The MNO Summer Youth Cultural Program 2014

SYCP 2014
The MNO SYCP students during training at Fort William in Thunder Bay. (Left
to right) Back row: Karly Chapman, Melissa St. Amant, Jordi Playne, Melody
Chislett-Morris, Katelyn LaCroix, Joanna Burt, Tressa Beaulieu, Alicia Blore,
Lucy Fowler and Marie Chalykoff. Front row: Charna Recollet , Paige Mathieu,
Jaimee Bigras, Willie Poll, Brooklyn Fay, Natasha Lafreniere and Nikki
Doucette. Missing: Gabriel Picard.

This summer, 19 Métis youth will embark on a journey of self-discovery as they take part in the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Summer Youth Cultural Program (SYCP).

Designed to strengthen and share Métis culture and history, SYCP is a MNO community based initiative comprised of students who deliver Métis inspired programming across Ontario through experiential education and “hands on, minds on” approach. This summer’s project focuses on creating greater awareness on the contributions of Métis in Canada through presentations, re-enactments and other events.

Gaining an experience that will last a lifetime, these 19 youth will spend the summer connecting to their roots, sharing Métis heritage and traditions in their local communities and immersing themselves in all things Métis.

SYCP mukak
MNO SYCP Interpreters during a mukak making workshop
in Thunder Bay.

Before taking on their roles as MNO SYCP Interpreters, the young Métis took part in two weeks of comprehensive training in Midland and Fort William Provincial Historic Park in Thunder Bay. Training was provided by Scott Carpenter, MNO Special Projects Supervisor and Sahra McLean, MNO Education Officer as well as Fort William staff.

The interpreters included returning participants while many others were joining for the first time. Training at Fort William required full immersion into the Métis way of life. Upon arrival, students were provided with traditional Métis attire including strap dresses for the women and corduroy pants and linen shirts for the men.

When entering the room where the youth were gathered, one could sense their eagerness to learn about their culture. There was not a quiet moment as the room filled with talking and laughter, it was if these young Métis from across the province were not meeting for the first time but have been friends forever.

Alicia Blore, a returning interpreter who has been involved with the MNO for seven years could not wait to join the program for the second time. “I met so many great people last year and I wanted to build those connections again,” she explained. “I can’t wait to bring this knowledge back to my community in Toronto.”

Interpreters were provided a Métis character, based on historical ancestors, to portray. These characters will stay with them throughout the summer as they will be bringing them to life at future re-enactments.

MNO SYCP Interpreter Jordi Playne learning the basics of tin-smithing at Fort

Attentive and excited to learn about their ancestors, the interpreters really immersed themselves into their new role. Witnessing these young Métis act out the scenes provided to them, created a feeling that they had traveled back in time to the 19th century.

Returning Midland participant Katelyn LaCroix used interesting twists and humour to bring her character to life. Improvising with fellow returning participant from Thunder Bay Lucy Fowler, the crowd erupted with cheers and laughter. The two make a really great team.

The fifth year running, the group of youth involved in MNO’s SYCP grows every year as more and more young people discover their Métis ancestry.

One in particular is Paige Mathieu from North Bay. “I just found out that I am Métis and these past two weeks I have learned a lifetime of knowledge,” she explained. “Everyone is so down to earth and I can relate to the fellow interpreters right away as we all on this journey of discovery together.”

SYCP Infinity
Having some fun during a photo shoot in Thunder Bay.

The program aims to spread knowledge of Métis culture and dispel myths while providing an opportunity for these young Métis to build self-esteem, confidence and develop public speaking skills, all of which will help them succeed in the outside world.

Willi Poll from Sault Ste. Marie is hoping to use the knowledge learned through this experience in her future career working in indigenous health. “I love working with traditional medicine,” she said while working on a project during the blacksmithing demonstration, “and hope to use the techniques and knowledge learned here to help youth overcome addictions in a culturally sensitive manner.”

Workshops were held on everything from muskets and cannons to wild edibles and of course MNO programs and governance, Métis history and culture, finger weaving, beading, embroidery, fire making, cooking, tin-smithing, mukuk making, capote making, leather work, quillwork, song and dance, blacksmithing and Métis Way of Life.

“I was so glad to get this position,” said Thunder Bay first-time participant Gabriel Picard while beading a necklace, “because now I get to talk about my culture all day long!”

Evenings served as social time where youth gathered around the open fire chatting, singing and dancing to the tunes of Blore’s fiddle. One night in particular, the interpreters broke out into traditional Métis dance and jigs under the light of the full moon.

Through MNO’s SYCP, youth become more knowledgeable about Métis history and culture as well as the MNO. This program helps secure MNO‘s future by encouraging young Métis to become more involved culturally and politically. They are able to develop key attributes within themselves while shining a positive light on Métis through a celebration of culture.

“I have known for a while that I’m Métis but was not very knowledgeable about Métis culture and I wanted to learn more,” said first-time participant from Toronto, Joanne Burt. “Through these past two weeks of training I have really found out what this culture is within myself – it is very unique. I can’t wait to spread this knowledge within my school.”

More details about MNO’s SYCP actives and re-enactments will be posted on the MNO website throughout the summer.