Annual spring fling celebrates Métis heritage

The smell of buffalo and beef stews wafted through the Big Valley Community Hall on Saturday, May 2...

Three-year-old Ella Tymiak

Three-year-old Ella Tymiak

…as Métis from all over the region and province gathered for the Hivernant Métis Society’s annual Spring Fling.

The Spring Fling is the first of two of the society’s major events in the year, the other being the Rendezvous during the August long weekend.

This year marks the Society’s decade anniversary and people were out in force to enjoy a day of music, fellowship and delicious food.

Darlene Blondeau, from Calgary, made her first trip to Big Valley with her husband Len. She’s lived in Calgary for the past two years, but hails from Fort Qu’Appelle in Saskatchewan.

“Marlene (Lanz) convinced us to come,” she said with a laugh. “She’s always talking about this area but we’ve never been able to come.”

Blondeau said she’s always known about her Métis heritage and embraces it fully.

“I have a lot of memories of family gatherings,” she said. “They were a lot of fun. The whole family was there – aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins. There was storytelling, singing and dancing, and wonderful food.”

Now her children and grandchildren come to family gatherings and those stories, songs and dances are being passed on to the next generation.

“We’re very proud of our heritage,” Blondeau said.

With the Métis people relying mostly on oral tradition, gatherings like the one in Big Valley are important, Marlene Lanz, president of the Hivernant Métis Society said. Without them, stories and history could be lost, or “whitewashed.” The term refers to the treatment of First Nations and Métis history in history courses in school.

“They’re very European-centric,” Lanz noted.

The Métis culture isn’t about pitting one side against another, though – it’s about embracing how the Europeans meet up with First Nations and create something new, Lanz noted.

The Métis flag, a white infinity symbol on a red or blue field, represents those two sides coming together to make something that will last forever, Lanz explained.

Today, Lanz goes to schools to teach Métis history and culture, teaching the tales, medicines and skills taught to her by her own parents, that was taught to them by her grandparents, all the way down through history.

“I am who I am because of my parents,” Lanz said. “I’ll never forget that.”