How one family became better connected to their Métis roots through an end-of-life experience 

Personal Stories | March 17, 2023 | Troy and Murray Stooke

Home / Personal Stories / How one family became better connected to their Métis roots through an end-of-life experience 
A photo of Lillian

“The story we share below has led us on a path gathering new information and wisdom coupled with memories, grief and joys. This experience has completely changed our identities as Canadians to that of proud Métis – Indigenous people in Canada. This learning is also an ongoing, deepening of responsibility and honouring of our relationship to our Métis community.” – Troy and Murray Stooke 

Taanishi, Troy Stooke, dishinihkaashoon 

Mes familles are Huber, Stevens, McKay, pi Fiddler, from Gibbons Alberta (NE of Edmonton), Prince Albert and Duck Lake areas in Saskatchewan, Brandon, and the Red River Homeland. 

Taanishi, Murray Stooke, dishinihkaashoon 

Mes familles are Stooke, Henderson, Spence, Whitford from Meadow Lake, Portage la Prairie, and the Red River homeland.  

Above is an expected Métis introduction. Hello, my name is, followed by your ancestors’ names and locations. 

Troy’s mother Lillian was from a family of 11 children. Troy’s grandmother’s first husband died leaving behind six sons. She tried to marry a Métis man, Walter, with whom she had two more sons and a daughter, Lillian. They did have a marriage license from Alberta, but the Catholic church would not marry them. When Lillian was just four months old, the RCMP and the church forcibly removed her father from the farmland, the family now understands because he was Métis. Lillian did not have contact with him again. 

16 year old Lillian near Gibbons
16 year old Lillian near Gibbons

Lillian and her husband Daniel searched for Lil’s father over the years, but before the internet, it was challenging. Once retired from the military life of moving and working, and settled in Calgary, she decided to call the local hospitals to see if Walter Stevens had been admitted. With just the second call, she discovered that had been in Calgary, but he had died the year before. With that, she found his gravesite and saw that he had been in the Lake Superior Regiment in the Second World War. She wrote to Veterans Affairs and the response was that she couldn’t prove she was Walter’s daughter because, to protect her, her mother had put her long-deceased husband’s name on her birth record. 

Lillian waited 25 years for those military records to become public, and sure enough, in 2016, a stack of records arrived in the mail, and it was from these records that she learned she had Métis roots from her biological father. She traveled to the lands mentioned in her grandmother’s Scrip records in an effort to discover more about her family. She also learned from the Centre de patrimoine in Winnipeg – where many Métis get their genealogy and proof of ancestry confirmed – that she would have to go to court to have her long-form birth record changed to reflect Walter’s name.  

At the same time, Lillian’s husband had been diagnosed and was living with cancer, and then she learned while in the hospital for what she thought was back pain, it was actually lung cancer that had metastasized to her spine. Devastated, the family gathered, and it was then that Lillian tells everyone, she needed to be released from the hospital the next day so she can attend her court date to have her birth certificate changed. She had done all this court preparation quietly without notifying the family. 

As soon as the judge’s court order was ready a week later, Troy and her husband Murray drove to Edmonton to serve Vital Statistics with the Order to have Lillian’s birth certificate changed. At the same time, Lillian had decided to have an assisted death; it was a very busy and pressured time. Because of these efforts, and the kindnesses of many people, Lil got her completed genealogy three days before her scheduled assisted death, and she got her amended birth record showing Walter as her birth father the night before she died. She died peacefully, surrounded by family on her terms. 

While grieving the loss of Lillian, Troy, and Murray sat down to do their genealogies and applications to submit for their Métis citizenship. Following that, both their children, all four of their grandkids, Troy’s sister, and her children have all applied and benefited from Lillian’s actions. Murray was aware of his Métis background and was also inspired by Lillian’s quest, to apply for his citizenship. Troy and Murray are linking their families’ experiences with their learning about Métis traditions through participating in Métis events, arts, music, politics, and reading, listening, and learning from knowledge keepers and elders. They want to better understand the land they came from, and who their ancestors are while gathering and preserving this information for their grandchildren and future generations; this is something that is deeply meaningful to both of them. 

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