Métis Celebration at Surrey Museum, a Huge Success!

Posted by on

Surrey, BC (Saturday July 29, 2017) -  A fun family event opened to the public and attended by over 400 people throughout the day to promote and celebrate Métis culture, showcasing our music, art and the traditions that make us a distinct and unique people.  Among the many activities and presentations there were Métis crafts, music, jigging performances, workshops, demonstrations, and even a trapper tent. 

Before visitors entered the museum, Pat Calihou, gifted, and very talented carver, was onsite to provide some woodcarving demonstrations. He carved into cedar as he spoke to onlookers and had his red river cart and paddles on display. Also outside, was the trapper’s tent display. Inside the tent, visitors could see some real traps and snares, hides and clothing. Gary Biggar, Minister of Natural Resources had the chance to stop by and educate visitors about trapping in BC. BCMANR Region 2 Captain Alvin Myher commented, “the turnout of people was amazing and we believe the MNBC left a big footprint in Surrey that day and we are looking forward to next year’s big event!

Once inside, visitors were greeted by museum staff and were welcomed by the masterful fiddle stylings of Keith Hill and Ron Gerard. As folks wandered through the lobby of the museum, they could visit the incredible displays by the Chilliwack Métis Association. There was also a crowd-pleasing finger-weaving table where Mechtild Morin demonstrated her craft. Dawn Johnson, President of the Fraser Valley Métis Association remarked, “between the dancing, displays, presentations, and music, the event was perfect for the whole family. It was a great collaboration to showcase our culture and bring it to the forefront”.

In the theatre, accomplished Artisan and Jigging Instructor Lisa Shepherd gave a fascinating and informative presentation about Plant Medicines and food. She even brought some spruce tip jelly to try and added some spruce tips to water to give it a citrus zest flavor for visitors to try. “There was an excellent turnout of Métis people from across the lower mainland looking to celebrate and strengthen their identity,” said Shepherd “and non-Métis folks came out, too, to learn about our unique culture in a respectful way.”

Brodie Douglas gave his crowd pleasing Métis history talk. “I was impressed with the enthusiasm expressed by those in attendance – I spoke with non-Indigenous attendees who were genuinely interested in learning about our Michif people, history, and culture. During my presentation, I had the pleasure of addressing some interesting historical nuances relating to Metis identification within the historic record. I appreciated the Surrey Museum being so accommodating during this cultural celebration. It was evident that the culture presented at the Surrey Museum was authentic and sincere. It was a pleasure to share some of Canada’s best kept secret: Metis History!” Brodie commented about his experience of the event. A short film showcasing the photographs of Métis ancestors sent in by community members was also played in between presentations in the theatre.

The afternoon featured an entertaining jigging performance by the Maple Sugar Jiggers. They had the whole museum filled and onlookers watching from the stairway above. Later they put on a jigging workshop and the crowd was able to practice some of their newly learned steps.

Denise Jager led the medicine pouch-making workshop and taught visitors a little bit about respecting tobacco (and medicines). She said, “I think the event was amazing.  It was great to see so many people out and having fun.  Everyone was in such a good mood and asking all kinds of questions which is awesome. It was a great space to host this event and I think it will be even better when it is renovated next year”.

It would not be a true Métis celebration without food, and Chris Kelly did not dissapoint when she made her incredible bannock for everyone, with a line up all afternoon wanting to try her tasty treats topped with apple butter. This was a highlight for Lindsay Patton who commented, “the bannock was delicious and it was an amazing cultural extravaganza”.

The Surrey Museum also found the event to be a huge success. “The Surrey Museum was incredibly excited to host our first event celebrating Métis culture. We hope to host many programs and events in the years to come” noted Drew LaJeunesse, Public Programs Specialist.

MNBC thanks everyone who came out and enjoyed this day with us, everyone who volunteered their time in making this event so successful, our Métis communities for their support and participation in the demonstrations and presentation and very special thanks to Surrey Museum for promoting and celebrating Métis culture and heritage in this very special way. It is always exciting to be able to share our culture with surrounding communities.  A special thank you to Elder Joe Smith and Jim Middleton from Chilliwack Métis Association for their amazing cultural displays and stories they shared with all the visitors of the event.

My personal thanks to Lisa Shepherd and Drew Lajeunesse for all their help in organizing and hosting this fun filled event. It was a huge success and everyone had a great time. “I’m really pleased with how our organizing team worked together, with a focus on culture and inclusiveness." said Lisa Shepherd, post event. 

Saturday’s event was the last to be hosted at the Surrey Museum until it re-opens in September 2018. MNBC looks forward to working with the Surrey Museum again at that time.

- 30 -

Article by: Leona Shaw, MNBC Acting Director for Culture, Heritage and Language

Photo credits: Eden Jager, Leona Shaw