Living history amid the pandemic
- Merelda Fiddler-Potter | April 17, 2021
The March edition of Eagle Feather News was dedicated to Indigenous women. We asked several Indigenous women to write about Indigenous women. This is one of those stories.
One of my earliest memories as a child is hearing a story about my great grandmother, Veronique (Gervais) Fiddler. The story was out of context, but I knew it was important.
During the 1885 Resistance at Batoche, great-grandma Veronique was frying up buckshot in a pan, prepping bullets for those trying to take their land. Veronique lived through the Resistance at Red River in 1869-70, and the new mother wanted to save her home and keep her family together.
These stories matter. These stories remind us of the sacrifices our ancestors made. In 2010, I completed my Master of Arts. The focus of that research was tracing Métis identity, using my own family. Starting at contact, I learned everything I could about each generation of my family.
I searched and searched for any photos or documents I could find in archives and libraries in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In addition to obtaining my masters, finding those documents - land records, marriage and death certificates, newspaper articles, photos, and other items - was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
The best way I can describe this is, I felt complete. This research helped me to finally put that story I heard about great grandma Veronique into context. I understood why my family had told stories without context. They wanted to rebuild quietly and keep their families safe.
The pandemic has affected everyone differently. But it has affected everyone. For myself, I have felt quite cut off from community and family. I work from home these days, and it feels as though there are few opportunities to really connect.
Technology and online forums like FaceBook, texts, and phone calls help. But, I miss driving to see people most of all.
Then, something remarkable happened.
My daughter, Reese, began asking more and more questions about our history. Our kids know they are Métis, and have a sense of what that means. But my daughter started asking different questions.
In the book exchange, Reese found a book about the life of Sitting Bull. She read it and we had many conversations about what happened to Sitting Bull and his people, and why. She then started to ask if our family experienced similar things in the past.
I said yes, and showed her some of the historical documents I found when I was researching our family history. I talked about Red River and Batoche, and our family’s role in those events. We pulled out books, family history shared with me by my uncle, and pictures. My office was a mess.
But, it was a beautiful mess. It was also a good reminder.
Even though this pandemic has changed how we interact, it’s also a really good chance to slow down and talk about who we are.
When I was my daughter’s age, many families didn’t have these conversations. But I realized sitting there with her, we have these opportunities now.
This has been a bright spot in the pandemic for me. As a Métis mom, I am able to share so much with my kids that many of our ancestors didn’t discuss because of fear. I am able to do freely, what other generations had to fight to do.
This is a hard time. But, finding these moments with my daughter, have made it very rewarding.
Finally, we created little family trees including ourselves. And now, we are looking to make this in to an art project, something we can share together.
I was relaying the idea of this project to a Métis friend of mine. And she said, “That’s a perfect project for you, you have always talked about living histories.”
It’s true. I believe that by documenting and sharing we keep our histories alive.
But my daughter has shown me that by including ourselves in the next phase, we become part of those histories, to share with all our future generations.
It’s a small thing, but one that has helped me look forward.