Trent Freeman – The Métis Fiddle leads to Rad Trad & The Fretless

You can tell music is on my mind.  Just found a great video by a young Trent Freeman who explains what makes Métis fiddling unique.  He is accompanied by Métis musician Ry Moran-more on him in another posting.

Trent has moved in some new directions with his solo career; his album Rock Paper Scissors was nominated for a 2012 Canadian Folk Music Award.  Here’s a link to his website .

He is also part of The Fretless which according to their website is “a young and innovative band that melds the worlds of celtic, folk and chamber music into an amazing and unique sound they like to call rad trad. They may look like a string quartet, but with innovative arrangements and roots deeply based in Celtic and Canadian fiddle styles, The Fretless is creating their own unique path in the music world.”  On October 1, 2012 they won a Western Canadian Music Award for Instrumental Recording of the Year.

I love the idea that this group stays true to their roots yet still creates some interesting and modern ways of playing traditional music.  One of their members says they take traditional tunes but then they are “mixed and rebuilt in a way that will seem new”.

Their take on music is similar with how I feel about blogging, tweeting and connecting with other Métis through technology. As I said in my post, The Metis Nation Registry-a Thesis by Tara Gereaux, “this blog is my way of finding meaning and a sense of belonging to my culture and to a community that I have chosen to embrace.” I am taking traditional Métis culture and seeking new ways to incorporate it into my life and way of being. It’s a new twist on the traditional.

I thoroughly enjoyed the video on the band’s home page and since next to Métis music, fiddling with an Irish or Celtic flavour sits second on my favorites list, I would say The Fretless have found a new fan!

Maple Ridge – Métis Beading & More with Lisa Shepherd

I am so excited I can barely sit down at the computer and focus. First I should apologize for being out of contact–my time has been completely taken up with work and organizing a national medical conference/workshop.  There was intense preparation time since the first week of October and then starting last Saturday it was six days of 5:00am – 10:00pm networking, facilitating and presenting.  I literally dropped off the virtual world, except for Twitter because that was related to the social media portions of the conference.  I will post soon about the honour I received in being able to represent Métis and indigenous people at the opening ceremony.

Now let’s get back to why I’m so very, very excited.
Lisa Shepherd
, Métis beading artisan, contacted me on Pinterest where I had expressed my wish to learn beading.  She let me know that she is putting on a Traditional Métis Beading class and I just went to the Maple Ridge Arts & Recreation Website and signed up.  You’ll know where to find me on November 17 and 24th!

Lisa is putting on a fabulous array of options to learn traditional Métis skills:

Métis Traditional Dance (geared to the 30+ crowd)

Moccasin Making

Traditional Métis Beading

I would love to take the other two courses as well but there are a couple of other projects that I have to finish and get off my plate so Moccasin Making and traditional Métis dance are just going to have to wait until next year.  If you’re interested in any of Lisa’s courses you can learn more in the Maple Ride Arts & Recreation Guide.

St Albert Michif Cultural and Metis Resource Centre – Canadian Métis Heros

Here’s another interesting and short youtube video about Métis history in St. Albert from St. Albert’s Michif Cultural and Metis Resource Centre .  I just love the relaxed story telling of Thelma Chalifouxs.  “We have heros…Jerry Potts was a tracker and scout for the RCMP and what a story that man has!  And he was just a little short guy….”  That made me laugh and want to know more.  I’m off to explore more about this very interesting sounding character and will share what I learn in another posting.

Canadian Métis & Aboriginal Writers and Artists

Thanks to Ojibwire Blog I learned about a news article written by Stephanie Wesley for Wawatay News Online entitled:  Waiting for a Story.  This led me on an unexpected and delightful journey of discovery!

Stephanie explains how she first heard about the Canadian Aboriginal Writing Challenge back in 2008 but she decided to wait for the right story and it did not appear in her life until this year, 2012.  Waiting was the right thing to do:  “Out of roughly 300 entries, the fictional short story I wrote entitled “Jonas” was picked as the winner….The story itself means so much to me. “Jonas” was inspired by real-life events involving students who have passed away while attending high school in Thunder Bay.”

