Louis Riel Day festivities included traditional Métis music

By:  Parker Friesen

The sounds of fiddles and guitars radiated cheerful melodies through the atrium at Red River College Polytechnic Exchange District Campus last Friday. Celebrating Louis Riel week, students gathered around the band, clapping along to traditional Métis sounds.

Louis Riel Day celebrations ran all last week, across both the Notre Dame Campus and Exchange District Campus. The celebrations included a Métis Federation gallery, a beading workshop, a jigging workshop, a Louis Riel collage workshop, and the fiddle and guitar performance.

Jason Lepine, who performed on Friday, said music is very healing in Métis culture.

Lepine stated teaching himself to play the fiddle by ear at seven years old. He has played across Canada and the U.S. and specializes in Red River jigging and square dance groups. He has also had a successful career in teaching.

Along with the performance, students enjoyed tea and bannock. This was all part of giving students a taste of the Métis culture, said Terri-Lynn Anderson, organizer. 

“We want everyone to have fun,” said Anderson. “We want people to learn a little bit about our culture and share in the excitement.”

Jason Lepine (left) and Ben Page (right) celebrate Louis Riel week with a fiddle and guitar performance at RRC Polytech’s Exchange District Campus on Feb. 17, 2023. (Parker Friesen)

It is important to raise awareness of Métis history, culture, and Louis Riel because he was Manitoba’s founding father and brought us into confederation, Anderson said.

Throughout the performance, Lepine shared insight about Métis culture to help educate all who were attending.

He said when the music would start they would often have to move the furniture out of the way to accommodate people having a good time.

Having a week of Métis activities is a great way to celebrate Métis history and culture and to educate people who aren’t as familiar with the culture, said Sharon Bear, a member of the Resource Crew, an Indigenous student support team at the college. 

It was nice to see non-Indigenous students and staff participating and educating themselves with the Metis culture, Anderson said.

The turnout for the other events throughout the week was really well attended, and she is glad they got to celebrate Louis Riel all week, Anderson added.