Métis Week was held in Edmonton and across Alberta from Nov. 12 to 17.
The week was commemorated with a ceremony at the Alberta Legislature on Friday, on the anniversary of Métis Leader Louis Riel’s execution, or Louis Riel Day.
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The ceremony, organized by the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA), paid tribute to the rebel leader who sacrificed his life defending the rights of Métis people.
“He stood for a fair country, is what he stood for. Not only for Métis people, but everyone in Canada. He fought and he died for it, said Audrey Poitras, president of the MNA.
“We think it’s really important that we continue to have people understand. He was a person like all of us.”
The event saw Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, and federal Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi in attendance.
Youth performers, dancers and singers were a large part of the ceremony’s itinerary and young people have become an integral part of their events.
“(They are) our future leaders, said Poitras.
“We want to make sure they understand why we do the things we do. Why we believe in what we do. About the history of our people, how we helped build this country, Canada, and this province, Alberta.
“We try to build youth into everything we do now.”
To explain to the crowd how Riel made his mark on Canadian history, Charles Barner, a grade four student who is part of the Métis Nation of Alberta took to the microphone.
“He formed a provisional government to negotiate the entrance of Manitoba into confederation,” explained Barner.
He spoke about Riel’s monumental achievements, and of his passing.
“Nov. 16, 1885, Louis Riel was hanged in Regina, Saskatchewan.”
Barner also spoke with Global News after the ceremony.
“I think people need to know about our culture and history, the young boy said.
“The Europeans came across to Canada and there was a war. They wanted to take over Canada and Louis Riel said ‘no’.
“He was found guilty and he got hung. He stood up for his country. He didn’t let anything bad happen to it,” said Barner.
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The ceremony to honour Louis Riel has grown over the years.
“People and governments are talking to us now. We are moving forward with reconciliation, Poitras said.
“And I think that’s what it takes — more people to stand up and come out.”
Sohi also spoke on behalf of the federal government.
“An essential aspect of overcoming oppression and wrongs of the past, is to learn from and honour our history,” said Minister of Health and Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Learning about and understanding Métis people and their relationship with others is why Métis Week is held in Edmonton, and the province.
“We as Métis people are here to work and live with everyone else in this country, and the more we understand each other- the better we can,” Poitras said.
“While we’re promoting and educating who we are as Métis people — we learn from other people who come out to be part of what we’re doing — and that’s really what it’s all about.”
Métis Week celebrations in Edmonton come to a close with a family day celebration at the Edmonton Inn & Conference Centre on Nov. 17.
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