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M¨¦tis Community Festivals Celebrate M¨¦tis Culture & Heritage

festival-2A scene from one M¨¦tis Community Festival ¡°Community and family are the centre of the M¨¦tis Nation,¡± explained M¨¦tis Nation of Ontario (MNO) President, Gary Lipinski, during one of the nine M¨¦tis Community Festivals organized by the MNO this summer and fall. ?President Lipinski who attended several of the Festivals added: ¡°This is why we hold these events, they keep our culture vibrant and alive? while giving us the opportunity to have fun and renew friendships.¡±

Enthusiastic crowds gathered for the M¨¦tis Community Festivals held May 27 near Windsor, July 11 at the local park in Bancroft, July 14 at Ma-Ta-Way Park near Renfrew, September 8 at Aaron Park near Dryden, September 15 at the Massey Fair Grounds near Sudbury, September 22 at Silver Lake Park near Port Dover, September 23 at Talbot Park near Port McNicoll, September 29 at Camp Bickell near Iroquois Falls and September 30 at Club Richelieu in Welland. ¡°We felt it was important to hold festivalA scene from one M¨¦tis Community Festival these Festivals as widely? as possible across Ontario,¡± stated President Lipinski, ¡°and each Festival was located between M¨¦tis communities. We wanted to make the Festivals accessible to as many of our MNO citizens as possible.¡±

In keeping with M¨¦tis spiritual beliefs, MNO Senators provided opening and closing prayers at each Festival, setting the proper tone for the events and reminding all participants to be thankful.

M¨¦tis culture and traditions were front and centre at each Festival. MNO Chair France Picotte, for example, taught the basic techniques for finger-weaving sashes at the Camp Bickell event. ¡°A key part of these celebrations,¡± said Chair Picotte, ¡°is passing on the traditional M¨¦tis knowledge to our young people.¡±? Also at Camp Bickell, Region 3 Captain of the Hunt Andy Lefebvre and his harvesting team displayed a moose?hanging on poles shot by Jacques Picotte. Andy? was very patient with children in attendance as he shared traditional teachings on festival-3A scene from one M¨¦tis Community Festivalhow to prepare the moose for the community freezer. Paul Rondeau also demonstrated working with cedar wood, which is used to build birch bark canoes.

Music and dancing were big parts of most of the Festivals. The Kwiijikwewag M¨¦tis Women¡¯s Drum Group, the MNO Georgian Bay M¨¦tis Council Youth Drummers, Cindy Thompson¡¯s fiddle students and the Copegog Family Band provided lively performances at the Talbot Park Festival, while Senator John and Dylinda George fired up the dance floor with a jigging workshop at the Aaron Park event. The Talbot Park Festival was also enlivened by Lillian Penner, a young fiddler who got everyone¡¯s heels tapping. Daryle Gardipy taught different dance techniques at the Ma-Ta-Way Park event and the Les Amis Qui Danse group provided square dancing instruction at Camp Bickell.

M¨¦tis history was not forgotten at these Festivals either. Club Richelieu, Port Dover festival-4A scene from one M¨¦tis Community Festival and Camp Bickell each featured historical recreations of M¨¦tis encampments and Port Dover¡¯s activities included the M¨¦tis Voyageur Games. These are competitions based on the traditional lifestyle of M¨¦tis Voyageurs.? Hank? and Scott Rowlinson provided instruction and supervision and everyone had a great time! Our natural heritage was also celebrated at the Festivals. In Aaron Park, Arlene Williams led a nature walk, which enjoyed great participation despite rain during that particular Festival
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Craft making played a big role in several Festivals as well.? The Kenora M¨¦tis Warmth and Wellness Committee provided a knitting display and an on-site demonstration at the Aaron Park event, while Regina Rosignol demonstrated her quilt-making expertise at Camp Bickell. Dot-painting was a popular activity with young and old at most of the Festivals and a tie blanket workshop at the Massey Fairgrounds Festival attracted participants of all ages

Every Festival had many activities for the children and laughter filled the air especially during events such as the good old-fashioned three-legged race at Aaron Park, sack races and four-person snowshoe races at Club Richelieu. There were also vendors, displays and door prizes at most of the events. The cooks won rave reviews for their meals that always included traditional M¨¦tis fare such as bannock, corn roast, fish fry, bear, wild turkey, venison, fish and moose stew.

Each M¨¦tis Community Festival was a resounding success. The hard work of MNO Community Council volunteers with the assistance of MNO staff paid off in enjoyable events for all involved. ¡°Our M¨¦tis culture,¡± stated President Lipinski, ¡°is something that we all can be very proud of, and something that our families and communities keep alive. It is events like these that really bring that home!¡±

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