McMurray Métis find new way to celebrate Métis Week during pandemic

·2 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic isn't stopping the McMurray Métis from teaching kids about Louis Riel and celebrating Métis Week.

Typically, Métis Week includes a large festival with 2,000 attendees. But because that isn't possible this year, the McMurray Métis are putting together a documentary-style video to teach kids about Métis culture and Louis Riel.

The roughly hour-long video will be interactive to keep students' attention, and include a history of Louis Riel, an elder teaching Cree and a discussion about traditional regalia.

The video will be presented to students in Grades 5 and 7 in Fort McMurray on Nov. 16, and it will be released to the public in smaller pieces throughout Métis Week.

McMurray Métis president Gail Gallupe said this is the first time in more than 15 years they haven't been able to host a festival for Métis Week. She also said large gathering have always been a part of celebrating Métis culture

"It just brings people together and gives you a good feeling of who you are," Gallupe said.

"That's why we want to continue to do this."

Bill Loutitt, CEO of the McMurray Métis, said elder safety was a big concern this year.

"We have a very vulnerable population," Loutitt said.

It was important to find a different way to celebrate Métis Week, Loutitt said, because he wants young people to feel pride in their heritage.

"For years our people have had to hide the fact that they're Métis," Loutitt said.

Loutitt also wants to share Louis Riel's story by reading a piece on Riel's history for the video. He said he hopes the video helps make it clear that Riel was a leader and not a traitor, and that injustice done in the past is changed in the future.

Jamie Malbeuf/CBC
Jamie Malbeuf/CBC

Lou Ann Demers-Noble, principal of Elsie Yanik Catholic School and Indigenous lead for Fort McMurray Catholic Schools, said it's been challenging this year to include Indigenous content in their classes.

She said typically the schools bring in elders and speakers to teach students about Métis culture, which hasn't been possible this year. She said the school has been using online tools to bring Métis teachings into the classroom.

"We're just so excited [McMurray Métis] are able to still provide us with some teachings of the Métis people," Demers-Noble said.

Submitted by Lou Ann Demers-Noble
Submitted by Lou Ann Demers-Noble

She said this new video format may be even more effective than the old format, because every student can participate.

"Métis Week is important regardless of what our world is going through and our students still need to feel a sense of normalcy," Demers-Noble said.