ROBIN BOOKER/BRANDON SUN
Dennis Weber of Kelowna stands by some of his art during Métisfest in Killarney on Friday.
KILLARNEY — Fiddles were singing and bannock was sizzling at the fourth annual Métisfest in Killarney on Friday.
Grant Armstrong sits in the traditional Métis campsite he constructed at Métisfest in Killarney on Friday. (ROBIN BOOKER/BRANDON SUN)
Dan Goodon, who has organized Métisfest since its inception in 2009, said moving the festival from the International Peace Garden, where it was held for the past three years to the Shamrock Centre in Killarney has been bittersweet — the Peace Garden is a beautiful spot but the Shamrock Centre allows for the festival to centralize its attractions.
Goodon said Métisfest attracts people from across North America, which is why it won the title "event of the year" from Tourism Manitoba in 2011.
"Our roots run deep into the United States. The 49th parallel has divided Métis people for many years, now this international Métisfest is trying to bring them back together," Goodon said.
Last year, Goodon estimated there were 10,000 people at the event. This year, because of the new location, he is hoping around 6,000 people will attend.
Grant and Hazel Armstrong set up a traditional Métis camp outside the Shamrock Centre for the festival. The camp included a canvas tent and shade structure, a Red River cart and tools used by Métis people 150 years ago.
Armstrong, who is a certified trapper instructor and trainer, has been performing historical Métis re-enactments for 25 years, including programs for schools. He also spends more than a week camped out at private functions where bartering is used instead of money and dressing in traditional Métis clothing is a must.
"Traditionally, the Métis sashes would wrap around someone two or three times. One of the main reasons for that is that you could utilize them as rope to tie onto the canoe, or to hold a bundle down," said Armstrong. "You could identify people, groups or the area they came from by the colours on their sash. They can tell you the family, history, heritage and what is important to the people who used to use them as a necessity 150-200 years ago. For instance, blue is for sky and water, yellow is for the sun."
Miguel Vielfaure, a Métis storyteller from La Broquerie, was one of the vendors set up in the trading post inside the Shamrock Centre. Five years ago, while on a trip to Peru, Vielfaure noticed the sashes worn by some of the aboriginal woman were similar to Métis sashes — different patterns, but made the same way they were traditionally made in Manitoba.
Vielfaure contacted an association of Auechua Indians in Peru made up of 20 single mothers and placed his first order.
"The idea was for aboriginal people from the first world to help support aboriginal people from the third world, by getting them to produce high-quality items the same way they were made in Manitoba 150 years ago," Vielfaure said. "Many of the woman in the association are widows and the culture over there is really tough for a single mom, which is why the woman grouped together and formed the association."
Now Vielfaure is travelling constantly to various events and selling the goods produced by this association. He said his vendor booth is able to support the 20 woman and their more than 50 children in Peru.
Grace Maillet, a Métis from Brandon, was volunteering at the event for the third time. She said she is happy to have the opportunity to serve.
"I’ve just recently gone back into my roots and found out my heritage and it feels good to know where I came from. I want to help future generations do the same, because there are many important stories that aren’t told and are then lost," Maillet said.
Don and Vyna Fluney drove from Lloydminister, Alta., in their motorhome for the festival for the third time.
"The jigging and the fiddling are my favourite parts. The fiddle players are the best you’ll ever hear," Vyna said.
Goodon said Métisfest has brought together some of the best fiddlers in North America and that everyone is welcome to visit the event and to learn about Métis culture.
Métisfest runs Friday to Sunday and includes workshops on traditional Métis heritage, music, displays, food and various vendors.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 28, 2012