BC Métis Federation vice president Rene Therrien played fiddle-tunes at UNBC Jan. 17.

Métis music, history, and culture focus of new UNBC series

Fiddle music filled the first Thursday of the four-week sessions

Light-footed feet danced across the room at the University of Northern B.C.’s (UNBC) Terrace campus to the beat of toe-tapping fiddle music, underlaid by voices entwined in conversation over bannock and tea.

On Thursday evenings until the end of February, UNBC is hosting presentations on Métis history and culture with the Skeena River Métis Association and Smoke Signals All Nations Cultural Group to foster an open community space where people can learn and enrich their own understanding of what it means to be Métis.

“It’s a chance for Métis people to come and grow in their Métis culture. That identity, that presence, it’s actually something that is often unspoken,” says Marian Kotowich-Laval, UNBC event coordinator.

The Métis people originated in the 1700s when French and Scottish fur traders married Indigenous women, such as the Cree and Anishinabe (Ojibway), and their descendants created a distinct culture and nation in Canada.

They existed in positions of political and economic power during the early years of the colonial and provincial governments, until discriminatory attitudes from European settlers, in addition to a hostile legal regime in B.C., forced the Métis and their culture underground.

READ MORE: Lax Kw’alaams prepare to lead All Native opening ceremonies

There are 70,000 people in B.C. recognized as Métis, and that number is growing as genealogy research identifies more people with mixed Indigenous and European ancestry. More than 500 Métis live in Terrace, according to Statistics Canada.

The first evening on Jan. 17 featured Métis and country music from Rene Therrien, Sean Gregg and LaVern Zilinski, followed by a performance from the band ‘Coast to Coast’, with Normand Desjardins, Keith Melanson and Helen Martinot.

“Métis music is actually different from other music, it’s mostly the fiddle. The strings are actually tuned different for harmonizing, it’s pretty unique,” says Therrien, vice president of BC Métis Federation and renowned fiddle player. His band has played in locations including Quesnel, Prince George and the Terraceview Lodge twice a month.

The Métis are perhaps most famous for their upbeat fiddle music, a combination of Celtic and traditional French styles, ‘Red River Jig’ being a popular example. As per tradition, a few people got up during the music and danced a jig across the floor, stepping in rhythm with the lighthearted, fast-paced sound.

“What I’m doing now with the fiddle is to promote our culture, the music, and the importance of the [Métis] sash,” Therrien says. The sash is a finger-woven belt made of brightly coloured fabrics, each with a different meaning. Red is the most prominent, symbolizing the historic loss and strength of the Métis.

He says it is especially important for Métis language, history and culture to be taught and recognized for younger generations — during his childhood, he lost the ability to speak Michif, the Métis language that is composed of half Cree and half French.

“I spoke Michif when I was young, but after you start school you just forget it, because you’re not using it outside of the home. So I lost it. Right now my kids don’t speak it, my grandkids don’t speak it, and I would like to pass that on if I could,” Therrien says.

READ MORE: Cheng² Duo perform in Terrace with 17th-century cello

After the music, listeners stayed to relay childhood memories of scent-masking techniques for hunting, food, and how recipes for bannock vary from nation to nation.

As a Métis woman, daughter of a Cree mother and Polish father, Kotowich-Laval says the recognition of history is important to strengthen and encourage others to come forward and share their own experiences.

“The Métis people have been removed from their homelands, or they were forcibly removed. I know in our family story there was starvation, government manipulation… It’s very important to understand our own past, but sometimes we don’t understand it until we hear someone else’s,” she says.

“To be Métis these days, I think it is about coming together and having societies that will represent the youth, represent the generations that are coming, and being able to maintain the history, not just from books, but from the real stories.”

Future gatherings in the series will incorporate Métis music, beading, guest speakers and storytelling.

Next meeting is Jan. 31, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Room 147 on UNBC’s Terrace campus (4837 Keith Ave.), with following dates on Feb. 14 and 28.


 


brittany@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Terrace’s first licensed marijuana store opens

KJ’s Best Cannabis will sell cannabis, pre-rolled joints and oils for customers

First rugby pitch in northern B.C. opens in Terrace

The Northmen Rugby Club held the ribbon-cutting celebration

B.C. Maxim Cover Girl semi-finalist victorious despite second-place finish

Brandi Hansen says her main goal was to spread an empowering message to others

Music that celebrates the Skeena landscape premieres in Terrace

“Skeena Suite” was dedicated to and conducted by retiring music teacher Geoff Parr

ValhallaFest readies for second annual weekend event

Number of festival-goers expected to double

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

Most Read