This past Monday was Louis Riel Day, a holiday for the province of Manitoba where I live. Louis Riel was Metis. The Metis are an indigenous group of Canadians historically formed from the union of French Canadian men (primarily the voyageurs) and aboriginal women. The Metis are a distinct aboriginal group in Canada. They have a common history and culture, and a unique language known as Michif. Traditionally, they populated the areas of the western Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Louis Riel Day is celebrated here alongside a week long winter festival called Festival du Voyageur.
Recently I was given a number of children’s books by Pemmican Publications Inc. This press is committed to promoting the Metis culture and heritage. One of the books from their Michif Children’s Series is called Thomas and the Metis Cart. It was written originally in English by Bonnie Murray, illustrated by Sheldon Dawson and translated into Michif by Rita Flamand. Through the Michif Children’s series of books, the Michif language is being revived and shaped for use to be read now by a younger generation. Thomas and the Metis Cart is about a boy named Thomas who is given a class science project to build something on wheels. Thomas decides he would like build a replica of a Red River cart, an important transportation vehicle used by the Metis in settling the west. As his father helps him build the replica, Thomas finds out more about the cart and his Metis history.
Louis Riel Day and the Festival du Voyageur celebrate an aspect of my city and province’s history and culture. What festivals and holidays do you have in your locale that celebrate its past? Are there books about them? Do tell!