2010 Year of the Metis
Celebrating Back to Batoche
This year, the Back to Batoche festival featured a wide range of performances including Saskatchewan’s own Lindsay Knight (Eekwol) and Donny Parenteau - among others, as well as workshops by Michael Maurice, Leah Dorion and Michif language instruction by Norman Fleury. There were programs for children and youth, an artisans' village, as well as rodeo and jigging competitions. The celebrations kicked off with a Métis Research and Rights conference, which was held in Saskatoon on July 16 -17.
Funding from Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund helped support a variety of workshops at a youth pavilion hosted by the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan. Other funding from the Métis Cultural Development Fund supported the Western Region Métis Women's Association ability to provide free passes to at-risk youth, and to the Friends of Batoche Historic Site for the Batoche 125 Project. The Batoche 125 Project featured Métis culture workshops for school children and live performances for audiences at the festival.
On July 18, the festival commemorated the 1885 Resistance with a special ceremony, in which the names of the dead were read out over the course of 30 minutes. The ceremony also marked reconciliations between the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan and the government.
National Aboriginal Days Celebrated in Melfort
Every June, Saskatchewan communities have the opportunity to join the rest of Canada in celebrating the contributions of Aboriginal peoples. This year, the Canadian Métis Heritage Corp. in Melfort took the opportunity to expand their community’s National Aboriginal Day celebrations from one day to three days, June 18-20.
“Our goal is to provide a safe, family friendly day where people from all cultures can come together and enjoy themselves,” explains Joanne Yakowee, director, Canadian Métis Heritage Corp. The organization was pleased that funding from the Métis Cultural Development Fund helped them extend their National Aboriginal Day celebrations, which provided more time to showcase Métis culture to their visitors.
The Canadian Métis Heritage Corp, is a non-profit organization established to address intergenerational impact of residential schools, facilitate the healing process and prevent future abuse. The organization runs the Marguerite Riel Centre in Melfort and offers a range of programs and services.
Rediscovering Cultural Knowledge
Since 2005, Muskoday First Nations Community School has focused on keeping First Nations cultural traditions alive through education. This past year, the Community School embarked on Project R.O.C.K. (Rediscovering Our Cultural Knowledge), an innovative program designed to teach students about First Nations dancing and music, as well as helping them understand the cultural relevance of traditional practices.
“Project R.O.C.K. is about more than dancing,” explains Michelle Vandevort, coordinator, Project R.O.C.K, “it’s about a school and a community reviving its cultural roots and keeping them alive for a new generation.” The Project, funded in 2010 by the Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Leadership Grant, relied on volunteers, who put in countless hours of effort to teach a group of 15 youth the basics and the cultural context of singing, dancing and drumming. Muskoday Elder Edith Dreaver taught activities such as beadwork and moccasin-making, while other volunteers taught students to make traditional regalia, which will be used for powwows and festivals.
“The kids have learned so much,” says Vandevort. “We can hear the boys drumming and singing, as the girls are sewing their jingle dresses and fancy dresses.
The goal of Project R.O.C.K. is to become a self-sustaining program to help ensure that skills are passed down from community Elders to school-age children and youth.