Musher’s Madness brings Metis culture back to MacDowall

A youth participant prepares to turn the corner during the Log Relay Run at Musher’s Madness in MacDowall on Saturday, March 16. The two-day event is an annual celebration of the community’s Metis cultural heritage.

The MacDowall Metis Local 83 celebrated the area’s Metis roots and culture with the second ever MacDowall Musher’s Madness on March 16-17.

Warm weather in the community just south of Prince Albert forced the cancellation of a few outdoor events like sled dog races, but MacDowall Local 83 vice president and Musher’s Madness coordinator Jodi Letendre said they wanted to hold the celebration anyway.

“We’re making the most of it, (and) enjoying the beautiful weather outside,” Letendre said. “We’ve added a few indoor events this year at the request of the feedback from last year. Of course, MacDowall hosted winter festivals years ago when I was little, probably in the late 80s and now we try to bring it back to revitalize Metis culture in our community.”

The event centred on the MacDowall Lions Recreation Centre. Instead of hosting sled dog races, Letendre said it became a cultural festival to honour the Metis ancestors.

“It’s really important to us, as to many people, to honour the generations before and the teachings that they have shared with us and really their appreciation for the land,” Letendre said.

She explained that MacDowall was connected to the Nesbit Forest, or as some call it, the Island Forest.

“It’s to really bring awareness to the importance of the land and really the hard work of our meeting ancestors in this community,” Letendre explained.

Recent Prince Albert Women’s Hall of Fame inductee Jennifer Brown conducted art workshops on both days, with Pointillism on Saturday and Learn to Bead on Sunday.

“Jen Brown is a dear friend of mine,” Letendre explained. “We taught together at Wesmor years ago, and when I asked her to join us this weekend, of course she was game and she is here sharing her artistic ability and talent.”’

Michael Olekysn/Daily Herald Fiddle playing was another part of Musher’s Madness on Saturday in MacDowall.

Saturday’s feature with Brown has 25 tools purchased with close to 40 people participating.

Letendre said the funding came from a Metis Nation-Saskatchewan early learning grant, with a focus on generational teachings and a sense of community.

“The focus is on youth, but everyone is welcome to participate because we want families coming together,” Letendre said.

The weekend featured sleigh/wagon rides around MacDowall by Rivers North Ranch on both days. There was also interactive puppy play and an interactive history of sled dogs.

On Saturday there was also fiddle music in the Hall and a Community Beef on a Bun Supper and Family Dance.

Both days also featured Youth Trapper events near the hall for children aged three to 16-years-old.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Sleigh/wagon rides around MacDowall by Rivers North Ranch was another part of Musher’s Madness on Saturday in MacDowall.

Letendre thanked the community for coming out, and said having the event helped captured the importance of the Metis culture to the Hamlet of MacDowall.

“We are a colonized community,” she said. “We are colonised local and so we lost for a time our connection to our roots, and so it’s really bringing back the fiddle music and many of us don’t necessarily have the Metis connections with the French connections, but we are English Halfbreeds traditionally, and our ancestors weren’t able to be proud of who they were, and so really it’s about bringing that sense of pride back to our young.”