Her comments about why it is important for writers, especially aboriginal writers, to continue to write no matter what, resonated loud and clear with me, “I feel it is important to share your story because nobody else will ever wear the kind of shoes that you do, therefore nobody else can tell your story.”  She encouraged Anishinaabe youth, ages 14-29 (eligibility ages for the contest) to enter, “Know that as an Anishinaabe person, you have an innate ability for storytelling through words and depicting tales and legends through art.”

The Canadian Aboriginal Writing Challenge was started in 2005 and “has since become the largest and most recognizable essay writing competition in Canada for aboriginal youth.”  The Challenge expanded in 2010 to include art and is now called The Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge. This expansion has become open to “a new audience of Aboriginal youth – those who are not writers, but instead express themselves through painting, drawing and photography.”

On the website you can read all of the winning story entries, including “Jonas”, Stephanie Wesley’s piece.  If you enter the word métis in the search box it will pull up all of the stories written by Métis youth or related to Métis heritage.  I’m looking forward to reading the stories and will make sure to blog/post about those I enjoy.  I am also very excited about sharing some of the beautiful Métis art work that is showcased in the gallery.

For today, here is a beautiful painting which was a winning entry from 2011 by Hannah St. Denis-Katz.  This is a painting of her “uncle’s great-great grandfather, Raphael Morin Senior’s, second house. This house is still standing on its original location at Morin Lake, Victoire, Saskatchewan. The house was on the Carlton/Green Lake trail [Métis historical trail], three miles away from the Hudson Bay Company’s Shell River/English River trading post. Raphael first settled on this land in 1880 and according to Raphael’s last will and testament, this house was built in 1903.”

Hannah says:  “The history behind the house is what truly brought the painting to life. As I painted this old house I was taken aback by how beautiful it was; it had character and uniqueness even though it was old, run-down, and partly burned. The house is a reminder of the importance of family, home and our Métis history.”

Alberta – Willow Lake 8th Annual Métis Festival Sept 22

Willow Lake Metis Local 780 Invites you to the 8th Annual Metis Festival!
When: Saturday September 22nd, 2012
Where: Community Hall – 105 Christina Drive, Anzac
Time: 9 am to 2 am
$20,000 in Payouts
10 am to 12 pm Registration
11:30 am to 6 pm Talent Show Crib & Horseshoe Tournaments
6:30 pm Family dinner
8:30 pm Fireworks
9 pm Adult Dance Live Band
Astro Jumps
Fiddle Raffle
Guitar Raffle
Singing jigging fiddling competitions
Best Traditional Metis Dressed Payouts
For further inquiries contact Stella Lavallee 780.715.5775

Métis Artist Rosalie Favell Wins 2012 Karsh Award

Congratulations to Métis artist Rosalie Favell who has won the 2012 Karsh Award.  The Ottawa Citizen reports “through her collaged imagery, Favell explores the potential of the photograph as a performance space to explore both personal and cultural issues.”

The Ottawa Sun explains too, “Favell is a photographer who often takes self-portraits then uses computer manipulation and mixed media to develop her themes; she combines Metis imagery with scenes and ideas from popular culture to explore her own identity.”

I was quite taken with her artist statement on the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective, “Images taken from my family album appear as a way to emphasize personal aspects of collecting, such as occurs in my family albums, my own family history and my search for my Métis roots.”  In the case of one piece of art called “They Went Exploring” (2005), she depicts herself as “a modern explorer in the context of the Columbus ‘discovery’.  I see aboriginal people’s as engaged in many new explorations, and entering into new territories that will prove challenging to us.”

I so appreciate what she is trying to say in this and several other pieces of her work because they echo so much of what is going on in my own head when it comes to my search for my Métis heritage. Her personal journey expressed through her art, I believe, mirrors the feelings of those of many of us who are navigating the modern world but searching for connections to our past.

Her work is being exhibited at the Karsh-Masson Gallery, 136 St. Patrick Street, Ottawa from September 7 to October 28, 2012. Rosalie will receive the award on September 13 at the Gallery.

New Literary Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Authors

As a writer and author I was excited to learned about a new Canadian literary award  recognizing excellence in English-language literary works for Young Adults by First Nations, Métis and Inuit authors.

