Grant for Métis scholars awarded for 2017-2018 year

Kisha Supernant announced as Research Fellow at the Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research

Jordan Cook - 6 December 2017

Kisha Supernant sees the year ahead as an opportunity to tell some of the stories of Alberta's Métis community. As the 2017-2018 Research Fellow for the Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research, she has received a $6000 grant for her work, a unique opportunity for Métis scholars.

"The focus of my fellowship research is going to be on collecting genealogical and spatial information on Métis families connected primarily to Lac Ste. Anne, St Albert, and Edmonton," Supernant explains. "I will bring together some of this spatial and genealogical data and generate some maps which can tell a story about Métis in Alberta: where family members have come from and gone to, showing how while these are hubs of Métis community, [families] have broad connections throughout the Métis homeland".

Showing these connections is more than an academic exercise for Supernant, however. As a Métis woman, this work is personal. "I think there's a number of us, through the 60's scoop and other policies, who have not always grown up knowing where our Métis families are from and what that means, so it's a way to see and trace that genealogical history."

That desire to connect to community is one of the things that makes her excited for her year ahead with the RCMR.

"A map can tell a really powerful story in a visual way."

"Maps are something that can be distributed to the community that people can make sense of, as opposed to having to read an academic paper. A map can tell a really powerful story in a visual way. I'm hoping that this year of the fellowship will allow me to tell Métis stories through maps, and hopefully the broader community can start to learn about those stories."

The role of the RCMR as a community research hub was also embraced by last year's research fellow, Paul Gareau. A Native Studies scholar with a focus in Religious Studies, Gareau's research also focuses on Lac Ste. Anne. His work over the past year has been to find and show the continued presence of Métis families at Lac Ste. Anne over the years, with a focus on religion.

Gareau says of his research: "As Métis, we've always understood who we are, but our public understanding of ourselves has been fragmented by the impact of settler colonialism. So to look at Lac Ste. Anne from a Métis perspective is an incredibly important optic. It's like putting out there in an intellectual space and cultural space: this is how we see our relationships, and relationships to the land, and our broader relations, and religiosity".

The Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research undertakes a number of initiatives to facilitate these connections between Métis scholars and Métis communities. The Centre hosts a bi-annual Métis Talks speaker series, an event that is open to the public and brings prominent academics working on Métis topics to the University of Alberta. As well, RCMR organizes conferences such as Daniels: In and Beyond the Law which brought in January 2017 scholars and community members together to discuss the political and social impacts of the 2016 Supreme Court Decision. During Kisha Supernant's tenure as research fellow, RCMR plans to facilitate a community workshop on using GIS.

"We're attracting this critical mass of people that can provide their expertise at the RCMR."

Nathalie Kermoal, the Director of the Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research, is looking forward to the year ahead. She established the research fellowship in 2016 as one way of building the intellectual capacity of the Centre. She points out: "There's less research done on the Métis even though there are more Métis scholars now than there were 10 years ago. So we're attracting this critical mass of people that can provide their expertise at the RCMR, and then seeing how that research can be used to further the goals of the Métis Nation in Western Canada."

As part of the responsibilities that come with the acceptance of these grant funds, researchers must contribute to achieving the goal of making the RCMR more visible and enhancing its reputation, including promotion of the Centre at conferences, in research published, and during presentations.

As she embarks on her year as the RCMR Research Fellow, Supernant wants to highlight the opportunity this grant provides for Métis researchers: "A grant like this, with an institute that is at the U of A, but has strong connections with the Métis Nation of Alberta as well, also ensures that the work that we do is relevant to Métis community, not just other academics. And a lot of us who work in this area are strongly committed to that type of work, so this fellowship really supports work that is directly relevant for community members."