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Me'tis Nation welcomes mixed-blood Indians

Finding a nation and a family

Finding a nation and a family

February 25, 2002|By KATE COLEMAN

Finding a nation and a family

By KATE COLEMAN
katec@herald-mail.com

For years, Guy Varron had searched for a way to worship that was right for him. He tried a lot of different religions, and a few years ago finally found comfort in Native American traditions. So he traveled to gatherings of people who worshiped in the way he wanted to worship, sometimes driving three hours.

He had never asked his mother about the Sioux blood mixed with his Scottish and French Canadian heritage. They just didn't talk about it, he says.

Learning about his Indian ancestry helped the 45-year-old Keedysville resident understand what he had long felt "deep down inside."

"This is my family," Varron says, referring to the Me'tis Nation of the United States National Council, of which he is now North East Regional Chief.

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Me'tis (pronounced "meh-TEE") means mixed blood. The Me'tis nation is made up of people who are not "First Nation" or full-blooded Native Americans. Neither are they descendants of European immigrants. People of the Me'tis Nation have mixed indigenous (American Indian) heritage.

The Me'tis nation also includes people who have married people of American Indian heritage, according to the national council's definition. There is no required minimum percentage of American Indian blood, Varron says.

People of mixed blood experience prejudice from both sides, Varron says. They are not recognized as a people by the federal government. They are not fully accepted by full-blooded Native American nations.

The Me'tis nation is not a federally recognized tribe, says Robin Shield, public information officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.

Federal recognition is not easy to obtain. Groups seeking recognition must meet several specific criteria, including proof of direct Native American descendancy, she adds.

Maryland also has a painstaking process by which Native American nations can be officially recognized, says Ed McDonough of the office of communications, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. The Piscataway tribe is the only tribe seeking state recognition so far, he adds.

The Me'tis Nation of the United States is recognized in Canada and would like to have recognition in the U.S, says Joe Whitehand, 51, of Elk Creek, Va., the organization's national chief.

The Me'tis wants recognition - but not for money or land. There are health issues and issues of religious freedom, Whitehand says. "We want to be recognized as who we are. It's a respect thing," he adds.

Like Varron, Susan Reid, 43, also of Elk Creek, felt comfortable in Native American traditions long before she documented her Indian heritage. "There's a part of you that always knows," she says.

Guy Varron has found acceptance in his Me'tis membership. He also has found religious ceremonies in the Native American traditions closer to home.

Varron joins others, usually eight to 10 people, in Saturday evening gatherings at the home of Mike Desmond in Middletown, Md.

The group has made a sweat lodge, a dome-shaped structure covered with blankets and tarps. Members heat rocks in a fire circle and bring them into the lodge where they are placed in front of a small altar.

There is singing and praying - in the language of the Lakota tribe - asking the spirit of the stone to give itself to the ceremony. Water is poured on the rocks, and clouds of vapor fill the steamy structure.

The ceremony provides a physical cleansing, Desmond says. Members have expressed feeling relaxed, "grounded out," he adds.

Me'tis welcomes people who are not of Native American descent to join in the group's social events and gatherings. People who are interested in learning more about their ancestry and the Me'tis nation, can contact Varron by e-mail at dancingbear21756@yahoo.com.

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