Submitted by MNO Niagara Region President Derrick Pont. Written by Grant LaFleche of the St. Catherine’s Standard. Original article can be viewed at::

Celebration Of Nations -Photo
Brian Kon, Chair of the MNO Niagara Region Métis Council
watches the performances at the Celebration of Nations
Saturday at the Preforming Arts Centre. Behind him Derrick
Pont, president of the MNO Niagara Region Métis Council,
sews a blanket. Photo by Grant LaFlech. Click here for
larger picture.
The significance of the two small fires, mere feet from each other at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, was easy for many to miss.

To the uninformed eye, they were just fires. But to others, they were a proud and unique display of First Nations culture.

“This doesn’t happen. I don’t remember this happening before,” said Derrick Pont, President of the Métis Nation Ontario (MNO) Niagara Region Métis Council. “This is bringing us all together. It’s very special.”

Pont’s fire was a simple camp fire used for cooking and keeping warm — part of the Métis camp erected in the backyard area of the arts centre for the weekend-long Celebration of Nations event. A few feet from his fire, ringed in leaves, was a smaller, ceremonial First Nations fire.

Pont said historic tension between Métis and First Nations groups meant they typically did not share communal space in this fashion.

But at this event — a gathering of Indigenous arts, culture and traditions — the fires standing side-by-side was a powerful, if subtle, symbol of unity, Pont said.

“It says we’re cousins. That we’ve always been related, which we are,” said Pont. “For Métis and First Nations to be able to share space like this is amazing.”

For Celeste Smith, Executive Director of the Three Fires Community Justice program at the Niagara Regional Native Centre, the display of the variety of Indigenous identities was unique as it was important.

“If you look at what is happening here, we have a Métis camp beside a sacred fire, which is traditional, and a few feet away we have a pow wow going on. These are completely different things, completely different expressions of Indigenous culture,” Smith said.

The Celebration of Nations featured dozens of events, from workshops and film screenings to discussion groups and dances.

The event was first of its kind in Niagara, highlighting the traditions of Métis and of several First Nations including art and music.

Posted: October 10, 2017