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Hero of Métis Louis Riel honored during Métis Week Proclamation Ceremony

Performances included a showcase of the Red River Jig. Photo by Paula E. Kirman

“With more than 85,000 Métis people living in our province, and close to 40,000 in Edmonton alone, Alberta is home to the largest Métis population in our country.” —Aaron Paquette, newly-elected City Councillor for Ward 4.

By Paula E. Kirman Contributor

For a long time, Louis Riel was painted by history as a criminal who was executed for crimes against Canada. However, at the Métis Week Proclamation Ceremony at Edmonton's City Hall on Nov. 15, Riel's true standing as a hero for the rights of the Métis was strongly affirmed.

“This is a special time of year for Métis people in Alberta and throughout the country as we celebrate Métis Week and pay special recognition to our hero, Louis Riel,” said Audrey Poitras, Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) president.

“One hundred and thirty-two years ago Louis Riel wanted the Indigenous rights of Métis people recognized, the distinct identity of who the Métis people are recognized, the recognition of the Métis Nation, and fairness and equality for all people. This is what Louis Riel fought and died for. Slowly, no longer only through the courts, we are making progress towards the recognition of Métis people having a rights-based culture built on a distinct identity and nation.”

Aaron Paquette, newly-elected City Councillor for Ward 4, brought greetings from the City of Edmonton and presented the proclamation to Poitras. Paquette is the first Métis City Councillor in Edmonton's history, and only the second who is Indigenous.

“With more than 85,000 Métis people living in our province, and close to 40,000 in Edmonton alone, Alberta is home to the largest Métis population in our country,” he said.

Paquette listed examples of the City's commitment to promoting Métis culture, such as the Memorandum of Understanding between the MNA and Fort Edmonton Park, which will soon have culturally-accurate Métis historical interpretation.

“There is tremendous power in telling our stories and honouring our shared history and we will continue working with community partners like MNA Region 4 and learning those stories to achieve a vision of a more vibrant, inclusive, and welcoming city for everyone.”

The Métis Week Proclamation Ceremony was co-organized between the Métis Nation of Alberta, MNA's Region 4 Office, and the City of Edmonton. Cecil Bellrose, MNA Region 4 president, was the emcee. The opening prayer was offered by Gloria Laird, an MNA Region 4 Elder.

Vocalist Sarah Wolfe, who also sang “O Canada” at the beginning of the ceremony, sang the MNA Anthem while Paquette and Poitras placed the Métis Nation flag at the top of City Hall's main staircase. In previous years, the flag was raised outside of City Hall, but this was not possible this year due to construction around the Churchill Square area.

The ceremony also included a video about the importance and history of the Métis Jig, and live performances of different kinds of dance styles, such as the Chicken Dance, Highland Sword Dance, Sash Dance, and a grand finale of the Red River Jig.

Métis Week takes place in 2017 from Nov. 13 to Nov. 18 with events throughout the province. The Louis Riel Commemorative Ceremony takes place today at Nov. 16 at 11 a.m. at the Alberta Legislature, which is the exact date and time of his execution. Throughout the week, Edmonton's High Level Bridge is lit in the colors of blue and white to represent Métis colours.

For a full listing of Métis Week events, visit: .

Read our profile of Louis Riel here:

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