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Home News McDougall follows in father’s footsteps to receive Order of Gabriel Dumont

McDougall follows in father’s footsteps to receive Order of Gabriel Dumont

McDougall follows in father’s footsteps to receive Order of Gabriel Dumont
Doris McDougall of St. Louis. -- Submitted photo.

For St. Louis resident Doris McDougall, receiving the Order of the Gabriel Dumont is almost a family tradition.

McDougall’s father, Mederic, was a staunch supporter of the Gabriel Dumont Institute. He served on the GDI board, and received the order himself in the 1980s. On March 25, Doris will be one of three new recipients, and one of only two receiving the order’s gold medal.

“I’m sure he’d be happy,” Doris said with a chuckle when asked about following in her father’s footsteps. “He was very dedicated.”

Doris never expected to receive the award. In fact, when she heard a few local residents were nominating her, she brushed it off without a second thought. Being selected was welcome news.

“I heard through the grapevine here that I had been nominated by some local people, and I thought, ‘well, that will be the end of it,’” she explained. “But then I got a letter saying I’d been selected, so it was actually kind of a pleasant surprise.

“It’s an honour to be selected by the Gabriel Dumont (Institute) because they’ve done so much for the Métis people with their education programs and their other programs too. A lot of people have been helped by Gabriel Dumont.”

Winning awards isn’t the only area where Doris follows her father. The elder McDougall was involved in numerous organizations, but still found time to spend 18 years as a school board trustee.

When she graduated from high school, Doris followed her father into the field of education—but as a teacher instead of a trustee. For the next 33 years, she taught in communities across the north, from Onion Lake, to Patuanak, to Beauval, to Sandy Bay to Big River.

“Just for the excitement, I guess,” Doris said with another laugh when asked about why she chose to work in the north.

“When I finished high school I was wondering what I could do. Two of my friends were going to teacher’s college, so I thought, ‘well, I’ll give that a try.’”

Doris loved teaching, and soon became convinced education was an important tool to help people get ahead in life. She noticed teachers were important role models and mentors in many communities, especially for those looking to improve their lives.

That conviction about the importance of education has only increased with time.

“Nowadays, you can’t do anything unless you have at least a Grade 12,” she said. “Even now, you need a year or two of university before you get most jobs. It was important up north too.”

When not teaching, McDougall turned her attention to her Métis culture, specifically its language. She grew up in the Lepine Flats region where all residents were Métis and all spoke Michif. The southern dialect was heavily influenced by French, but in northern communities, Michif included more elements of Cree than French.

Those observations inspired her to write a short book about the subject in 2018.

“It was a personal project,” she said. “I was just going through books in the computer to find out more about the Métis language and I realized that most of it had the Cree influence, which was like what Beauval had, but it’s not what we spoke here in St. Louis and Batoche and Duck Lake. Ours had the French influence, so I made this little booklet.”

McDougall will receive her citation at a special awards gala on March 25 at TCU Place in Saskatoon. Geordy McCaffrey of Saskatoon and George Fayant of Regina will also be recognized.

The Order of Gabriel Dumont gold medal recognizes those with a lifetime of outstanding service to the Métis of Canada. It’s one of the Métis Nation’s highest civilian honours, with 86 individuals recognized since its inception in the 1980s.

The Gabriel Dumont Institute hands the award out to both Métis and non- Métis individuals who serve or have served the Métis of Canada with distinction.