For Brandon University career planning officer Doug Pople, Louis Riel Day celebrations are extra special.
"As a member of the BU community, it’s so nice to see it come together with my Métis community," he said.
Pople brought his grandkids, who cooked bannock on a stick over a fire outside Harvest Hall. Later, the trio were headed off to Portage la Prairie to visit the kids’ great-grandmother.
Nite Life kept people on the dancefloor with old-time tunes. Leah LaPlante, vice-president of the Manitoba Metis Federation’s southwest region, surveyed the room, pleased with the turnout, which she said looked like more than ever.
Louis Riel Day is a collaboration between the university and the federation. Down the hall from the cafeteria, in the Louis Riel Room, a new image of Louis Riel will grace the walls. LaPlante presented it to university president David Docherty.
Docherty said celebrating Riel, Manitoba’s Father of Confederation, at the university is incredibly important.
"It’s taken generations for non-Métis to realize just how crucial Louis Riel was and how he was so poorly treated and remembered," he said.
Universities are about seeking and speaking the truth, he added. BU’s motto is: Aletheuontes de en Agape (Speaking the truth in love).
"We have to speak the truth about Louis Riel and what an amazing individual he was, and how courageous he was. How he led the Métis people, how he provided Métis people with inspiration about what it means to stick to a cause, and believe in yourself and be a people," said Docherty.
The university has a responsibility to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions call to actions, he added. One symbolic gesture will come in a few months. The university will raise Métis, Treaty 2 and Inuit flags.
"That’s important because it will say to Métis students, ‘You are welcome here.’ It will say to Treaty 2 students, ‘You are welcome here.’ It will say to Inuit students, ’You are welcome here.’"
Brandon East Progressive Conservative MLA Len Isleifson said he attends for two reasons: Métis in his family and it’s a great community event.
"Reconciliation is not one group working with other groups. Reconciliation is all working together. It’s important, we all support it," he said.
And or Ana Puga and Kurt Nissen, who brought little Zane out for the afternoon, it was something fun to do as a family.
"And to celebrate Louis Riel."
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