Project Bookmark Canada unveiling plaques reading Métis poet’s tribute to Riel

Gregory Scofield's poem "The Sewing Circle" will soon be displayed on two plaques at the Batoche National Historic Site. (Project Bookmark Canada/Submitted)

“(The poem) really connects the reader to the emotion of what might have been happening that day.” – Laurie Murphy, Project Bookmark Canada

Project Bookmark Canada is unveiling historic plaques in Batoche next month in light of the 175th anniversary of the birth of Louis Riel.

This charitable initiative allows people to step inside the lives of literary characters. Project Bookmark Canada displays poems or excerpts from fiction in the exact locations they take place.

These plaques show an excerpt from Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Soon, Project Bookmark Canada will unveil new plaques in Batoche that read Gregory Scofield’s “The Sewing Circle.” (Project Bookmark Canada/Facebook)

On Nov. 16—Louis Riel Day—they’ll be revealing the newest ‘bookmark’ at the Batoche National Historic Site. That’s where Riel led the North West Resistance and fought for Métis rights.

The project is in partnership with the Batoche National Historic Site and the Gabriel Dumont Institute. It’s partly funded by the Government of Canada.

It will be not only the first bookmark in Saskatchewan, but also the first one displaying the work of an Indigenous writer.

The two plaques, one in French and one in English, will read Gregory Scofield’s poem “The Sewing Circle” from his collection Louis: the Heretic Poems. The collection was published in 2011.

The summary says Louis: the Heretic Poems challenges “the traditional conceptions as simply a folk hero and martyr. By juxtaposing historical events and quotes with the poetic narrative, Scofield draws attention to the side of the Métis leader that most Canadians have never contemplated: that of husband, father, friend and lover, poet and visionary.”

The cover of Gregory Scofield’s Louis: The Heretic Poems. (Project Bookmark Canada/Submitted)

According to a news release, “The Sewing Circle” is narrated by an older woman to her fellow mothers and wives on May 12, 1885: the last day of the Red River Resistance. The poem names several instrumental women in the battle.

“It really connects the reader to the emotion of what might have been happening that day,” said Laurie Murphy, executive director of Project Bookmark Canada.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to have a bookmark in Saskatchewan with this amazing writer and (this) subject matter.”

Murphy said their hope is to get a third plaque that displays the poem in Michif, the Métis language.

The public is invited to the unveiling from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 16. Scofield will be in attendance.

He is a Red River Métis of a Cree, Scottish and European background. His ancestors trace back to to the fur trade in the Métis community of Kinosota, Manitoba.

Project Bookmark Canada dates back to over a decade ago. Author Miranda Hill came up with the idea when she was walking in the places authors of books were writing about.

“She wanted readers to step right into the stories, experiencing the authors’ visions and the real locales simultaneously,” said the release.

The project currently has 28 bookmarks across Canada, including in Winnipeg and Calgary.

To see a full map of the bookmark locations and their literature, visit Donations can also be made through their website, or you can mail a cheque to their office at 300 – 192 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5T 2C2. Donations over $50 will be issued a tax receipt.