Special celebrations, ceremonies mark 175th anniversary of Riel's birth
- By Julia Peterson | November 14, 2019
This year marks the 175th anniversary of the birth of Louis Riel, and events designed to commemorate, celebrate, and educate about his legacy will be taking place throughout the province on November 16th, the date of his execution.
In Saskatoon, the Métis Addictions Council of Saskatchewan will be hosting the first annual Louis Riel Cultural Festival at City Centre Church. This two-day event, taking place over the 15th and the 16th, will feature musical and dance performances, cultural presentations, and communal meals.
“We’re hoping to share Métis, but also Indigenous in general, First Nations performances, as well as performances from newcomers to Canada,” said Shayne Lazarowich, communications manager for the Métis Addictions Council of Saskatchewan. “The idea is, in the spirit of reconciliation, to reach out to all kinds of cultural groups and folks in our community to present something that really respects and honours the tradition and the history of Louis Riel.”
Performers at the Louis Riel Cultural Festival will include singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Donny Parenteau, the Andino Sons, who describe their musical style as ‘South American Mountain Folk Rock,’ and the Qu’appelle Valley Square dancers.
Another commemoration will be taking place at the Batoche National Historic Site.
Though the site is normally closed at this time of year, Parks Canada and the Gabriel Dumont Institute will host Louis Riel Day at Batoche on the 16th. On that day, there will also be a Project Bookmark plaque unveiling at the site. Project Bookmark’s mission is to place excerpts from literary texts at their real locations throughout the country, and the plaques at Batoche will feature French and English translations of “The Sewing Circle,” a poem by Métis writer Gregory Scofield.
“This year, Gregory [Scofield] was chosen because of Louis Riel’s 175th anniversary,” said Jacqueline Gaudet, events coordinator. “His poem ‘The Sewing Circle’ takes place here at Batoche during the 1885 resistance. And we’ll also be having our memorial walk to the cemetery, honouring all those who have fallen, and a light lunch and traditional entertainment that day.”
Saskatchewan Polytechnic will also be honouring Riel by hosting speakers and performances and raising the Métis flag on its campuses located in Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Regina, and Saskatoon.
“These events are to create awareness about Louis Riel himself and the challenges and contributions this historical figure gave to this province of Saskatchewan and to Canada,” said Saskatchewan Polytechnic Indigenous strategy coordinator Deanna Speidel. “It brings about an awareness of the Indigenous history throughout Canada.
“It's for everybody to share and celebrate and walk away and learn something about the contributions Louis Riel has made. All the very important information that was not in our history books, that information is shared on this day.”