Launched on September 6 the award was created by “CODE – a Canadian charitable organization that has been supporting literacy and learning for over 50 years – in collaboration with William (Bill) Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation, the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature aims to provide engaging and culturally-relevant books for young people across Canada. The Award is now accepting submissions from Canadian publishers until May 1, 2013.”

CODE Executive Director Scott Walter said, “With the new Award, we hope to….celebrate “the literary achievements of Canada’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit authors and improve young readers’ access to books.”  “We are very excited to expand the Burt Award program to Canada,” said William (Bill) Burt, who financially supports the Award.“My hope is that Canadian First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth will love the titles that emerge from this project and that the books give them new opportunities to improve the reading and writing skills that will serve them the rest of their lives.”

For more information please click here.

Métis Matters Radio Show switching to 100.5FM Today

I just blogged about the Métis Matters Radio Show last week.  There are some changes afoot and so I wanted to make sure you got the latest news:
On September 10, 2012 switch from CFRO – 102.7 FM to 100.5 FM
On air every Wednesday from 5:00-6:00 PM – Pacific Time
Tune in locally to weekly broadcasts showcasing Métis news, views, history, culture & fiddle music galore for Métis listeners! A Talk Show too! You can call us with your questions or comments. On Air Number: (604) 684-7561

Vancouver Co-operative Radio –
Vancouver Co-operative Radio Live streaming Listen on Line

Program is also available via Cablevision hook-up to your FM radio, across BC, on the Starchoice satellite-Channel 845, and now carried on “Telus TV” Channel 718 across Canada.

You can also listen to past shows at for archived broadcasts

For more information on Métis Matters contact:
Nova Métis Heritage Association – Office
Host & moderator, Ken Fisher
10586 King George Hwy., Surrey BC, V3T 2X3
Phone: (604) 634-0119 – CDs of each show available. Order yours today! 604-634-0119
New Guests always welcome!

Back to Lebret – Métis Weaving and Friendship

Day 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 – Tuesday, August 21 – Sunday, August 26
The next three days of my road trip with Dad focused on his side of the family.  We spent time with my cousins and a third cousin who has been the family historian for many years. It was great to compare notes about the family tree and scan many of the old photos so that we can start getting all of our documentation on-line.

Last Monday, just after I visited with my cousin Annette, I received a comment here at the Métis Raconteur from a very kind reader, Mechtild Morin, who suggested that if I was able to get to Lebret she would be willing to help me with my family tree.  Once we connected through email I learned that she knew pretty much all of my family in the Fort Qu’Appelle area and had even met my grandmother some time before she died.  This was an opportunity I could not pass up so I decided to forgo the three days that I had scheduled at a Regina Bed & Breakfast to return to Lebret.

On Friday evening my dad and I met with Mechtild and her son, Michael at the Off Broadway Bistro in Fort Qu’Appelle. Mechtild’s son is a direct descendent of Métis leader, Cuthbert Grant, and although she is not Métis herself she has adopted the culture as her own.  We spent a lovely evening comparing notes and family history.  I have limited family tree information so from my notes I was not able to establish a concrete link but there are many common family names and it looks likely that we are related by marriage at the very least.

Michael showed me the Cuthbert Grant comic he wrote which details his famous ancestors life.  They told us he has already sold around 200 hard copy editions to friends and relatives and he has recently worked at putting it into electronic format.  I was very, very impressed and hope that copies will again become available in the near future.  Michael is a very talented photographer, screen writer, and he has done some work in the film industry, so I’m sure we’ll see more of his work in the future.  Check out his blog here.

On Saturday I met Mechtild at the Lebret Church were she volunteers each weekend conducting tours of the building and its museum.  Since it was a busy day with both a wedding and funeral Mechtild came to my Dad’s motor home and we sat together while she showed me two different ways to weave Métis sashes.  She learned how to weave from her in-laws and thankfully now shares that knowledge with others.  I learned in just that short time and as I continued on my own after she went home that I love weaving!  It has a rhythmic almost meditative quality to the work and I’m happy to say that I finished both my mini sashes.  My dad took a good look at the loom that Mechtild’s dad made for her and he has promised to make a similar one for me when he gets home from the rest of his road trip.  Mechtild and I were able to spend more time together on Sunday and I was able to watch her work on a very intricate and complicated sash.  We talked more and got to know each other on a more personal level.

