Multidimensional collection shows Metis women’s work is everywhere

Edited collection crosses genres, includes thinkers inside and outside the academy

Seeking to uplift Métis women’s contributions, and expand on the dominant narratives of Métis heroes, identity, and culture, Métis assistant professors Dr. Laura Forsythe and Jennifer Markides present Around the Kitchen Table: Métis Aunties’ Scholarship, a foundational text for Métis women and gender-diverse academics, scholars, thinkers, and creators.

With ancestral ties to the historic Métis community of Pakan Ville/Rooster Town (Forsythe) and Brandon House (Markides), Forsythe and Markides were inspired by the women in their own families, as well as the many matriarchs and aunties who have kept Métis culture alive and thriving.

Around the Kitchen Table is an edited collection of poetry, personal essays, academic writing, research, visual artworks, songs, beadwork, political, legal, and governance frameworks, and stories from women across the Métis nation.

“There is a multidimensionality of being Métis. We do not fit in a single box,” Markides says. “We don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes of what Métis identity or work is. This collection really showcases that Métis women’s work is in everything, in every way, in every area and discipline.”

Forsythe adds: “Some of the contributors we approached said, ‘Well, I’m not an academic. That’s not what I do.’ But we know they are. They’re Métis thinkers. Their work is in the academy, whether they put it there or not. It’s important to us that they’re part of this collection. So they said yes, and they gifted us their work to lift up.”

Many of the pieces directly challenge current Métis/Michif identity and self-determination, which relies heavily on a narrow set of narratives, largely shaped and validated by colonial, religious, and patriarchal perspectives. These perspectives distort the lived realities of Métis/Michif people as a matrilineal society, as well as Métis culture, beliefs, traditions, ways of being, and more.

“As Métis women, we’ve often been expected to mediate and negotiate, but we don’t necessarily get credit for what we bring and know and do. And so we needed to make space for us. So this is the first sort of Métis book of this kind, in this way,” shares Markides.

“When we began this journey, we were really thinking about, what are Métis women’s contributions to the academy? And we’re not only in just one discipline: we’re spread throughout all of those disciplines.”

Laura Forsythe
Laura Forsythe

“And so when we did the call for contributors, we wanted to be open and inclusive,” Forsythe says.

The book also highlights how, in addition to their other roles and responsibilities, Métis women have always been at the forefront of education.

“Maria Campbell once said that the role of grandmothers is to be our first teachers. So Métis women learn from their grandmothers that our obligation is to our community, and part of that is to transmit knowledge. So the more educated we get, the more responsibility we have to then educate others. Knowledge does not belong to us: we’re not keepers of it, we share it. And that’s the importance of our experience: the affirmation of our strength and courage and resilience. And we use it to drive us forward and get things done,” Forsythe says.

“We’re driven to work hard and to make change where we see change needs to be made. We say yes to a lot of things – we have a willingness to jump in and keep showing up to make better spaces for the people we serve,” Markides says.

Jennifer Markides
Jennifer Markides

When faced with the wisdom, resilience, and creativity that exudes from each chapter, we can begin to see the harm created when Métis women and gender-diverse people are removed not only from Canada’s history, but from their own history, and from the present.

Around the Kitchen Table is a reminder to us, that the kitchen table is a sacred space of ceremony, rest, and action.

As Forsythe says, “We’re being reminded of the way that we have always operated. That kitchen table governance has always existed. It has never gone anywhere – we just need to remember the power of it.

If we can remember that’s how we should be operating as Métis people – through our kinship ties, with our obligations, whether that table is in the academy or in our own kitchen – Métis people can be unstoppable.