Métis culture, history celebrated at Ste. Madeleine

·2 min read

A celebration of the rich culture and long history of Manitoba’s Métis people is taking place near Binscarth this weekend.

The Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), the National Government of Red River Métis, will commemorate their culture in a festival that will include competitions, music, dance, food and booths selling the work of Red River Métis artists and artisans.

The event is taking place where the Métis village of Ste. Madeleine was once located, 159 kilometres from Brandon. The community was destroyed in 1938 to make way for more pasture land for settler farmers. Thirty-five homes, making up the entire village, a store and the village school were purposely set afire and burned to the ground in the fall of that year as part of the federal government’s land-clearing program. The town’s dogs were shot, with residents being told that it was to stop the spread of disease.

Every year, the descendents of Ste. Madeleine and other members of the Métis community come together to remember what happened and to celebrate their culture and tradition. It’s the first time the event has taken place in two years, due to restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leah LaPlante, vice-president of the MMF, said it’s incredibly important to keep the tradition alive.

"The Ste. Madeleine celebration was started so the descendants of these people would always come back once a year to the cemetery to visit their people and celebrate their Métis heritage and those people for living through those rough times."

LaPlante said the atmosphere at the site during the event is nothing short of magical.

"You can feel the energy from the people that have gone on … it’s pulsing, almost. It’s beautiful, and it means so much to the people."

Métis people have a lot to be proud of, LaPlante said, and Métis Days at Ste. Madeleine, which started in the early 1990s, is just one way of showing that.

"I think it started to happen because the Métis people in southwestern Manitoba were starting to come into their own … up until that time it had been a hard life for anyone who was Indigenous, especially if you lived in little Métis communities. You were sort of outcasts."

Once the Métis people started understanding their history and their heritage, LaPlante said they began to feel proud of who they were.

"It just blossomed once we realized that we didn’t have any reason to hang our heads, and that we had as much right to be proud of being Manitoban as everyone else, and we’ve just never looked back since."

The event kicked off on Friday and is running today and Sunday.

Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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