A passionate advocate for Métis people was recently celebrated at the Friendship Centre in Quesnel.
Louis Riel Day is held every year on Nov. 16, but the Quesnel Tillicum Society chose to mark the occasion a few days later on Saturday, Nov. 19.
Dozens gathered at the centre for crafts and music that carried late into the evening after a supper of fried chicken, rice, salad, beef stew and bannock.
Executive director Tony Goulet was pleased with the turnout and guessed 130 people were in attendance. He acknowledged they were on the traditional territory of Indigenous peoples, including Lhtako Dené, Lhoosk’uz Dené, Nazko, ?Esdilagh, and Métis.
As he continued addressing the crowd, Goulet said many might have noticed the different coloured sashes some, including himself, were wearing.
“Today sashes are worn with pride and celebration,” Goulet noted, adding the finger-woven belts originated during the fur trade and had many uses.
Many years ago, men wore the sash half tied around their waist, creating a pocket for tobacco, medicine and more. It was also used as a towel and a sewing kit, and some of the more expensive sashes, made of thin wool strands dipped in wax, could be used to carry small amounts of water or as a cup.
The colours have various meanings, including red for the Métis blood that was shed, white for the Creator, yellow for the prospect of prosperity and black for the suppression and disposition of Métis people and land.
Riel, a recognized founder of Manitoba, was a fierce defender of the rights of Métis people and also fought for First Nations rights, French language rights and religious freedoms. He was unjustly hanged on Nov. 16, 1885, after being convicted of treason.
“Riel remains a vital historical leader. Today, the strength of the Métis Nation is a testament to the courage of Louis Riel and all Métis ancestors that came before and after him. On the 137th anniversary of Riel’s death, we remember his profound dedication to justice. His vision of a diverse and inclusive Canada has left a lasting legacy,” said B.C.’s Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation in a Nov. 16 statement. “This day also represents an opportunity to celebrate Métis culture and to reflect on the important contributions of Métis people in British Columbia.”
After dinner at the Friendship Centre, Wayne and Arnold Lucier shared music, after which a cake was cut.
Goulet presented Métis spoons made by Greg Sterling and sashes to Ken Taylor, Keith Boudreau, Dennis Manuel and Amy Robertson for their contributions to the Quesnel Tillicum Society. They’re with the band Cariboo Thunder and continued to provide music late into the evening.
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