Métis educator sets up tent in classroom to share his grandparents' experience with students

A Métis educator in Saskatoon is finding the best way to connect students with the culture is to tell his family's story in a unique setting.

'We lost our land and we were scattered,' says Cort Dogniez of his ancestors following the Battle of Batoche

Cort Dogniez, a Métis educator with the Saskatoon Greater Catholic School division, holds a photo of his grandfather inside the tent he set up in his classroom to show students how his grandparents lived. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

A Métis educator in Saskatoon is finding the best way to connect students with the culture is to tell his family's story in a unique setting.

Cort Dogniez, who is the Métis education program leader for the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools division, has set up a prospector tent in his classroom at St. Michael Community School.

"We lost our land and we were scattered," said Dogniez.

"After the Northwest Resistance, my family didn't stay in Batoche."

Following the signing of treaties in the late 1800s, many Métis people were displaced with no actual land or home to reside in. Teepees and prospector tents were the main residence for many.

Dogniez said prospector tents were what was available, so "that's what was used."

Take a tour inside a Métis tent

5 years ago
Duration 1:28
A Métis educator in Saskatoon is finding the best way to connect students with the culture is to tell his family's story in a unique setting.

A family photo

He got the idea to put the tent up in his classroom from a photo he had of his grandfather sitting on his horse in front of the family tent while the family was on the move. Seeing the photo, he remembered his grandmother's stories about the experience and decided he needed to share them with his students.

"My grandma was Clara Dumont and my grandfather was Leo Delorme," said Dogniez.

"Whatever ideas come into my head that I think are going to excite kids and make that learning deeper, any time I can do that, I run with it."

This painting at the school, created by former teacher Kat Moon, depicts a Red River cart wheel with the Métis symbol of infinity in the centre. Each section, including the outer part of the wheel, represents a different theme for each month of the school year. The colours represent the Cree medicine wheel - the connection Metis and Cree people have. (Brad Bellegarde/CBC)

Dogniez said treaty education in the curriculum provides a lot of knowledge about First Nations culture, but that leaves out a lot of Métis history.

For Dogniez, as a Métis person, it's important to provide his ancestors' history and insight about his culture to students. 

The role of Métis educator for the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools division was introduced in 2015 as a pilot project to incorporate more Métis content into the curriculum.

'​Métis perspectives are often left behind'

"It's long overdue," said Russell Fayant, an instructor at the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program in Regina.

"What studies often tell us in terms of Aboriginal integration is that Métis perspectives are often left behind. So to have a specific school that is explicitly teaching Métis history, Métis culture, I think helps to overcome the gap we've had over the past three years of Métis culture not being taught in school."

The school has a painting a red river cart wheel created by artist Kim Moon, that is broken into different sections that represent a monthly theme.

The month of January is a time of celebration and the symbols on the painting are a fiddle and moccasins with musical notes.

Dogniez said he hopes the inclusion of Métis education at St. Michael Community School is something that can help influence the rest of the school division.

"This job is about... helping teachers recognize that within the curriculum we can make meaningful, respectful connections to Métis content and perspectives in a really good way, " he said.