Growing up in Sault Ste. Marie I didn’t know that my grandfather spoke ‘broken French’ until a few years before he passed away. He told me he didn’t pass on the language or our family history because he was protecting us from being ostracized and bullied as being a Métis back then was not well accepted by the community at large. Since that day I have been determined that my children would not have to live in fear of who they are.
When I finally found my home with the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) in 1999 I immediately felt connected and started to look for ways to support Métis culture, arts and history. For eight years that I was charged with coordinating the MNO’s Annual General Assemblies (AGA), under the big tent, I also volunteered my time. I initiated and directed the MNO’s Annual Building Bridges Festival. This was held in conjunction with our AGA and brought in cultural workshops, music, celebrated our artists, connected our seniors and veteran’s with our youth for oral storytelling circles, and brought in the traditional Métis Voyageur Games.
My children attended every AGA back then and grew up learning from our knowledge holders. They are proud Métis youth and without fear they celebrate, educate, and share being Métis with others. This is my hope for all Métis families. To this day my children continue to assist me facilitating the games at Community, Provincial and National events.
“The Métis are rich with culture, arts, and traditions. This instills a sense of pride in our Nation. We need to do better. We need to preserve, celebrate and engage our communities so our way of life can live on through our children.”
KEY CULTURAL PRIORITIES:
Cultural Preservation: We must reinvigorate and take advantage of the innumerable opportunities that the Métis Nation of Ontario Cultural Commission (MNOCC), our registered charity, avails. Through the MNOCC we can ensure that our history, culture, arts and traditions are properly captured, preserved, promoted and celebrated. A selection process must be developed to identify and select board members that are recognized experts in the field of Métis arts, music, history, culture, traditions, and preservation. We need to repatriate historical artefacts, have our own people writing our history, and capture oral stories from our seniors. My wife Loma started an oral history project back in 2002 for the MNOCC as a project for our youth. We can and should take this further with an online oral history museum project. We also need to look to contract a full time staff member to assist the MNOCC board or directors and explore philanthropic opportunities and sustainable sources of funding.
Knowledge Holders: We need to continue to identify Métis knowledge holders and encourage youth mentoring. We need to have our own experts providing authentic Métis cultural workshops or presentations to educational institutions. We also need to capture their stories and teachings in person and electronically in order to preserve this knowledge for our youth.
Métis Arts: Create a database of Métis artists, musicians, storytellers, healers, and crafters and engage them to provide cultural activities during the AGA and at other MNO events hosted by our community councils. This database is intended to connect our specialists to each other and promote them to our communities and with our citizens across the province.
Community Gatherings: We also need to encourage and better support our community councils to host annual gatherings that include cultural celebration. The MNO must consult and work with councils to identify and provide cultural supports and provisions.
Education: The MNO must take the lead to educate people about the Métis in Ontario. In the true spirit of truth and reconciliation having a photo op or signed documents with the government is simply not enough. We need to advocate and secure funding that will support Métis people to do the research, writing, providing the knowledge on our history, culture and traditions for mainstream education.
There is so much more we can do, together. Input from all citizens is valued and I am interested in hearing your thoughts. Feel free to contact me and share your ideas.