The launch of Métis elder Cecile Blanke’s book about the history of the Métis families of Lac Pelletier valley attracted a large audience.
The meeting room at the Home Inn & Suites in Swift Current was filled to capacity for the official launch, July 4.
Those in attendance included relatives and friends of the author, but there were also descendants of former Lac Pelletier residents and others who had an interest to hear more about a forgotten and often neglected past.
Blanke appreciated the large interest in her book and she was thrilled to see so many people at the event.
“It’s very pleasing and it makes me feel people are interested in what I’m doing,” she said afterwards. “It’s about this area, my book being Lac Pelletier, and so I think that’s why people, other than the relatives, the regular people come out, because they want to know what I’ve written about.”
The book is titled Lac Pelletier: My Métis Home. She has written about all the different aspects of Métis society and life at Lac Pelletier. There are sections in the book about family history, life through the different seasons, Métis culture, and the impact of racism and colonization on their way of life.
“It’s going to open their eyes about our Métis history, and it needed to be told,” she said. “We need to be heard, and this is the first time that a book like this has been published, because other history books omitted the Métis. All the history books that’s been put out through the districts didn’t include the Métis. Very few had anything about them.”
The book includes old family photographs that provide a visual view on a bygone era. Another unique aspect of this publication is the inclusion of the stories of George Pritchard, who was a Lac Pelletier resident. His descriptions of early life on the prairies cover an even earlier time than the recollections of Blanke. His relatives were among those who attended the book launch.
“So this is going to really open the people’s eyes about what our Métis culture is all about and how we got to Lac Pelletier and what we did there,” she said. “That is what the book is all about and that’s why I wanted to publish it. I want whoever reads the book to understand our Métis culture and why we came here, what we did here and what happened to us.”
She worked on this book for many years and she was inspired by her dad’s first cousin, Louise Moine from Val Marie, who wrote two books about the Métis experience. She was almost 102 years old when she passed away in 2006.
“She was my inspiration,” Blanke said. “She kept saying ‘Cecile, you got to do it. You’re younger than me. You can do it. You have the knowledge and the education.’”
It has been a long road for her to complete the book and she is excited to see the conclusion of the process. She was very happy when the Gabriel Dumont Institute Press agreed to publish the book.
“I’m very excited about it being done,” she said. “When I took it to Gabriel Dumont Institute and they said they would publish it, and then when she phoned me on a Thursday, I was there Friday morning to get the first one. I was so thrilled to know they’re done and I’m just the happiest Métis person that you could ever put eyes on. I came home with 40 books and that was like the biggest treasure I’d ever taken in a vehicle to bring home.”
Karon Shmon, the director of culture and heritage at Gabriel Dumont Institute, attended the book launch. The institute has a dual mandate to preserve and promote Métis history and culture, and to provide education and training programs to the Métis community in Saskatchewan.
“We’re very pleased to be the publisher of Cecile’s book, because it is such an important part of our story,” she said.
She noted that one of the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report is for all Canadians to have a fuller and better understanding of Canadian history.
“I always like to say that the last letters in history are story, and it depends on who is telling that story and from what perspective it is being told, and for too long our story has been missing,” she said. “So stories that Cecile has to share with us, her history, the history of the people of Lac Pelletier, is part of that story that’s missing from the record, and this will stand as a lasting legacy for the Métis people to make sure that part of the story is told.”