I will be forever grateful that Mechtild took the time to reach out to me across the internet and offer to teach me about Métis history and culture.   In the end she shared not only her knowledge but her friendship; meeting and learning from her was a great gift.  Mechtild has entrusted to me an important part of Métis culture and even though I do not have great skill I know I must now follow her example and reach out to others in a similar way and pass on what I have learned.
Photo by Michael Morin

The Métis Nation Registry – a Thesis by Tara Gereaux

The Métis Nation Registry: Exploring Identity, Meaning, and Culture
A thesis by Tara Gereaux

I’m not quite sure how I found this thesis but reading it proved to be very stimulating and thought-provoking.  Tara Gereaux raises a number of issues; some are things I have been grappling with myself yet others are new thoughts.  She started by interviewing 12 Métis individuals creating an essay “written in a creative non-fiction form intended  to appeal to…..anyone who is interested in or curious about contemporary Métis culture and its (dis)connections to the Métis registry process. Through an intuitive, evocative, and collaborative approach, I hope that readers will connect to the stories that I and my co-researchers shared…”

I was first struck by the following words:  “And then I think about all those people who have lived their entire lives as Métis. What do they think of people like me? People like me who hardly know a thing about Métis history and culture are now being officially counted. We are changing the geography of the culture.”  Her words reverberated loudly.  I hardly know anything about Métis culture; sure I’ve read almost every book I can get my hands on and I scour the internet for information but I don’t know what being Métis means in practical, everyday living.  And then there was my choice of the name for this blog.  By what right can I call myself a Métis Raconteur?  I’m not a cultural storyteller or recognized as such in the Métis community.  My stories have not been traditional in the sense of passing on culture to my children but they have often been educational or have a moral in some way or another.  Perhaps I’ve taken the liberty of calling myself such.  On the other hand, there are many Métis like me who are only now making sense of their hidden pasts and embracing their culture.  This blog is my way of finding meaning and a sense of belonging to my culture and to a community that I have chosen to embrace.  It is not just the geography of the Métis culture that is changing, it is the entire landscape and fabric of society that is being affected because of our connections through the internet, social media and technology.   It is through telling my own story, those of others and by sharing information about Métis events that one day I hope to earn the right within the community to be recognized as a true Métis Raconteur.

When I  joined the Nova Métis Cultural Society in Surrey I did so because I wanted to belong and because I believed that is what I needed to do to belong.  Getting my  card was a pivotal moment for me—I did feel accepted when I left the Métis office that day even though I had to wait several weeks for the card.  It wasn’t the actual card that made me feel accepted however, it was Ken and his wife who helped look up my genealogy and who spoke to me as if I were their granddaughter.  Still, I now feel very naive after reading Tara’s next words, “Métis Nation identification cards do not give someone their identity, yet they are issued based on a person’s connection to a distinct culture, and culture contributes to a person’s identity. These cards also allow people to participate in their culture. But so many people who are undeniably Métis are unable to secure these cards, and so many people – like me – are able to attain them with very little connection to the culture aside from biological. And culture is not just biological.”

My family comes from the Red River Valley and Lebret.  Because my mother chose to hide this part of her life from us, my brother and I have had no connection to our birthright culture.  Yet I was able to obtain a card fairly easily because I am one of those people who fit into the biological parameters. But where does that land me? I must face questions similar to those posed in Tara’s thesis:  “how do I feel it (being Métis) inside? In my blood, my heart, my whole being? How does someone really belong to a culture?”

The stories in the article where enlightening and Tara is an excellent writer able to get across the ambiguity as well as pride that many of those she interviewed felt.  I felt encouraged when I read her concluding words.  She said that she felt her Métis card gave her a new sense of responsibility to “learn and discover and contribute to the community…I’ve gotten meaning. I didn’t become a new person like I thought might happen when I first received my identification, but I have learned new things which have changed and will continue to change my views and my thoughts. I’m a not a new person, but I have a new way of being in the world.”  Her words echo my wish that one day through connecting with my mom’s family, with people in the Métis community close to my home and on the internet, I will wake up and find that I too feel that this new way of being fits me like a pair of well-worn and comfortable moccasins.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Tara’s thesis and I’ve only discussed small parts of it here.  If you would like to read the entire document, please click here.