Louis Riel Day at the Fort

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Region 2 – Louis Riel Day Celebrations, Fort Langley Historic Site.

On Sunday November 13th 2016, the MNBC Chartered Communities of the Lower Mainland, Region 2, came together at the Fort Langley Historic site to host a day full of Métis culture and heritage to celebrate Louis Riel Day. Community members from all 6 communities, including the community Presidents, planned, organized, attended and helped to make this event one to remember.  MNBC President, Clara Morin Dal Col, and Regional Director, Gary Biggar, were also present to take part in the celebrations.

Louis Riel Day is perhaps one of the most significant days in Métis history for Métis people. This day is a day of celebration of who the Métis are as a unique people, with their culture, language, heritage and traditions independent of other Aboriginal peoples. Louis Riel Day commemorates the anniversary of the execution of Riel on November 16, 1885 in Regina, Saskatchewan. Riel made the ultimate sacrifice for his people defending Métis Rights, and so on this day we honour and celebrate Louis Riel in recognition of our great Leader of the Métis Peoples, Father of Manitoba, and Métis Hero. Louis Riel Day is the day Métis proudly proclaim their unique ancestry.

The day at the Fort was full of Métis culture, awareness, and fun. The celebrations took over the entire historic site and there were displays, demos, workshops, and something to experience in every building. The events held throughout the day included: archery, storytelling (about the Hudson’s Bay blanket and capotes, the history of Batoche, food and medicinal plants, and much more), jigging performances and workshops, woodworking demos, smudging, finger weaving, rattle making workshop, live fiddling, beading demos, children’s story reading, crafts and games, and stunning cultural displays. There was also fresh mint and lemon balm tea, delicious bannock, and blackberry syrup for everyone to try.

After lunch there was a flag raising inside the Fort. . “I had the honour and the privilege of leading the procession and raising the Metis Flag at a great Louis Riel celebration in Fort Langley hosted by the communities of Region 2” said President Morin Dal Col.  She further commented, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organizers and all the volunteers for their hard work and commitment to ensuring that this was a successful event”. Just before the procession headed outside for the flag raising Shelby Desjarlais, President of the Waceya Métis Association from Langley read Louis Riel’s Final Statement:

Regina, Friday July 31, 1885
When I came into the North West in July, the first of July 1884, I found the Indians suffering. I found the half-breeds eating the rotten pork of the Hudson Bay Company and getting sick and weak every day. Although a half breed, and having no pretension to help the whites, I also paid attention to them. I saw they were deprived of responsible government; I saw that they were deprived of their public liberties. I remembered that half-breed meant white and Indian, and while I paid attention to the suffering Indians and the half-breeds I remembered that the greatest part of my heart and blood was white and I have directed my attention to help the Indians, to help the half-breeds and to help the whites to the best of my ability.
We have made petitions; I have made petitions with others to the Canadian Government asking to relieve the condition of this country. We have taken time; we have tried to unite all classes, even if I may speak, all parties.
The agitation in the North-West Territories would have been constitutional, and would certainly be constitutional to-day if, in my opinion, we had not been attacked.
When we sent petitions to the Government, they used to answer us by sending police, and when the rumors were increasing every day that Riel had been shot here or there, or that Riel was going to be shot by such and such a man, the police would not pay any attention to it.
I am glad that the Crown have proved that I am the leader of the half-breeds in the North-West. I will perhaps be one day acknowledged as more than a leader of the half-breeds, and if I am I will have an opportunity of being acknowledged as a leader of good in this great country.

Ed Dandenault, President of the Chilliwack Metis Association, remarked that “sadly, in large part, people don't know who or what Métis are, and how we differ from First Nations and Inuit. Fort Langley gave us an excellent opportunity to showcase Métis cultural differences that set us apart as a distinct people. This event gave us a venue to help educate the public and give them a glimpse into Métis culture, values and family life and instill pride in the Métis people. We still have a lot of work ahead to get our message out”.

Anyone who attended this successful event definitely walked away knowing a little bit more about Métis and their unique culture and heritage and the significant role they played in Canada’s history. It was a great opportunity to not only promote culture but for the communities to come together and celebrate with each other.

Curt Smecher, Vice President of Fraser Valley Métis Association stated “I really appreciate all 6 communities working together.  This is how we build our communities and strengthen our culture.  It is also how we teach Canada of our central role in forming this country”. Ed Dandenault shared this sentiment and further added “We can accomplish a lot when we work together. I feel many more exciting events will be planned in the future...stay tuned”.

Thank you Parks Canada and the Fort Langley Historic Site staff for opening their doors to this celebration. And big thank you to all the Region 2 Presidents and community members who worked so very hard to plan, organize, host, and participate in such a successful celebration. Your cultural pride and openness to share a bit of your history and knowledge with others was heartwarming to see and have everyone who attended leaving the Fort with richer knowledge than when they arrived.

We must cherish our inheritance. We must preserve our nationality for the youth of our future.
The story should be written down to pass on.
~ Louis Riel

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Article and Photo Credit:

Leona Shaw, A/Director for Metis Culture, Heritage and Language