National Aboriginal Day, was another busy day in the life of the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Grand River Métis Council (GRMC). For Council members, the day started at the Waterloo Region Museum in Kitchener where they shared Métis 101 with students from across the Waterloo Region. The day was broken into four workshops with 30 students at each session. The students had fun learning about Métis culture and history while guessing, which furs came from which animal. They also learned about the Métis sash, Michif, beading and finger weaving. To finish off, the grade three – five students tried Métis jigging. At the end of the day, the Council members rushed off to Guelph to set up for their National Aboriginal Day celebration.
This was the third year that MNO GRMC partnered with the City of Guelph to organize their National Aboriginal Day celebration. Over the last three years, the celebration has grown from 300 participants to over 1000 this year, requiring the city to close Carden Street to accommodate the crowd.
MNO GRMC President Jennifer Parkinson was one of the dignitaries participating in the opening ceremony. She welcomed everyone on behalf of the Métis Nation and talked about how important the day was to the Métis. Other dignitaries and performers included: Adrian Harjo, a First Nations singer, dancer and storyteller; Elder Lois MacDonald who provided the opening prayer; Elder Jan Sherman who talked about the importance of the day; and Guelph Mayor Cameron Guthrie welcomed the crowd on behalf of the City and did a Territorial Acknowledgement. Guelph City Council worked with Elders and Aboriginal community leaders (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) over the last year to write a territorial acknowledgement for the City of Guelph that is now read before every Council meeting and event in the city.
There was a lot to do and see during the three hour celebration and the Métis were a big part of it. MNO staff set up an information booth for visitors where Senator Carol Lévis taught people how to do Métis Dot Art on rocks; Mathew Carpenter and Councilor Alicia Hamilton taught people how to make Woodland beaded bracelets using kits and teachings courtesy of First Nations artist Naomi Smith. Grassroots Catering fed the crowd tacos, bannock and strawberry juice. The MNO GRMC also had a vending table where it sold lots of Métis crafts, sashes, spoons and swag. Métis jigging with Sterling Laverne from Woodstock and Elizabeth from Hamilton and Fiddling with Cassandra Swan from Niagara Region were also big hits.
Other activities during the celebration included drumming from the Guelph Women’s Drum Circle; Wiijii Numgumook Kwe (In Unity Singers); Inuit drumming with Ame Papatsie; a round dance with the Big Drum courtesy of Graham Paradis from Fort Erie; Women’s Jingle dance with Jennifer Martin from Six Nations; and Hoop Dancing from National Champion Hoop Dancer, Ascension Harjo from Six Nations.
Many were still talking about the event in the community weeks later and looking forward to next year.