Mé​tis Week provides a chance to 'reclaim the pride'

Events and ceremonies mark this week of honouring Métis culture and tradition. For many, it helps restore connection and a sense of pride.

Week-long event is increasingly important time for Métis families and communities

Damase Ellis says a lot of Mé​tis culture was lost in the residential school era and Mé​tis Week gives people a chance to re-learn and reclaim Mé​tis culture. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Mé​tis dancer Elizabeth Potskin dances a traditional jig in front of a crowd in Calgary to celebrate Mé​tis Week.

The Red River Jig is a traditional Mé​tis dance, a style borrowed from European settlers but now owned and celebrated by Mé​tis people. It's one part of a rich Mé​tis culture being celebrated in Calgary this week.

Events and ceremonies this week are honouring Mé​tis culture and traditions, while helping restore a connection and sense of pride for many.

"I know that personally for my family Mé​tis Week is a very big deal now because it gives us a chance to celebrate the parts of our culture that were lost," said Domase Ellis, a Mé​tis singer and songwriter performing at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary.

"My family was not necessarily a proud Mé​tis family and this gives us a chance to reclaim the pride.

"For certain, kids in care and people not connected to that part of their past, I think it's a really important thing."

Ken Taylor says Mé​tis Week is a good time to talk about Indigenous history. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Ellis says Métis Week helps raise awareness and educate Canadians of all backgrounds about Métis people and history but she says it also encourages more Métis people to make change.

"There's the fight to be recognized as legitimate Aboriginal people, issues with our own government within the Mé​tis Nation that we have to address and it gets more people to self-identify as Mé​tis," she said.

With more registered Métis people, more voices will be heard in elections and the political arena, she added.

Elizabeth Potskin says Mé​tis Week is all-encompassing and a great opportunity to both celebrate Mé​tis culture and address historic and present day problems. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

For others, the week is about continuing recognition of Métis as a very distinct culture with its own traditions, beliefs and unique history.

"The whole issue with status and non-status is becoming less and less of a focus. Mé​tis people are proud of who they are and they want to represent that and celebrate that," Ken Turner said.

"Indigenous history period has not been a focus. The Red River Rebellion and Louis Riel is mostly what's taught, but to go beyond that, to know more, I'm not sure that's something that's going to be taught in schools."

A focus on healing and creating a deeper understanding of inter-generational trauma is another big part of Mé​tis Week. 

"There's a lot of Mé​tis families still healing, trying our best to get back to who we once were," Mé​tis performer Elizabeth Potskin said.

"When you went to residential school you weren't taught love, you were taught how to hate, how to hide, how to push away, how to be afraid, so that is what a lot of families still face," she said.

"Also there is still a lot of racism, not just from non-indigenous people. We should not be shaming each other for who we are. We all bleed red and that's all that matters."

The Mé​tis flag is flying over Calgary City Hall all week.

On Friday, many will commemorate the anniversary of the death of Louis Riel, the Mé​tis leader who led two rebellions against the Canadian government in the late 1800s. Riel was convicted of treason and hung in 1885.

About the Author

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist covering all kinds of stories from northeast Calgary for web, radio, TV and social media, using only an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca or tweet him @DanMcGarvey