Historic trip highlights resurgence of Metis culture, knowledge and language

Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) was invited to participate with the Canadian delegation to the 18th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York City last week. The annual international forum began with an opening ceremony on April 22 and will concluded on May 3.

The United Nations (UN) has recognized 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages to shine a spotlight on risks to Indigenous languages around the world.

MN-S brought the Michif language and Métis culture to the international stage by hosting an interactive session called The Creation Story of the Métis and History of the Michif Language. The event featured storytelling and fiddle music, focusing on the historical strength and resilience of Métis people across North America and the modern day resurgence of Métis culture, knowledge and the Michif language.

The event was well-received and attended. Speakers included MN-S President Glen McCallum; Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett; Parliamentary Secretary Dan Vandal; Canadian Delegation Métis Elder Oliver Boulet; Métis Elder Norman Fleury; MN-S Language Minister Sherry Soll; and, MN-S Language Director Reina Sinclair. Distinguished guests included Métis National Council President Clement Chartier.

Parliamentary Secretary Dan Vandal set the tone for the event by acknowledging the deep roots storytellers and music has in Métis culture and traditions: “Art forms of all kinds whether they are traditional or whether contemporary, are really good for the soul. And as individual, as human beings, we create, we share, we thrive, through our stories. The Métis especially thrive through their music and their stories.”

MN-S Elder Norman Fleury shared stories about the history of the Métis, The Iron Confederacy, the endangerment of Michif language and the future of Métis and Michif.

Métis Elder Oliver Boulet brought everyone back in the moment with classic Métis fiddle music and shared stories about how fiddle music, dance and song was the heartbeat of the Métis. MN-S Minister Sherry Soll spoke about the critical role Métis women played in the creation of the Métis Nation.

MN-S President McCallum shared powerful and optimistic closing remarks:

“In the last six in a half years, I was part of the government of the Métis Nation. We sat in limbo for 15-20 years in Saskatchewan. In the last two years, we’ve made strides, we have done great, great work in our communities. We are starting to see and feel the strides and achievements that we have.”

He also highlighted the strength of the MN-S partnership with the Canadian Government: “In the last 2 years, the federal government has opened their doors to MN-S and Métis across Canada. Minister Carolyn Bennett was the lead in opening those doors for us, giving us the capacity to be able to build a true government.”

As part of the historic trip, the MN-S delegation was also invited to participate in a breakfast honouring Chief Wilton Littlechild, who served as the North American representative to the UNPFII for work he has done for decades to advance Indigenous issues at an international level.

 

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