2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Métis Nation joining the Canadian federation through the establishment of the Province of Manitoba as Canada’s fifth province through the efforts of President Louis Riel and his Métis Provisional Government.
Louis Riel, the first premier of Manitoba and one of Canada’s founding fathers, was a strong defender of minority rights who fought to preserve Métis rights and culture. Elected three times as a Member of Parliament but unable to take his seat, Riel would lead the Métis and negotiate the entry of Manitoba into Confederation through the Manitoba Act 1870. This important part of Canadian history is worthy of recognition and cause for celebration.
This weekend, the Métis National Council (MNC) and Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) were very excited to partner with Canadian Heritage to ensure that the Métis Nation was highlighted in many of the Winterlude festivities to celebrate this milestone year.
Highlights of the Métis Nation events at Winterlude Festival:
- Louis Riel (Founder of Manitoba) Ice Sculpture unveil
On Friday, January 31st, a sculpture of Louis Riel was unveiled at the corner of Sparks and O’Conner Street. This is the first time in 41 years of Winterlude that the ice carvers have partnered with an Indigenous people. A commemorative plaque is beside the statue with plenty of space for pictures to be taken. The ice sculptors working on the Louis Riel carving are from France and Poland – two of the best ice carving duos.
- Winterlude kick-off party on Sparks Street
Winterlude celebrations got their official launch on Friday, January 31st on Sparks Street. The Winterlude kick-off party featured live music and performances including a special performance by 13 year old Métis fiddler player Morgan Ginther from East Selkirk, Manitoba.
- Children’s Ice Picking contest
60 pieces of Métis themed merchandise provided by MMF & MNC are hidden inside a large cube of ice. Children are encouraged to pick until they find a treasure. The event starts from January 31st and runs until all items are found or the end of Winterlude.
- Life of Louis Riel – play
On Saturday, February 1st, two performances of the play, The Life of Louis Riel, were presented at the Canadian Museum of History Theatre in Gatineau, Quebec. This play introduces the Métis leader who brought Manitoba into Confederation in 1870. The Life of Louis Riel captures the humanity of one of the Fathers of Confederation by sharing his story – from a young boy growing up in a history of nationalism to become the celebrated leader of the Métis Nation and all Manitobans. This event is presented by the MNC and MMF in partnership with the Canadian Museum of History and with the participation of the Government of Canada..
- Métis Nation Gala – Manitoba 150
On Saturday, February 1st, the Métis Nation held its Gala Dinner at the National Gallery of Canada, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Manitoba’s entry into Confederation in 1870. The Métis Nation shared its rich history and culture, with greeters in traditional Métis clothing in the front foyer, and a Red River Métis inspired dinner served at the Scotia Great Hall. Joining the event were federal Ministers Marc Miller, Carolyn Bennett and Dan Vandal, ITK President Natan Obed, foreign embassy representatives, and others.
- Church Service at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica on Sunday, February 2nd
- Red River Métis Village
On Sunday, February 2nd, a Red River Métis Village was showcased at the Great Hall of the Museum of History. Visitors enjoyed the beautiful culture of the Métis people from the Red River including opportunities to hear stories from Métis Elders and a chance to listen and learn Michif, the language of the Metis people. They enjoyed a cup of tea and some bannock and were entertained by the best Métis musicians and dancers.
Métis interpreters were happy to share their knowledge with those wishing to learn more about Métis Nation. World renowned Métis Master Beader – Jennine Krauchi demonstrated the intricate art of beadwork and the lessons that she has learned over the years. There were plenty of Manitoba-made products on hand, such as Métis jewelry, art, preserves, clothing and books. The Children’s Booth gave children the chance to be fully engaged and entertained with songs and crafts as they learned about Métis culture & history.