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SUNTEP Students Hold Their Métis Studies Class in Winnipeg

Jan 5, 2018

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By Jed Huntley (with contributions by Brenna Pacholko, Russell Fayant, and Ashley Grimard)

Second year Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) students from Prince Albert and Regina went on the annual genealogical trip to the present day Red River settlement of Winnipeg, Manitoba in October 2017. It was the third year that students from the two SUNTEP Centres went on a research based trip together as part of their Métis studies class. The four day trip, from October 4th – 7th, was full of research, information, culture and memories.

Both groups left their respective home base and rendezvoused at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, in time for the 7:00 pm guided tour. The staff provided us with an inspiring, passionate tour covering many highlights of the museum. After the two hour visit it was off to the hotel to prepare for the busy day to follow.

Day two was dedicated to archival research. The Regina crew began at the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, while Prince Albert headed to the Saint Boniface Historical Society. The two groups met for lunch and had a few minutes to chat about their “discoveries” before swapping afternoon destinations. The research experience was very beneficial, as many students unearthed journals, pictures, memorable stories and ancestral ties.

With six hours of intense indoor research behind us, the evening part of trip consisted of visits to the two Riel statues – the statesman like statue at the legislative grounds and the initial “controversial” statue since moved to St. Boniface, complemented by an outing at the tranquil Forks. In between the Riel statues, we learned of the history and significance of the Forks after which we gathered back at the hotel for a debrief session meant to consolidate learnings and help the students of Regina and Prince Albert to get to know one another a bit better.

On the sunny morning of day three, each group headed off in slightly different directions with alternating destinations. The intent was to meet up for a late lunch at Neechie Commons, home to a unique Indigenous food and art cooperative. The destinations for the morning included the Manitoba Museum, Le Musee de Saint-Boniface and the Manitoba Metis Federation. At each place students were treated to valuable history pertaining to the fur trade, the history of the Métis in Red River and an overview of our contemporary situation.

The afternoon consisted of whole group tours of Lower Fort Gary, the site of the Battle of Seven Oaks, St. Andrews Rectory and Church, Captain William Kennedy’s House, Upper Fort Gary and Elzear Goulet Park. At each stop Russell Fayant (SUNTEP Regina Faculty) provided the students with an overview of the historical significance of the site. The talks provided a concrete tie to the theory and history of Red River that is learned in the classroom. With another long but memorable day behind us, it was back to the hotel to debrief, visit and further engage the day’s events.

On day four both groups met up at Riel House National Historic Site, where we were treated to an informational talk by a SUNTEP Regina student, who passed on valuable historical and current information, acquired when she was stationed there as an interpreter. We left Riel House invigorated and ventured on to St. Norbert church and graveyard, to search for ancestors’ gravestones. From the graveyard we proceeded to the Provincial Heritage Park to learn of the aftermath of the 1869-70 Red River Resistance and to view some houses constructed in the Red River style.

The Farmers’ Market provided us with many options for a quick lunch, before meeting our gracious hosts at Cuthbert Grant`s Mill for a 1:00 tour. The staff and tour guides were hospitable, as always, and provided us with additional history of the Battle of Seven Oaks, the life of Cuthbert Grant and the construction and operation of Grant’s Mill. Our final stop was Saint-Francois Xavier Church and graveyard and the White Horse Plains. We had one final communal debrief that highlighted each person’s most notable memory and the benefits of the trip. Of significance, was the meeting of the two related yet unique centres and the sharing and potential networking opportunities this joint trip could provide, both as students and as future teachers.

Although there were a few minor hiccups along the way, the trip was a success. The weather was amazing, the comradery was that of distant relations, each place had its own special moments and the conversation on the drive home echoed the past couple of day’s learnings. Below are a few brief yet poignant student thoughts:

“The trip was packed with valuable information that not only strengthened my pride and identity of being a Métis person, but gave me the knowledge and confidence I need as a teacher.”

“As I put the pieces together and the picture becomes clearer, I feel empowered to learn more, to share more, to act more.”

“The Winnipeg Genealogical Research Trip stirred a new found appreciation for my Métis Identity, awakened my spirit and allowed me to create a respected and cherished connection to the history, land and place in which we travelled. I returned with a renewed outlook on my Métis roots.”

“The trip has awakened my love for history and made my heart excited for the future.”

“Researching my genealogy has helped to create space for conversations in my family which didn’t happen before. My family is proud that I am learning this history.”

First and foremost, we extend special thanks to our Elders, Joe Welsh (Regina) and Vivian Meabry (Prince Albert) who took time away from their families to join us on this educational journey; and whose stories and valuable perspectives on the history presented, humbled even the tour guides. A big heartfelt thank you to staff and faculty Kim Kovacs (Regina), Brenna Pacholko (Regina) and Ashley Grimard (P.A.) for their invaluable help at the archives. Thank you to SUNTEP Regina for encouraging and welcoming Prince Albert to join them on the trip; and to Russell Fayant for his eloquent informational talks that provided needed background information with a personalized Métis flavour. Last but not least, a sincere thank you to GDI for seeing the value in experiential learning and for providing opportunities for the two centres to meet, network, share information on their respective programs, and to create and continue Métis ties – Maarsii.

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