Monday, 31 July 2017 04:27

Swift Current event will celebrate Métis heritage

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Barb Parchmanis the curatorial and operations assistant at the Art Gallery of Swift Current. Barb Parchmanis the curatorial and operations assistant at the Art Gallery of Swift Current.

An event to celebrate Métis culture and heritage in southwest Saskatchewan will take place in Swift Current on Aug. 3.


The Métis Culture Camp is a free event at the Battleford Trail Ruts municipal heritage site in Swift Current. It will be an opportunity for families and people of all ages to walk on the historic Battleford Trail and to participate in fun activities while learning about Métis culture.
The event is hosted by the Art Gallery of Swift Current in partnership with the Swift Current Museum. According to Barb Parchman, the curatorial and operations assistant at the Art Gallery of Swift Current, the event was originally planned as a youth camp, but it was opened up to the public due to wider interest in the activities that will take place.
“I had interest from older people that wanted to come and see the performers,” she said.
She believes the event will be of interest to people of Métis ancestry who want to learn more about their culture and anyone who is interested in the heritage of the region.
“So definitely I want Métis people out, but I’m hoping a broader audience will come and learn about the music and learn about the trail,” she said.
The Métis Culture Camp is part of a broader project that is receiving grant funding from SaskCulture, the Saskatchewan Art Board, Conseil Culturel Fransaskois and the Gabriel Dumont Institute. The goal of the project is to preserve, promote, transmit and strengthen Metis perspectives, culture and traditions and to engage the public in conversation to support reconciliation.
The activities on Aug. 3 will start with a departure ceremony at 9:30 a.m. at the Battleford Trail Ruts municipal heritage site for a group of walkers who will be walking from Swift Current to Battleford. This walk, which is organized by Swift Current resident Hugh Henry, will follow gravel and dirt roads in close proximity to the original Battleford Trail, which became in important trade route from 1883 to 1890.
After the departure ceremony there will be an opportunity for people to accompany the walkers to the outskirts of the city. A shuttle will return them to the municipal heritage site, where the afternoon program will start at 1 p.m.
“People who do not want to take part in the walk in the morning is welcome to only come for the afternoon activities,” she said.
There will be a full-size replica of a Red River cart at the Métis Culture Camp. The construction of this cart was commissioned by the Art Gallery of Swift Current and the Swift Current Museum. It was built by Armand Jerome, a Métis master cart builder in Manitoba. The cart will become part of the art gallery's permanent collection as an example of a handmade, culturally authentic, traditional Red River cart. The intention is to eventually install the cart at the municipal heritage site.
“His are driveable and they’re made with wood from the Red River, where the Métis homeland is,” Parchman said. “He also trailed his carts at several different locations. He has one cart that has 4,000 kilometres on it now. So he’s driven them on a few of the different historic trails and he actually carted one from Manitoba into Batoche one year.”
The cart that will be at this event will be pulled by a heavy horse. It will take part in the morning walk and it will also be present at the Métis Culture Camp in the afternoon, when camp participants will have an opportunity to get rides on the cart.
During the afternoon the camp participants will be able to learn more about the Red River cart from Regina's George Fayant. They will assemble a cart and race it.
Fayant is a Red River cart builder that uses a half-size cart for his presentations and demonstrations. He will do a demonstration with a half-size cart at the camp and he will talk about the heritage, design and technology of the Red River cart.
“He takes it apart as he’s doing his speech and then he has the kids or audience members put the cart back together,” Parchman mentioned. “He said that it works better with the half-size cart to take them apart and put them back together than it would with a full-size cart.”
Dance and music are important aspects of Métis culture and a number of presenters will share their skills with camp participants during the afternoon. Live Métis fiddle music will be provided by Phil and Dallas Boyer of Saskatoon.
“They’re a father and son team,” she said. “They’re quite renowned Métis musicians and so it’s a thrill to have them come down.”
Master Métis jigger Yvonne Chartrand from Vancouver and aboriginal storyteller Joseph Naytowhow, who is also a skilful jigger, will show camp participants how to dance the Red River jig and to play the spoons, and there will also be Métis storytelling.
A tent will be set up at the Battleford Trail Ruts municipal heritage site, which is located next to Houston Pizza, with a floor for dancing.
“We’ll have a tent for people to sit in and we hope that they’ll take part, but they can just sit and watch as well,” Parchman said.
For more information about the Métis Culture Camp, contact the Art Gallery of Swift Current at 306-778-2736.

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Matthew Liebenberg

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