“So what are you…?”: Life as a Mixed-Blood in Academia

“So what are you…?”: Life as a Mixed-Blood in Academia

The American Indian Quarterly
Volume 27, Numbers 1 & 2 (Winter/Spring 2003)
pages 369-372
E-ISSN: 1534-1828 Print ISSN: 0095-182X
DOI: 10.1353/aiq.2004.0038

Julie Pelletier, Associate Professor of Indigenous Studies and Director of the Aboriginal Governance Program
University of Winnepeg

My mentor, Loudell Snow, and I were standing in the anthropology department’s shabby little lounge, discussing the merits of French wine. Lou was teasing me for being partial to French wine since I am French American (I have always disliked the term “Franco-American,” which brings to mind bad canned pasta, so I say “French American” instead). “Hey, I thought that you’re an American Indian, but now you are saying you are French? Make up your mind!” Lou and I looked at each other in amazement when my anthropological theory professor interrupted our conversation with this comment. I am not insensitive to the complicated nature of my identity. I was appalled, however, to be addressed in such a way by a man who, in the classroom, reveled in discussions of postmodernity and the permeability of boundaries, including the boundaries of identity. Lou had the presence of mind to point out this contradiction to the professor with a snappy comeback of some kind. This conversation become one of those moments that many of us have: we linger over the memory and come up with one cutting retort after another, none of which come to mind during those stunned, seemingly endless seconds after we have been verbally assaulted.

I am French and Native American, or perhaps I should say Native Canadian, since my father was born in Quebec. Of course, in Canada I am labeled “Métis” a term used to describe people of mixed Indigenous and French ancestry. If my paternal grandfather had been Indian and his wife white, instead of the reverse, I would be a First Nations person. To make matters just a bit more interesting, I am descended from two tribal groups, the Mi’kmaq and the Maliseet. I also have dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship…

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