Community & Family are the Centre of the Métis Nation
Métis Community Festivals Celebrate Métis Culture & Heritage
“Community and family are the centre of the Métis Nation,” explained Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) President, Gary Lipinski, during one of the nine Métis Community Festivals organized by the MNO this summer and fall. President Lipinski who attended several of the Festivals added: “This is why we hold these events, they keep our culture vibrant and alive while giving us the opportunity to have fun and renew friendships.”
Enthusiastic crowds gathered for the Métis Community Festivals held May 27 near Windsor, July 11 at the local park in Bancroft, July 14 at Ma-Ta-Way Park near Renfrew, September 8 at Aaron Park near Dryden, September 15 at the Massey Fair Grounds near Sudbury, September 22 at Silver Lake Park near Port Dover, September 23 at Talbot Park near Port McNicoll, September 29 at Camp Bickell near Iroquois Falls and September 30 at Club Richelieu in Welland. “We felt it was important to hold these Festivals as widely as possible across Ontario,” stated President Lipinski, “and each Festival was located between Métis communities. We wanted to make the Festivals accessible to as many of our MNO citizens as possible.”
In keeping with Métis spiritual beliefs, MNO Senators provided opening and closing prayers at each Festival, setting the proper tone for the events and reminding all participants to be thankful.
Métis culture and traditions were front and centre at each Festival. MNO Chair France Picotte, for example, taught the basic techniques for finger-weaving sashes at the Camp Bickell event. “A key part of these celebrations,” said Chair Picotte, “is passing on the traditional Métis knowledge to our young people.” Also at Camp Bickell, Region 3 Captain of the Hunt Andy Lefebvre and his harvesting team displayed a moose hanging on poles shot by Jacques Picotte. Andy was very patient with children in attendance as he shared traditional teachings on how to prepare the moose for the community freezer. Paul Rondeau also demonstrated working with cedar wood, which is used to build birch bark canoes.
Music and dancing were big parts of most of the Festivals. The Kwiijikwewag Métis Women’s Drum Group, the MNO Georgian Bay Métis Council Youth Drummers, Cindy Thompson’s fiddle students and the Copegog Family Band provided lively performances at the Talbot Park Festival, while Senator John and Dylinda George fired up the dance floor with a jigging workshop at the Aaron Park event. The Talbot Park Festival was also enlivened by Lillian Penner, a young fiddler who got everyone’s heels tapping. Daryle Gardipy taught different dance techniques at the Ma-Ta-Way Park event and the Les Amis Qui Danse group provided square dancing instruction at Camp Bickell.
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Métis history was not forgotten at these Festivals either. Club Richelieu, Port Dover and Camp Bickell each featured historical recreations of Métis encampments and Port Dover’s activities included the Métis Voyageur Games. These are competitions based on the traditional lifestyle of Métis Voyageurs. Hank and Scott Rowlinson provided instruction and supervision and everyone had a great time! Our natural heritage was also celebrated at the Festivals. In Aaron Park, Arlene Williams led a nature walk, which enjoyed great participation despite rain during that particular Festival
Craft making played a big role in several Festivals as well. The Kenora Métis Warmth and Wellness Committee provided a knitting display and an on-site demonstration at the Aaron Park event, while Regina Rosignol demonstrated her quilt-making expertise at Camp Bickell. Dot-painting was a popular activity with young and old at most of the Festivals and a tie blanket workshop at the Massey Fairgrounds Festival attracted participants of all ages
Every Festival had many activities for the children and laughter filled the air especially during events such as the good old-fashioned three-legged race at Aaron Park, sack races and four-person snowshoe races at Club Richelieu. There were also vendors, displays and door prizes at most of the events. The cooks won rave reviews for their meals that always included traditional Métis fare such as bannock, corn roast, fish fry, bear, wild turkey, venison, fish and moose stew.
Each Métis Community Festival was a resounding success. The hard work of MNO Community Council volunteers with the assistance of MNO staff paid off in enjoyable events for all involved. “Our Métis culture,” stated President Lipinski, “is something that we all can be very proud of, and something that our families and communities keep alive. It is events like these that really bring that home!”