lg-awardFrom left: Chair of the Ontario Heritage Trust Professor Thomas
Symons, MNO Associate Chief Operating Officer Margaret Froh,
President Gary Lipinski, Chair France Picotte, Lieutenant Governor
Elizabeth Dowdeswell, and PCMNO Youth Representative Mitch

On February 26, 2016, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) received the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Trust Award for Community Leadership from Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell at Queen’s Park in Toronto. MNO President Gary Lipinski, Chair France Picotte, PCMNO Youth Representative Mitch Case and Associate Chief Operating Officer Margaret Froh accepted the award on behalf of all MNO citizens.

This Award celebrates individuals, groups and communities for exceptional contributions to conserving Ontario’s cultural and natural heritage. This award was given in recognition of the tremendous work MNO citizens have done over more than 20 years to preserve and promote Métis history and culture.

“It wasn’t so long ago that as Métis people we were not free to celebrate our rich heritage and culture. Our existence as Métis in Ontario was denied. But thanks to the strong work of our Métis citizens and communities, the story of the Métis in Ontario and our contribution to the province and the country is again being celebrated. This award presented by Lt. Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell recognizes the MNO and its citizens for this important work preserving and promoting Ontario’s Métis history,” stated President Gary Lipinski.

The work of preserving Métis heritage started with the founding of the MNO in 1993 and is strongly represented in the Statement of Prime Purpose, which states: “We are proud of our rich heritage. We are inspired by the values and traditions of our ancestors.”

The MNO has shown leadership and commitment in working to meet the specific heritage related objectives and has had great impact at the local community, regional and provincial levels through its many programs and services.

One such service is the maintenance of the MNO Registry, which electronically archives the historical and genealogical information of over 18,000 MNO citizens. This historical information has helped the MNO document its traditional lands within Ontario where Métis communities hold ancestral responsibilities and rights. By advancing these historic Métis rights, including through the Crown’s Duty to Consult and Accommodate, the MNO engages with a wide array of resource industry proponents and government in determining the potential environmental and cultural impact of various projects.

The MNO supports natural heritage and environmental sustainability, and preserves the ways of their Métis ancestors through Métis Traditional Knowledge and Métis Way of Life studies, and it holds events that allow Métis Traditional Knowledge Holders to pass on their knowledge to younger generations. Programs like the MNO’s summer youth cultural and Infinite Reach programs also provide opportunities for Métis youth to learn about their culture and promote it to a wider public.

The MNO developed and distributes resources to assist chartered MNO community councils and citizens to share Métis heritage and culture at community, regional and provincial heritage and cultural events, schools and post-secondary institutions and other public venues. Several MNO community councils including those in Oshawa, Midland, Toronto, and Ottawa stage annual or semi-annual events and most communities stage Louis Riel Day celebrations and Harvest festivals.

While the MNO takes measures to preserve Métis history, it also looks to the future of its citizens. It has brought Métis heritage and culture into the education system through creative partnerships with government ministries, schools and post-secondary institutions. By developing a wide array of heritage and cultural resources suitable for educational use, including the Métis Education Kit, a variety of new technology resources such as the Michif Language Portal, the MNO Cultural Portal and mobile device application, the MNO provides tools that give access to historic documents, educational reports, videos and recordings.

These innovative programs as well as the MNO’s annual events that commemorate and celebrate Métis history, including Powley Day (September 19), Louis Riel Day (November 16) and National Aboriginal Day (June 21) as well as the MNO’s Annual General Assembly and a number of Métis community festivals and events were recognized by this award as setting a new bar for promoting and preserving history and culture.

“Our Métis youth continue to reach out to our Senators and Traditional Knowledge Holders and this gives me hope for our future,” stated President Lipinski. “They take part in our Summer Youth Cultural Programs and volunteer as Infinite Reach facilitators. With every Annual General Assembly, we find new young faces eager to learn more about themselves and their history, our history as Métis.”

Chair France Picotte, a key figure of the MNO’s Michif Speakers Committee, has been a strong advocate towards the practice of Michif, the Métis language. Each Métis Education Kit contains a Michif booklet to help educate about and teach this language.

“Michif est une combinaison du français, de l’anglais et de les langues autochtones. Aujourd’hui, nous devons consèrver les langues de nos ancêtres, que ca soit Michif ou français, et s’assurer que nos enfants continuent après nous. Ces livrets, imprimés par la NMO, aident à la preservation de notre langue,” she said.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Heritage Trust Award for Community Leadership is acknowledgment that, from the PCMNO to community councils, and from its youth to its older citizens, the MNO is a community leader in the preservation and promotion of Métis culture and heritage.

Published on: March 1, 2016