COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
A replica Red River cart sits at the site of the annual Koushkoupayh Days festival, approximately 35 kilometres south of Brandon, on Saturday afternoon. The event focuses on Métis culture with displays, games, food, music, dance and more.
An acreage south of Brandon came alive this past weekend with the sights and sounds of Métis culture.
Garry Lepine playfully pokes his fiddle bow at a photographer’s lens as fellow band member Martin Lepine warms up for a musical show at the annual Koushkoupayh Days Métis festival on Saturday afternoon. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Grant Armstrong smiles while greeting visitors to his tent at the annual Koushkoupayh Days Métis festival on Saturday afternoon. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
The third year of Koushkoupayh Days wrapped up Sunday — a local showcase of food, music and art of the Métis people, and the brainchild of Andy Dubois, who died of cancer in 2012 before the event’s inauguration.
The event was held on land about 30 kilometres south of Brandon off Highway 10, land still owned by Dubois’ wife and although he never lived to see the event begin, the vision of the self-identified Métis has been preserved in the fledgling event.
"His vision was a Métis cultural festival where everybody comes to it and enjoys the music and gets the flavour of the Métis culture," said Dennis Bercier, the chair of the Grand Valley chapter of the Manitoba Métis Federation. "It’s not the same as it was 100 years ago, but we sort of try to maintain some of that culture."
Dubois, a member of the MMF, simply wanted people of all cultures to come to his property and enjoy themselves, Bercier said.
Money for the festival was largely raised through community and business donations, along with the on-site food sales and raffle.
People from as far away as Alberta and Saskatchewan camped on the acreage south of Brandon to enjoy a voyageur competition, evening bonfires and a show-and-shine on Sunday.
Bercier said there’s still a tremendous lack of understanding about the Métis culture and an event such as this one aims to address that.
"I think it’s important for everyone in the community to have an understanding," he said. "We get a lot of questions from people who aren’t Métis ... so it’s great to bring people in."
Lorraine Bisson, who set up a massage tent at the event, spent eight months tracing back her family tree and believes she is Métis.
"For me, I feel it in my blood ... it feels like these are my people," she said. "It’s deep. I think a lot of the native cultures have lost some of their connection to that spirit and being connected to themselves and nature, and I feel that I have that connection."
She’s so confident, she has filed papers with the federal government to be formally recognized as such.
"I have the ability to see things ... to communicate with nature," she said.
She filed her papers four months ago and has yet to hear anything — but she said even if she isn’t Métis in the eyes of the government, she will always identify with the culture.
"I still feel it, I’ll still continue with it," she said. "The Métis people are very welcoming, very down to earth."
» Twitter: @grjbruce
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 2, 2014