Greetings. I have started this blog to help me sort out the path towards writing my historical fiction about my paternal Metis ancestry. In starting this I can reflect that this is one of those moments in life that we start not really sure we will see the intended end. For me that end is a novel that dramatizes the migrations and struggles of my Metis family that settled in central Alberta amid the settling of the Western Canadian plains. I am drawn towards needing this book finished, and for a few very good reasons.
One: to pull together the narratives of my uncles, biological father, and aunt in a way that they never had as adults. My aunt April, the oldest of the Yee children, is my conduit and contact to their stories. Having spent two decades in counselling and herself working as a life coach in a corrections facility in Yellowknife, my dear aunt April has spent years trying to heal her broken family. Her brothers Tookson, Bingson (my dad), and Willy rarely see each other. Tookson and April live in Wetaskwin and have had recent contact but, as April says, Tookson hates the Fleurys and seems to despise April because she looks like her Metis mother. Instead, April tells me Tookson embraces the Chinese heritage of their father, Kimmie Yee, an immigrant from China who worked many years as a cook and is now buried in Wetaskwin. April gave up years ago trying to bring her brothers together for any occasion, big or small, and now lives a happy life with her dear Stan Mercredi, who he married decades ago in Yellowknife. They are so cute.
So my book will bring together those four children, at least in writing, and do what April has not been able to work out here in the real world.
The second reason for writing my book is that it will provide a long term way for me to work out my place in the Metis family and sort through my identity. WHy am I here? Where did I come from? THese are all questions that are requiring more adult answers, explanations that will help guide my trajectory for the next decade or so. There are loose ends or parts of me that seem out of place if you look at just my mother’s side of the family. So many. For now, lets start with a general feeling of, well, craziness, that seems to cause me to think differently than the rest. Or so it seems that way I guess. Life never seemed simple to me, and my single parent upbringing created many problems and contributed in a big way to chronic underachievement and low expectations for myself. Back to the crazy. How did I put it to April when I tried to describe this all to her? That as a youth I was a trench-coat wearing/cigarette smoking/guitar playing/misfit/high-school drop-out/poet/artist/snooker-playing/social outcast/broken family/insecure/weirdo/rebel kind of guy. These words did not fit my cousins or uncles, well not entirely. After all, as Douglas Coupland says, all families are psychotic.
After meeting April and hearing more about her siblings, including my dad, I have discovered the other half of me and why I have always been crazy. I feel like I belong with them and I feel out of place with my mom’s side of the family. That is not to say I feel not loved or wanted or that I don’t love or appreciate my Mom or her siblings, my uncles and aunt. The opposite. I wouldn’t be where I am without the kind of stability, support, and especially unconditional love they gave me.
What I mean is that each person is the sum of the two people that brought them into this world. And behind each of those parents stands generations of people that lived in a particular arc of time and experience of history. We are all standing in the stream of history, both in a broad way and in minute ways, we carry and are effected by the lives of individuals and the lives of the large forces of history. The simplest lesson in any history department is that all people and organizations need to know their past to understand their current identity and thus have the tools to know where to go in the future. For me, until I learned that my artistic impulses and overall peculiarities are direct connections to my dad’s family, I have never been at peace with thinking myself as a musician, artist, writer, or even mystic even though those features have been shaping my life for as long as I can remember.
To research Metis history in Western Canada and find the connections in that story to what I learned as a Masters of Arts student about Colonialism helps me know how my Metis ancestry and is bound up in the remarkable settlement of the plains of Western Canada.
To interview as many living relatives as I can about my Great-Great Grandmother and Father (Marie-Louise Fleury and Tom Fleury) reveals the personal connections between my ancestry and the little admitted experience of colonialism in Canada.
I think my first steps in these blog postings is to collect a bibliography of sources I will need to support the academic history end of the book. Moreover, I will set in motion the building thoughts and ideas for the book and its structure.