McMurray Métis has started Métis Week with virtual celebrations and the release of a 26-minute documentary on the life of Louis Riel and on Métis culture. The documentary, which can be found online, has already been shown to local students from Grades five to seven.
“We created something really special for the entire community,” said Melanie Walsh, a spokesperson for McMurray Métis. “Maybe it will inspire Métis people to reconnect with their culture if they have lost that or maybe inspire Métis people to embrace their culture more.”
Riel was a Métis politician who fought for Métis rights throughout his career. Riel led the Red River Rebellion of 1869, which led to the founding of Manitoba.
The North-West Rebellion of 1885 was also led by Riel after Saskatchewan Métis leaders wished to voice their grievances with the Canadian government. It was after the North-West Rebellion that Riel was arrested and executed for high treason.
Riel’s execution polarized Canada. Québécois saw Riel as a hero defending a French Catholic minority from oppression and opposed the execution. To the Métis, Riel is revered as a hero and martyr.
“Louis Riel paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Walsh. “This is why we choose to honour him on Nov. 16—the day he was executed.”
In previous years, the Local celebrated Louis Riel Day with public gatherings at the Nistawoyou Friendship Centre or Shell Place. Hundreds of students were invited to learn about Riel and Métis identity from elders.
“We hold Louis Riel Day to remember his life and to celebrate the Métis people’s culture, language, heritage and ancestral homeland,” said Gail Gallupe, president of McMurray Métis, in the documentary.
For Walsh, Louis Riel Day is also about sharing her Métis culture and taking pride in her history. Documentaries may play a role in that as the Local shares more Métis history and culture on social media.
“Our ancestors have endured such hardships in their lives,” said Walsh. “They did that so we could be Métis people today.”