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As Indigenous rights discourse continues to advance in Canada, overarching concepts of Métis, in particular those concerning recognition and rights, continue to evolve. The micro-level or management of the relationship between Canada and small-scale Métis societies provides an opportunity to highlight issues concerning Métis/state relations. As areas such as Jasper National Park are tasked with restoring a Métis presence, how has this relationship evolved? Attempts at creating a working relationship with Métis in Jasper are confounded by uncertainty concerning Métis rights and identity. In addition, Métis are expected to abandon prior practices in organization and governance in return for access to micro-level authorities. Longstanding grievances by Métis who contend that government malfeasance resulted in their ancestors being evicted from Jasper National Park upon its inception remains hidden, as local authorities continue to find ways to marginalize Métis who are averse to participating in colonial relationships designed and controlled by micro-level authorities. Alliances with other groups with territories in National Parks, such as the Haida Nation, may provide insight and solutions. As Métis/Indigenous awareness and rights advance an important area of concern will remain in the actions of micro-level bureaucrats.
This study offers fresh perspective on Indigenous identity, conversion, and community. It does so through the little-studied lens of the Baha’i Faith, a religion of mid-nineteenth-century Iranian origin based on principles of oneness and a global vision of “unity in diversity.” Several thousand Indigenous people “declared” (or converted, as other faiths more commonly put it) as Baha’is in North America during the second half of the twentieth century. This study considers, by way of oral history, how and why Indigenous individuals from a broad range of backgrounds in both Canada and the United States, people who now share a sense of community, became Baha’is in this period. It demonstrates the dynamic interplay between their practices of Indigenous identities and of the Baha’i religion. Indeed, challenging conventional (and colonial) readings of Indigenous conversion and identity, which frame the first as assimilation and the second as static, this study illustrates that for many Indigenous adherents the process of becoming Baha’i was at once a process of becoming Indigenous. For some, becoming a Baha’i served to strengthen an existing sense of self as Indigenous, outside colonial strictures. For others, it was in fact through their Baha’i observance that they came to openly identify as Indigenous for the first time. Baha’i declaration and practice also brought adherents into new Indigenous and intercultural interaction, both in and outside the Baha’i community. Indigenous Baha’is often worked to realize their religious vision of peace and unity in diversity through outreach and service among other Indigenous people, in North America and elsewhere. In the process, they produced a sense of global Indigenous identification and made multiple contributions to such fields as Indigenous health, education, and cultural revitalization. In building Baha’i community, specifically, they also forged striking relationships of mutual respect with non-Indigenous adherents, while also confronting colonial tensions of intercultural communication and normative patterns of non-Indigenous practice and privilege. This study, then, further illuminates the pain and the promise of forging unity in diversity in Indigenous, and global, North America.