By Richard Cuddy, President of the MNO Credit River Métis Council

Métis musiciansMétis musicians Kim and Rajan Anderson performing during the Credit River
Louis Riel Day Celebration

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On the afternoon of Sunday, November 18, 2012, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Credit River Métis Council hosted a Louis Riel Celebration and Gathering for special guests and MNO citizens in the Credit River area. The doors opened at 1:00 pm at the CAW Local 1285 Union Hall in Brampton to honoured guests MNO Chair France Picotte, MNO Vice-chair Sharon McBride, PCMNO Senator Verna Porter, PCMNO Senator Joe Poitras, neighbouring Council Representatives from Hamilton, Grand River and well over 100 Credit River MNO citizens.

Credit River President Richard Cuddy welcomed the guests and community to the Gathering and Credit River Senator Ray Bergie provided the opening prayer. Before speeches began, the community was encouraged to visit cultural and heritage display tables put together by: MNO Credit River Council Traditional Resource, Jim Tolles; MNO Credit River Secretary-Treasurer, Joyce Tolles; MNO Credit River Youth Representative, Talitha Tolles and MNO Credit River Vice President, Bill Morrison. The MNO staff manned displays highlighting MNO education and training and healing and wellness programs and MNO staff members Kelly Honsberger, Tamarra Shepherd, Jody Day, Lisa Talbot and Simon Bain were available to speak to the community one on one, and provide important information.

The video “We aspire to attain our highest potential” was screened on the stage while the community reconnected with friends and family, mingled and visited displays. Credit River Youth Representative, Talitha Tolles and Métis youth Samantha Cuddy worked a craft table featuring fun activities and finger weaving. The craft table was generously sponsored by the Peel Children’s Aid Society (PCAS), the newest Friend of the MNO Credit River Métis Council. Quite recently, The MNO Credit River Council and the PCAS began working together to build the foundation of a partnership that will benefit the clients of PCAS and citizens of Credit River. President Cuddy, on behalf of the MNO Credit River Council, presented Lisette Pedicelli, Peel Children’s Aid Society Representative., with a donation of a food basket for her to distribute to a needy family. Ms. Pedicelli self identifies as Métis and has applied for MNO citizenship.

Speeches began with MNO Chair France Picotte and MNO Vice-chair Sharon McBride (also a member of the MNO Credit River Council). After speaking to the community, these lovely ladies made a presentation to the MNO Credit River Council of a beautifully framed painting of a Voyageur Canoe party to hang in the new Council office. President Cuddy accepted the generous gift on behalf of Council and made it available for the community to view for the rest of the gathering.

The next speaker was the President of the Métis Nation of Ontario Veterans Council (MNOVC) and member of the MNO Credit River Council, Joe Paquette. President Paquette recognized the recent hard work of the MNO Credit River Council and wanted to remind Veterans of the importance of registering with the MNOVC.

The last speaker was Credit River President Richard Cuddy. He began with a brief historical overview of why the Métis gather in honour of Louis Riel, who we are as a Nation today, and the structure of the MNO. He stated, “[the] Council aspires to fulfill all of the declarations in the Statement of Prime Purpose of the Métis Nation of Ontario”. He thanked the MNO dignitaries and staff for their support as well as the support of neighbouring Councils. President Cuddy finished with Riel’s famous quote: “My people will sleep for 100 years but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.”

The entertainment was kicked off by an amazing drumming ensemble, the Group Orange Ladies, taking the stage for several powerful, traditional songs. One of the group members is a descendent of Louis Riel. The second artist was Rebecca Cuddy, a classically trained vocalist and 2nd year Performance Arts/Modern Languages student at the University of Western Ontario. She performed three traditional Métis songs that were a mix of French and French Michif. Rebecca received many compliments on her performance and beautiful voice.

While the first two entertainers performed, a humble feast was being prepared by MNO Credit River Secretary Treasurer Joyce Tolles and MNO Credit River Council member Darlene Lent. The feast contributions came from Joyce Tolles, Darlene Lent, Talitha Tolles, Krystyna Morrison and Sharon McBride. A special thanks to Joe Paquette for the donation of the moose meat. The smell was intoxicating and the feast consisted of bannock, mushroom soup, moose chili, pork meatballs in cranberry sauce and salad. Dessert was a commemorative cake donated by Joyce Tolles. As Métis tradition requires, Senators and Elders were served first and as the feast started, so did the last performance.

The community was treated to an exquisite fiddle/keyboard performance from two of the members of the Métis Fiddler’s Trio, Kim and Rajan Anderson, who entertained throughout the feast. The duo was so good their performance inspired a couple to dance in the middle of the feast, even with very limited space to do so, and to rousing applause. It was also reported the spoons were heard breaking out at one point.

The gathering was rounded out by a raffle and 50/50 draw. Credit River Vice President Bill Morrison and Senator Ray Bergie took the stage to make the raffle draws and Credit River Women’s Representative., Karen Derocher was handing out the prizes. Donations for the raffle came from Leon Fleury, Bill Morrison, Joyce Tolles, Darlene Lent, Talitha Tolles, Jim Tolles, Jordan Morrison, Cliff Read, Krystyna Morrison and the MNO Credit River Council. The door prize was donated by Rick Repta of Establo Leather of Guelph.

Based on all of the feedback received from that day, the Gathering was an overwhelming success. There were two special occurrences that should be noted. During the celebration it was discovered there were, in attendance, two ladies who are descendants of Riel and a third that shares a bloodline. One of the descendants has just moved into the Credit River area. She self identifies and, with the help of President Cuddy, hopes to obtain her citizenship with the MNO. She commented she had no family nearby so she was reassured her new family was the Credit River community and the MNO. The three ladies exchanged contact information and I’m sure this story is far from over.

The second occurrence was an experience by MNO Chair France Picotte. While taking the opportunity to speak with citizens she recognized a secret language that she believed was only known to her family. She was thankful and pleased to learn there is a citizen in the Credit River Area that knows this language and also learned it was used as a secret way of communicating during the war. To learn this dialect existed outside of her family was particularly exciting for France. I’m sure the story is far from over with this as well.

More than a few citizens described the afternoon as like being in a home with family in a big living room or at a kitchen table, fiddle music playing in the background and the children laughing and playing. This year, the Louis Riel Day Celebration and Gathering in Credit River, truly was a very special day.