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Métis Week activities coming to Pincher Creek this week

Wednesday, 14 November 2018. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Métis Week activities coming to Pincher Creek this week

Métis Week activities coming to Pincher Creek this week

By Jess Harrington

Music and prayer filled the air as the flag of the Métis people was raised outside Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village on Tuesday, its white infinity symbol standing out on a field of bright blue, symbolizing the mixing of European and First Nations cultures forever.

Métis Week runs Nov. 12 to 17. This yearly event, put on by the Métis Nation of Alberta, commemorates the anniversary of the death of Métis leader Louis Riel and celebrates the contributions of Métis people in Canada.

Gail McLenaghan, president of Métis local council Chinook 1880, which stretches from Claresholm south to the United States border and from Cardston west to the British Columbia border, works diligently from the nation drop-in centre in Pincher Creek to promote her people.

She says events like the flag raising are important to increase awareness and attract more Métis people to join their community.

“We’re growing, and we need to get bigger. There are a couple hundred Métis people [in our council area], but we haven’t been noticed down here. Visibility is important so we can bring our agenda forward, so we can get out there that we represent the rights of the Métis people and self reliance and … expand our nation.”

She says Métis people in southwestern Alberta deserve proper recognition because their history here runs deep.

“We were travellers and traders. At Beauvais Lake, Milk Creek, Beaver Lake, if you look at the books there’s lots of Métis heritage there. We just need it to be known that we’re here.”

The council tries to do as much as they can to share their heritage, primarily by putting on events that are open to nation members and non-members alike. The council frequently hosts workshops on traditional Métis arts and language, and performs traditional fiddle and dance numbers at community celebrations.

“And we’re starting to get asked to come to the schools and do presentations. We’d like to do more of that,” says Gail.

Gail says it was by gradually digging into her heritage that she came to take pride in being Métis.

“I grew up in Winnipeg and was shamed for it when I was young, so I tried to hide it. But then my mom, Sophie Hiebert, became senator to the Métis Nation of Alberta, and she needed a driver so she called me. So I took her to all the meetings and started to learn and go, You know what, it’s not so bad having it known that you are Métis!”

She hopes her council’s events will encourage other Métis people to find their pride, too.

This week, aside from the flag raising, the nation is also holding an open house to celebrate Métis Week on Thursday at their drop-in Centre in the Pincher Creek Provincial Building from 2 to 4 p.m. Later this month, on Nov. 24 and 25, they are holding two Michif language workshops.

Absolutely everyone is invited to come learn about local Métis heritage through these events. To sign up, call the nation office at 403-627-1884.