Terry Fox’s family embraces rediscovered Métis heritage

Terry Fox’s courage and determination are a reflection of his Métis heritage, says brother.

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Betty Fox, the mother of Terry Fox, the young athlete who inspired millions with her 1980 Marathon of Hope, always carried a pen.


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The meaning of the feather was unknown to his children, the reason had not been said among the family members until now.

Darrell Fox, 59, Terry’s younger brother, said he believes the pen was his late mother’s way of staying connected to her Métis heritage.

Fox said the family didn’t learn of their Métis heritage until long after their grandmother, Mary Ann Gladue, died in 2001 at the age of 91. The family is now reconnecting with that heritage and understanding its legacy.

“It is an amazing story and it is not uncommon for most Métis. Many of us grew up in Métis families but we didn’t know, ”said Daniel Fontaine, CEO of Métis Nation British Columbia .

The late Terry Fox is shown with his maternal grandmother, Mary Ann Gladue, who was Métis, on the day Fox received the Order of Canada in September 1980.
The late Terry Fox is shown with his maternal grandmother, Mary Ann Gladue, who was Métis, on the day Fox received the Order of Canada in September 1980. Fox family photo /PNG

Fox said genealogy research shows her grandmother’s family were Manitoba bison hunters and lived in the Red River communities of St. Norbert and St. Francis Xavier. The family fled to the United States during the Red River Rebellion in 1869.


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On Tuesday, Métis Nation British Columbia and the Terry Fox Foundation announced the launch of a traditional Métis band in honor of Fox. The Foundation is the lead agency for managing the millions that the Fox name still raises for cancer research.

The band is symbolic and a key cultural identifier for the Métis people, Fontaine said. The hand-woven girdles served many practical purposes for fur traders, such as belts or ropes or for providing warmth, and their colors symbolize different aspects of Métis culture.

“Each leaf has its own DNA,” Fontaine said.

From left, Metis Nation Director Louis De Jaeger Darrell Fox and Métis Nation BC CEO Daniel Fontaine with the band honoring Terry Fox's mixed-race heritage.
From left, Metis Nation Director Louis De Jaeger Darrell Fox and Métis Nation BC CEO Daniel Fontaine with the band honoring Terry Fox’s mixed-race heritage. Photo by RICHARD LAM /PNG

Métis Nation British Columbia worked with the Fox family to develop the band to recognize Terry’s Métis heritage and create something that was symbolic and served a practical purpose: raising funds to support the Foundation’s work.

The bands feature Terry’s favorite colors of red and blue, colors that are also important to the Métis nation, and are available for purchase at the Métis Nation British Columbia website , or through Terry Fox Foundation website. Shapewear purchased through the Foundation have a Terry picture badge on the bottom.

“My grandmother was born in North Dakota to Turtle Mountain First Nation, but she was never comfortable talking about her Indian heritage,” Fox said. “It was not discussed.”

Fox said her grandmother came to Canada after they were married, but the stigma and fear associated with historical inequalities may have been a contributing factor to the silence.


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“I was quite overwhelmed when I found out,” Fox said. “When I look at the values ​​that define Métis people, they are very similar to the characteristics that we admire in Terry and help answer some of the questions about why he was so brave, so committed and so humble.

Like her grandson, Gladue was determined and humble, a woman with whom she spoke little but accomplished everything she set her mind to, Fox said.

Gladue had a close relationship with all of her grandchildren, but was particularly close to Terry, who died on his birthday, June 28, 1981.

“She was there for him when he was first diagnosed with cancer and he lost his leg six days later, and she was there for him until he passed away,” Fox said.

A traditional Métis with an image of Terry Fox.
A traditional Métis with an image of Terry Fox. Photo by RICHARD LAM /PNG

Discovering the family’s Métis heritage has been “a journey,” Fox said. “Discovering this legacy and Terry’s connection to the Metis nation so late in life means even more.”


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Fox, a senior advisor to the Terry Fox Research Institute, was one of three runners who participated in his brother’s Marathon of Hope, a race across Canada to raise money and awareness for cancer research. The race was halted when Terry’s cancer returned, leading to his death, but has inspired many others to participate in the annual fundraising races.

Fontaine said: “Terry was and continues to be an icon. He is a hero. A lot of people don’t know that Terry was Métis. The band is a wonderful tribute to everything Terry did. “

Fontaine said he hopes the Fox family story will encourage others to “take the same journey, draw inspiration from history and seek Métis citizenship if they have a family history.”

Some 93,000 British Columbia residents self-identify as Métis, according to census data, and 23,000 of them have received Métis citizenship cards through the MNBC.

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