Métis author and storyteller shares the story of his people

LEWISTOWN — Thursday, the American Prairie National Discovery Center in Lewistown hosted Little Shell author and storyteller Chris La Tray to give a free presentation to the public.

Chris La Tray is a member of the Métis people, a group of indigenous people who once dotted the High Plains landscape but have since been relegated to obscurity.

The Métis were famous as fur trappers. The history books will tell you that these trappers were French-Canadian, but the vast majority of them were in fact aboriginal, La Tray noted during his presentation.

It is these pieces of information that demonstrate the erasure of Métis and Aboriginal culture from the history books.

In 2019, the Little Shell Tribe was federally recognized as the 574th tribe in the United States. The Little Shell Band includes Chippewa, Cree, Assiniboine and Métis peoples.

La Tray’s presentation focuses on the 150-year journey the Métis have traveled from rejection to federal recognition, including the repeated conflicts in the United States that have split up close family bands into refugees, often resulting in loss of generational identity.

“The goal is long-term genocide,” says La Tray, “By defining an Aboriginal by the amount of ‘Indian blood’ they have in them, the government can ‘marry’ an Aboriginal, until he is not related. enough to legally place Native on their birth certificate.

La Tray is an award-winning author and poet whose father was born in Lewistown. The Métis had and still have a strong presence in the city and in central Montana. La Tray’s goal is to keep this presence alive.

“My dad, and his dad, and his dad before him, they all kept their identities a secret from others, because of fighting racism and being called dirty half-breeds. It’s important that we recognize who we are and let others know so we can be proud of who we are,” says La Tray.

La Tray’s presentation kicks off a full weekend in Lewistown, including a celebration of Métis people and a powwow.

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