By Andrea DesRoches
Brock University student Lynh Doan creates a beautiful piece of flower beadwork on
her first try.
On Thursday, January 26, a number of Brock University students took part in a traditional Métis beading workshop, held on campus in St Catharines, Ontario. The workshop was sponsored by the Métis Nation of Ontario’s (MNO) Infinite Reach program and co-hosted by Brock’s Aboriginal Student Services. Beading is a traditional art form of the Métis, and the tradition continues to this day.
Barbaranne Wright, the Women’s Representative for the MNO Niagara Region Métis Council, volunteered her time to come to campus to teach students this craft. A total of nine students took part in the event, including two Métis students. All participants started a flower design project, and received a full kit with all the necessary supplies to finish two designs. Students could sew the finished product onto clothing or another accessory, or frame it to be used as a wall decoration.
During the workshop, Barbaranne shared with participants the history and cultural importance of beadwork for the Métis people. Beading has always been an important component of traditional Métis culture, first taught to Métis girls by Christian nuns in mission schools. Métis women went on to produce beaded items for their voyageur husbands to trade with First Nation partners in the fur trade. Historically, the Métis were referred to as “The Flower Beadwork People” because of the popularity of their exquisite beading, and flowers are one of the most common designs. Today, beading is worn proudly by many Métis, including our leaders across the province and country as a symbol of our history.
Barbaranne also talked about the history of the Métis sash and the Métis flag, two traditional symbols of the Métis people. She even told the history behind the lives of her own Métis ancestors from all parts of North America.
For almost all of the students, this was their first exposure to any type of beading craft, but everyone did an amazing job and took home some beautiful projects. All of the participants enjoyed the workshop and the full day of stories, laughter, sharing, and fun!
The event was sponsored by the Métis Nation of Ontario as part of its Infinite Reach program. The Infinite Reach Student Solidarity Network is a new initiative of the Métis Nation of Ontario to help to create a community of Métis learners in Ontario’s post-secondary institutions. Workshops like this one aim to provide culturally-specific events to raise awareness of the Métis people.