State archives receive over 260 inquiries from Métis and descendants
The State Archives of Belgium have received 266 enquiries from Métis and their descendants in search of their roots or the ancestry of their relatives since the launch of the Resolution-Métis project in late 2019. The project, which is due to end at the end of August, is likely to continue for another four years.
Métis are children of an African mother from Congo, Rwanda or Burundi and a Belgian father born in the 1940s and 50s. In colonial times, they were often seen as a threat to racial segregation. Numerous Métis were taken away from their mothers and ended up in a home or with a Belgian foster family.
"Children were taken away from their mothers, siblings were separated. Métis were robbed of their identity"
The State Archives have been conducting a large-scale investigation into the history of the Métis since 2019, with the aim of mapping the archival files that allow the reconstruction the trajectories of the Métis born during the Belgian colonisation. That knowledge is now accessible through a search guide, which was presented at a press conference on Monday.
Around 70 per cent of the queries the State Archives have received were successful, such as finding records or identifying family links. How many Métis were born in the colonies and how many were transferred to Belgium may never be clear, due to the sloppy and incomplete administration of the time.
"These practices led to considerable trauma and inflicted deep wounds," said Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib. "Children were taken away from their mothers, siblings were separated. Métis were robbed of their identity." She said that many people were still searching for their family history. "The work of the researchers is not finished and must continue."
The continuation of the project should also result in a global historical study, which will be presented in parliament in February 2026.
At the end of last year, the first Métis child was given a birth certificate by the Belgian state.
Paul Totori, the first Métis child to receive a Belgian birth certificate © BELGA PHOTO LUC CLAESSEN