The Hivernant Métis Cultural Society played host to its annual rendezvous in Big Valley this past weekend, Aug. 1-3, drawing in hundreds of Métis people from around Alberta and across Canada.
The yearly celebration of all things Métis involves a great deal of planning, and this year comes only a week before the area plays host to the annual convention.
It was a festive atmosphere in Big Valley as the village celebrated its centennial, and the Hivernant Society joined in on the fun.
The Steam Train came into town each day with the Métis flags flying, and dancers and musicians from across the province welcomed the train guests each time, Métis or not.
Usually the Métis celebration is able to use the community hall but with the ongoing Centennial celebrations, they moved to the town’s drop-in centre – something that worked out better, in a way, according to Society secretary Doreen Bergum.
“We were in the Seniors’ drop-in centre and right across the road in the park we had our teepees and trappers’ tents set up,” she said.
On Friday, people gathered to tell stories, celebrating their history and passing it on in the oral tradition as has been done for hundreds of years.
On Saturday, the society took part in the parade, which “took all morning” because of its larger-than-normal size, due to the Centennial celebrations. The trains coming into town bore the Métis nation flag, a white infinity sign on a blue background, a visual recognition of the importance the Métis play in Canada’s history.
After the parade, the rendezvous’ crafting began, with people learning to make drums, coats, beading and weaving outside and inside the teepees and trappers’ tents. Also on display were trapping artifacts, revealing more of the history of the Métis people to their young, and to strangers who wandered in, in the village to celebrate the centennial.
The Kikino Northern Light Junior dancers came in from the Kikino Métis settlement, which is found near Lac la Biche, roughly five hours north of Big Valley.
The girls and boys of the dancing group were easily picked out in their bright red dresses and shirts, as were the Métis themselves, many wearing the traditional sash. In between their dance performances, the Kikino dancers taught others the Red River Jig, the traditional Métis dance.
Brian Lizotte and his daughter travelled to Big Valley from Sylvan Lake to play guitar and fiddle, entertaining people on the train platform.
“This is an important part of our history,” Lizotte said. “Music brings our families together.”
Music was prevalent throughout the entire weekend, present during Saturday’s traditional Métis feast of moose stew, bannock and beans, and during the special church ceremony on Sunday.