If you ask a Métis person to complete yet another survey he or she might say, “we are researched to death.” I say, it is time to think about being “researched to life.” That is my approach to research in the Métis community as the Health Research and Development Advisor at the Métis Nation of Alberta.
One of the most important parts of my job is to promote awareness that Métis people are a distinct Aboriginal group and to ensure that the Métis perspective is respected and taken into account by health researchers, professionals, and government officials.
Does research mean anything in the Métis community? Absolutely! But, research in a Métis community may simply be a group of Métis Elders getting together and telling stories, comparing notes and experiences about their lives, how they live now, and how they used to live many years ago. Unfortunately, many of these stories are not recorded and get lost in the hustle and bustle of our hurried lives. If researchers were to record these stories and analyze the findings, I think we might be surprised at what we could learn about health in the Métis world.
The bridge between researcher and the researched depends very much on the subject matter, the way in which a topic is investigated, and the relationship that develops between the investigator and the subject. Mutual respect and two-way communication enhance discussions and lead to further learning and personal development. If research is conducted with an open mind, it is the “Métis way” to enjoy much laughter and camaraderie, even when researching serious health issues such as diabetes, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and suicide.
One challenge faced is that some Métis people do not self-identify and therefore cannot be “counted.” Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB), whose mandate is to serve First Nations and Inuit people, does not provide coverage and support to Métis people. While we acknowledge and appreciate partnerships developed with FNIHB, (most recently contributing to the “Lifting the Silence on Suicide: Together We Can Make A Difference” conference), Métis people do not benefit from the numerous programs and services that FNIHB provides to First Nations and Inuit people. This includes various health research initiativs that focus on the two Aboriginal groups only.
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