowledges: Cree medicine wheel can connect (idea of wellness to our being).

Practice Humility

How might non-Indigenous teachers sensitively work with this subject? What might they need to consider in their own positionality?

For educators who may be non-indigenous, it is crucial to remember when incorporating Indigenous knowledge sensitively into teaching:

  • Teachers need to recognize that the symbols allow one to connect to identity and enforces growth or attachment to their histories or ancestries.
  • The simplest of meaning brings forward acknowledgement of Métis existence.
  • Many Métis people are recovering their roots and actively learning in later years of life; as the past systematic ways have prevented Métis people from rightfully claiming Indigenous identity (there are generational gaps of loss to culture, language and traditions). We should encourage and listen to newfound discoveries and connections.
  • Teachers should actively search for resources told through personal storytelling of Métis people. Listen and resonate with the importance to one’s culture and Indigeneity; these stories will allow teachers to gain insight to new perspectives.
  • It is important to be mindful of the ‘author’ to the information about a given Indigenous knowledge. Credible sources of Indigenous voices are key to authenticity and actuality.

Acknowledge Sources

What can teachers do to find good supporting resources? How should they be cited, especially when it comes to Indigenous knowledges?

  • It is important that individuals/educators respect traditional oral storytelling as a continuum of practice; passed down from generation to generation in respects to Indigenous Knowledge.
  • Educators are encouraged to do active research to scholarly text, children’s stories, books and Métis Nation BC (or other Provincial affiliations).
  • However, text can only get you to a certain extent. It is important to reach out to Métis Cultural TA’s or Knowledge Keepers within school districts or Métis Nation British Columbia representatives.

BC Curriculum Connections

How does it relate to BC Curriculum?

Click on the subject area below to expand the section.

Social Studies

Big Idea(s):

  • Canada is made up of many diverse regions and communities.

Curricular Competencies:

  • Explain why people’s beliefs, values, worldviews, experiences, and roles give them different perspectives on people, places, issues, or events (perspective)

Concepts & Content:

  • Diverse characteristics of communities and cultures in Canada and around the world, including at least one Canadian First Peoples community and culture

Big Idea(s):

  • Learning about Indigenous peoples nurtures multicultural awareness and respect for diversity.
  • Indigenous knowledge is passed down through oral history, traditions, and collective memory.
  • Indigenous societies throughout the world value the well-being of the self, the land, spirits, and ancestors.

Curricular Competencies:

  • Explain why people’s beliefs, values, worldviews, experiences, and roles give them different perspectives on people, places, issues, or events

Concepts & Content:

  • Cultural characteristics and ways of life of local First Peoples and global Indigenous peoples
  • Oral history, traditional stories, and artifacts as evidence about past First Peoples cultures

Big Idea(s):

  • Interactions between First Peoples and Europeans lead to conflict and cooperation, which continues to shape Canada’s identity.

Curricular Competencies:

  • Construct narratives that capture the attitudes, values, and worldviews commonly held by people at different times or places (perspective)

Concepts & Content:

  • The fur trade in pre-Confederation Canada and British Columbia
  • Early contact, trade, cooperation, and conflict between First Peoples and European peoples

Art Education

Big Idea(s):

  • The arts connect our experiences to the experiences of others.

Curricular Competencies:

  • Explore identity, place, culture, and belonging through arts experiences
  • Explore relationships among cultures, communities, and the arts

Concepts & Content:

  • Symbolism as ways of creating and representing meaning
  • Traditional and contemporary Aboriginal Arts and arts-making processes.
  • A variety of local works of art and artistic traditions from diverse cultures, communities, times and places

Big Idea(s):

  • Through art making, one’s sense of identity and community continually evolves.
  • Experiencing art challenges our point of view and expands our understanding of others.
  • Engaging in the arts develops people’s ability to understand and express complex ideas

Curricular Competencies:

  • Describe, interpret, and respond to works of art
  • Interpret and communicate ideas using symbols and elements to express meaning through the arts

Concepts & Content:

  • Symbolism and metaphor to explore ideas and perspective
  • Traditional and contemporary Aboriginal arts and arts-making processes
  • Ethical considerations and cultural appropriation related to the arts

Big Idea(s):

  • Traditions, perspectives, worldviews, and stories are shared through aesthetic experiences.

Curricular Competencies:

  • Explore First Peoples perspectives and knowledge, other ways of knowing, and local cultural knowledge through artistic works

Concepts & Content:

  • Traditional and contemporary First Peoples worldviews, stories, and history as expressed through visual arts
  • Use of symbols and metaphors to represent ideas and perspectives

First Peoples’ Principles of Learning

Which First Peoples’ Principles of Learning apply?

  • Learning requires exploration of one’s identity.
  • Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.
  • Learning recognizes the role of Indigenous knowledge.
  • Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).
  • Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.

Inviting Community

What is one way that teachers could work with community members for this project?

  • See/Contact: Métis Nation BC website: Senior Director: Early Learning K-12 or MNBC Board of Directors