LAC LA BCIHE - To commemorate Métis Week in Canada, a crowd turned out for the Métis flag-raising ceremony on Nov. 14 at the Portage College Lac La Biche campus. The ceremony is part of an annual tradition that has been taking place at the college for more than 20 years.
Métis Week this year ran from Nov. 12-18.
Métis Week is celebrated nationwide with activities and events to recognize the history of the Métis people and the contributions they have made to Canadian society. The commemorative week also honours the legacy of Louis Riel, a Métis leader politician who led two rebellions against the federal government. He was executed by hanging on Nov. 16, 1885, in Regina, Sask.
His conviction for treason has since been exonerated by the Canadian government.
On Nov. 16, Portage College also held a flag-raising ceremony at its St. Paul Campus to coincide with Louis Riel Day.
Those in attendance included faculty and staff, local and federal political representatives as well as members of the public and the recently formed Otipemisiwak Métis Government, which replaces the Métis Nation of Alberta.
In Lac La Biche, the group gathered at the flagpoles at the college’s main entrance. Many in the crowd wore traditional Métis sashes.
There were speeches by several visiting dignitaries, including Jason Ekeberg, former vice-president of the Métis Nation of Alberta Region One and current District 19 Citizen’s Representative of the Otipemisiwak Métis Government. Harry Hope, a Kikino Metis Settlement elder who is also a Korean War veteran was in attendance along with former Métis Nation of Alberta Region One President James Cardinal, who also recited a prayer in the Cree language.
Portage College President Nancy Broadbent, Lac La Biche County Mayor Paul Reutov, and Layla Goodridge, the Member of Parliament for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, also spoke at the event.
Near the end of the ceremony, Ekeberg and Hope were joined by Derek Cardinal, the facility team leader of Portage College, to raise the Métis flag.
Afterward, all those in attendance went inside the college for bannock and snacks.
The Lac La Biche region is home to two of the eight Métis settlements in Alberta. According to the most recent Statistics Canada results, of the approximately 8,300 people living in Lac La Biche County, more than 1,500 identify as Métis. Across Alberta, more than 140,000 people identify as Métis. The former Métis Nation of Alberta had a membership of about 45,000 Métis people.
Across the province last week, events and ceremonies took place to honour the Métis heritage. On Nov. 16, members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, along with the Otipemisiwak Métis Government, hosted a commemorative ceremony at 11 a.m. to pay tribute to the legacy of Louis Riel and honour the Métis people in Alberta.
The public ceremony, which was livestreamed, included a colour guard, prayers, a performance by the Prince Charles Fiddlers, and remarks by MLAs and the members of the Métis Nation of Alberta.
The Hon. Nathan Cooper, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, said Louis Riel is counted among the great leaders in Canadian history.
“His legend extends far beyond the Red River Settlement, and he will forever capture the hearts and minds of Métis people across Canada,” Cooper said, adding that Nov. 16 is a time to reflect on the life and death of Louis Riel, but also to celebrate the vibrant and distinct culture of the Métis nation in Alberta.”
Echoing Cooper’s words, Andrea Sandmaier, President of the Otipemisiwak Métis Government, said every year, Métis across the homeland pay tribute to Louis Riel, whose legacy and sacrifice continue to make an impact today.
“On Nov. 16, the day of Riel’s wrongful execution, we collectively honour his courage and lifelong commitment to defending the unique, inherent rights of Métis and establishing Métis self-government,” Sandmaier said.