Louis Riel Day
Each year on November 16th, commemorative ceremonies are hosted throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario — to celebrate and honour Louis Riel’s contributions to the country and to the his people, the Métis. Louis Riel is recognized as an advocate of justice for the Métis people, but he represents much more. He helped lay the framework for minority rights and cultural co-operation.
The woven sash is probably the most widely recognized and best known symbol associated with the Métis culture. The sash was valued for its aesthetic presence, as well as its practicality and versatility. Often a decorative beaded pipe bag was suspended from a Voyageurs sash. It was also used by Voyageurs to carry their belongings during their transportation duties, and it provided warmth in the colder seasons.
The Métis flag, which emerged in the early 1800s, symbolizes the creation of a new society with roots in both Aboriginal and European cultures and traditions. The infinity symbol also suggests that the society will exist forever.
The fiddle has figured prominently in the lifestyle of the Métis people for hundreds of years. The famous Red River jig has become the centerpiece of Métis music, although it varies by region and performer. Since the European fiddle was very expensive in Canada’s early development as a country, may craftsmen learned to make their own. Today, the fiddle is used in celebrations and fiddle and jigging contests, where the fiddle symbolizes nationhood and pride.
The Red River jig, the unique dance developed by the Métis people, combines the intricate footwork of Native dancing with the instruments and form of European music. Traditionally, dancing started early in the evening and could last until dawn. Witnesses were amazed by the energy and vitality spent on celebration, especially after a long arduous work days necessary to keep the Métis communities running. Today, the Métis people still enjoy jigging, and have local, provincial and national dance teams that attend conferences, exhibitions, and powwows.
Michif is the native language spoken by Métis people. It’s a mixture primarily of Cree and French and a little bit of English. The Michif language is known to be endangered and not many people speak the language now. Métis people also speak other Indigenous languages such as Cree, Dene, and others, as well as English or French.
• • •