Sharing Métis Culture as Part of Reconciliation
In this issueEngage - Volume 9, Issue 1 Winter/Spring 2019
A festival focusing on Métis culture brought together the community in the spirit of reconciliation.
The Western Development Museum’s (WDM) ‘Boomtown’ and Prairieland Park served as the ideal settings for the first annual Métis Days Festival that took place in Saskatoon during the 2018 Culture Days weekend, September 28 – 30th.
According to Michelle LeClair, an organizer for the non-profit Central Urban Métis Federation Inc. (CUMFI), the event “provided an opportunity for Saskatoon residents to participate in Métis cultural activities.” She adds it was also a way to share the Métis concept of reconciliation. “It’s about opening (our Métis culture) to a wider inter-cultural community, and sharing the beauty of Métis culture through our history, our music, while bringing reconciliation to the forefront.”
The festival featured many highlights from Métis history and culture. Visiting historical figures from “Kayas” (a Cree word for long time ago) made Prairieland Park come alive. Actors portraying Louis Riel, his wife Marguerite, and others, were accessible to present day guests. There were outdoor activities as well including king trapper events such as animal calling and Métis voyageur games.
“It’s about opening (our Métis culture) to a wider inter-cultural community, and sharing the beauty of Métis culture through our history, our music, while bringing reconciliation to the forefront.” ~ Michelle LeClair
The ‘kitchen stage’ hosted all kinds of performers, from Michif language storytelling, to Métis fiddlers and Métis musicians from across Saskatchewan and Canada. Audiences were also entertained to jigging contests.
According to organizers, more than 7,000 people attended the three day event. Over 1,200 school students attended on day one for an interactive, engaging, live educational experience. On the second day, the attendance count was more than 2,000 guests. The Sunday events also coincided with National Orange Shirt Day, a commemoration to residential school students that is held on September 30th.
The third day was an interfaith service and gospel jamboree, hosting 1,500 community members from many denominations. In addition to members of the Christian faith, members from the Jewish faith and Muslim faith were also in attendance.
Following the success of their first Métis Days, LeClair says organizers are already applying for grants and planning the second Annual Métis Days, for Culture Days, which is scheduled for fall 2019.
“The legacy includes the sharing of the rich Métis culture to all community members. The goal was, in the spirit of reconciliation, to not only to share Métis culture and history within our own community, but also with new Canadians and the settler community. We believe that we accomplished this goal and look forward to next year being bigger and better,” she explains.
Métis Days Festival received funding from SaskCulture’s Aboriginal Arts and Culture Leadership fund.