Michif Language Book Launch celebrates Métis culture and recognizes artists

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Noreen McBride and the artists for the Michif Language Books who were recognized at the Michif Book Launch and Cultural Celebration at the Ches Leach Lounge on Thursday evening.

The Prince Albert Métis Women’s Association celebrated the Michif language and Métis culture on Thursday evening with a book launch at the Ches Leach Lounge.

The group has been producing Language books to teach Michif for a number of years. On Thursday, they celebrated this collaboration along with cultural performances and a supper.

Noreen McBride, Director with the Prince Albert Métis Women’s Association, said the project is ongoing, but they wanted to have a special celebration to recognize its success.

“I’m pretty excited,” McBride said. “This is year five that we have been creating Michif language books and we are here to celebrate the next 18 books.”

The project sees Elders working with youth in Prince Albert to put together a resource to teach the language. Together, they’ve created 36 books over the past five years. The books are written and translated by elders in the community, while local youth submit drawings. Any pictures that are chosen for the books are also published on the association’s website.

McBride said the books are used in the community to teach Michif.

“It’s a dying language,” she explained. “We are trying to save and revive our language, so we are quite excited that we have been working on this for a number of years.”

McBride presented gifts to the nearly a dozen artists who were able to attend for the evening.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald The Creeland Dancers performed at the Michif Book Launch and Cultural Celebration at the Ches Leach Lounge on Thursday evening.

Lucas Adams, a Grade 8 student at Ecole Arthur Pechey School was one of the artists recognized.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Maureen Belanger as Ernestine and Dwayne Favel as Alphonse performed a comedy act at the Michif Book Launch and Cultural Celebration at the Ches Leach Lounge on Thursday evening.

Adams said it was special to work on these projects and that it was special to get in touch with his Métis culture in this way.

“We had to do pond life and I drew frogs in a pond,” he explained.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Donny Paranteau and his band closed the evening at the Michif Book Launch and Cultural Celebration at the Ches Leach Lounge on Thursday evening.

There was a sample reading from the booklets by Frances Lafontaine, Ashley and Melissa McBride and Margaret Parenteau and her grandchild.

The evening combined Métis culture along with the booklet launch. The evening opened with a comedy performance by Maureen Belanger as Ernestine and Dwayne Favel as Alphonse. This was followed by a performance from the Creeland Dancers.

The evening closed with a performance from Donny Paranteau and his band.

“It’s very significant to us,” McBride said. “We have brought in some dancers (and) some entertainers to celebrate tonight, but throughout the year we do additional things. We are out to keep our culture alive so we do a number of activities with members of the community, with young people, (and) with seniors.”

The list of activities includes Michif Bingo, which they use to teach numbers, and constructing miniature Métis carts, which were on display on each table.

McBride said they’re always looking at new activities that can help keep their culture and language alive. For her, the cultural aspect was just as important as recognizing the artists and books.

“It’s important that we gather together and we celebrate our culture,” she said. “A night like this is that opportunity and we are so grateful for all of the community members who took time out of their day to come with us and celebrate.”

The project was made possible through funding from Canadian Indigenous Languages and Cultures Program and Sask Lotteries Culture grants.

The publication of the booklets is made possible through the support and funding of the Prince Albert Métis Women’s Association and Heritage Canada.

For more Michif resources, visit their website at www.pamwa.ca.