Debra Fisher has been given the nod from the Metis Nation of British Columbia (MNBC) to act as the Columbia Valley Metis Association (CVMA) president.
Fisher was sworn in by MNBC president Bruce Dumont on March 14th after completing interviews and questions with chiefs from around the province.
“It was (determined) that we would split from the Columbia River Metis Society because of the distance,” Fisher explained. The Columbia River Metis Society is located in Golden. “It was just too far. We had board members in Golden and Invermere, but it was too complicated to travel during the winter time so we decided to splinter off and have our own local association.”
The desire to run a grassroots organization for the Metis community from Spillimacheen to Canal Flats aims to engage its members with initiatives a bit closer to home.
“Right now we have over 130 local Metis and that goes from Brisco, Spillimacheen all the way to Canal Flats,” said Fisher. “I think as a local organization, you’re able to better serve your membership. When things are really spread out, it’s hard to get people together and to plan things.
“It’s way easier to organize (events) and keep the association strong if it’s local.”
Trying to create a network of Metis people closer to home has been a lifelong journey for Fisher.
“I held the first meeting in my kitchen 35 years ago,” she said about the challenges of bringing the Metis community together. “We had about six people come together to find out who else was Metis in the valley. We wanted to get together and create kinship, but this was before we even had a provincial Metis body.”
Now there is no shortage of representation for Metis people in the Kootenays.
“We now have three strong Metis associations in the Columbia Valley,” said Fisher. “We have quite a few community associations and that’s intentional, so that when we come together, we have a strong and united front.”
The third group is the Elk Valley Metis Association.
“When I think back to 35 years ago and we were all sitting around my kitchen table having coffee and trying to figure out who else was Metis in the valley and I think of where we’re at now, we have a governing body,” she said with a sigh of relief, “I’m pretty proud of that.”
Fisher is eager to reach out to all Metis people and their families through the Columbia Valley Metis
“The most important point I want to get across is that we’re a new association,” said Fisher. “We’re looking for new membership. We can help people do their membership applications and things like that (starting at)
At the upcoming May 20th annual general meeting planned for the CVMA, Fisher says there will be an official election of the board and nominations will be taken for two-year terms on the executive.
Currently, DK Rice and Sharon Wass are sharing the reins as Columbia Valley Metis Association director. The trio (Fisher, Rice and Wass) take guidance from their elders’ committee, which includes Ev McGilvery, Claudia Mitchel, Yvette Boyer and Oliver Boyer.
“From there, we move forward,” said Fisher. “What has to come to the membership is whether they want to have Associate Membership cards. The Associate Membership cards are for anybody that’s Metis or their spouse is. Maybe they haven’t got their direct lineage yet so they haven’t got their MNBC card yet, but we want them to have a sense of community and an opportunity to learn about their culture and history.
“If we give them an Associate Member card for our association, we can try to help them get their MNBC citizenship card. It’s a provincial card.”
For more information about the CVMA, visit the Columbia Valley Metis Association on Facebook or email Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.