Métis culture proudly on display at Saskatoon’s WDM
- Andrea Ledding | September 28, 2018
Friday September 28th kicked off the first annual three-day Métis Cultural Days at Saskatoon’s Western Development Museum. Initiated by the Central Urban Métis Federation Inc (CUMFI) to celebrate its 25th anniversary, over 1500 school children were in attendance, many sporting orange shirts in recognition of Orange Shirt Day. Hundreds participated in a noon flash mob of jigging, and enjoyed food, cultural activities, entertainment, interactive history installations, live music, vendors, and so much more.
“To me, reconciliation is about the person, and it’s about having everyone come together. It’s about seeing children of all cultures down there jigging...everyone needs to know that we can live and work and play together as one community,” said Shirley Isbister, President of CUMFI. “It’s about educating the community on what CUMFI is, what we do, but mostly on Métis culture, and where we come from, and how fun our people are, and the things we do - we’re more than fiddle players and jiggers. We have wonderful artists, beaders, we work in every part of the community, different jobs.”
Isbister added that Elders and youth were a huge part of the focus, along with many partnerships which embody the Métis approach to blending and partnering to highlight the best in everyone.
“The whole three days is about celebrating who the Métis are, and our contributions, and partnering and diversity and reconciliation — CUMFI’s very involved in reconciliation — we can’t make change if we don’t all work together.”
She noted that they have actors playing Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont, and many other historical figures who interact with the audiences; there are fiddle players and musicians, stations set up, voyageur games for all ages, venue tables.
Friday night there’s a dinner and family dance; Sunday morning there’s a pancake breakfast to honour survivors, and a day of music and fun.
“Come out and have some fun!”
MC Maureen Belanger said there was a lot going on.
“It’s a big huge celebration of our culture, our language, our music, our food, and just basically anything and everything under the sun about Métis people,” Belanger said. “We’re trying to cover everything that we can think of…we are tons of fun. I always said, my own personal little quote I don’t know if anyone’s ever used it, is that we’re like the three A’s, us Métis people. We adjust, we accommodate and we adapt. We kind of go with the flow of things, and we’re very loving, very open, and we like to celebrate.”
Belanger added that she was very proud and honoured to be present this weekend, to see all the artists come together.
“When we did our opening ceremonies, and Krystle [Pedersen] was up there singing I stood up there beside her, I had just done the opening prayer, and I thought, you know what? Louis Riel had said his people will rest and it’ll be the artists, and I thought this has to be the start, if not the middle part. That we’re getting stronger and healing through it, humour, music, and the fiddle is alive, and the dancing. We’re healing and celebrating. Proud Halfbreeds!”
Belanger hopes everyone enjoys themselves and goes home with a true appreciation of and empowerment of the Métis people and who they are.
“Even the general store has stuff we can refer to, the sashes are present there, as I envisioned it, it’s a little Métis town. Next year will even be better! So that’s what it is, just an authentic little Métis community is what we’re trying to show.”
Friday’s supper and dance started at 6 pm, with the dance from 8 to 10 pm. Saturday runs from morning to about 5 pm, and Sunday begins first thing with a Gospel multifaith hour, followed by the free 10 pm pancake breakfast and orange shirt day celebrating Residential School survivors. All are welcome, all weekend, free of charge at the Western Development Museum on Lorne Avenue.