There has been a lot of talk over the past few months about leadership due to the recent election decision in the U.S., which is not to say that I think leadership and politics are the same thing. When I was in university taking leadership studies I couldn’t understand why I had to spend money taking a post-graduate class in ethics. I figure that anyone that graduated from kindergarten had that one wrapped up.
Recent days showed me how wrong I was! To me a good leader is ethical, not necessarily perfect, but honest. A good leader sacrifices for the people and serves the people.
It seems fitting that during National Métis Awareness week (November 14-18) I talk about one of my role models, Louis Riel.
His leadership has inspired me to continue to work for the good of the indigenous people and their distinct culture, traditions, language and right to self determination.
Who are the Métis? During the 18th century and the beginning of the fur trade in west central North America a growing number of mixed off spring of Indian women and European fur traders were born. From these families a new aboriginal people emerged with their own unique culture, traditions, language (Michif), way of life, and understanding of nationhood. The Métis National Council definition::“Métis” means a person who self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from other Aboriginal peoples, is of historic Métis Nation Ancestry and who is accepted by the Métis Nation.” Louis Riel was one of most noted and controversial Métis leaders.
Now if you’re my age, you might have been told in Social Studies class that Louis Riel was a traitor and was hung for his crimes on November 16, 1885. But that’s not the story told in my Métis home.
If you grew up in a Métis home, you know what I’m talking about. I can say this, that if I had to make a choice to follow a leader I’d pick one that has proved that he/she has a good heart and a fierce commitment to the people. Riel never backed down, and never gave up. He left a legacy that is honoured by indigenous and Non-indigenous people. The history books rarely got our story right. I have relatives that tell a very different story than the one recorded in the history books.
Whether you believe Louis Riel was a traitor or a saviour he was a strong voice for the Métis people during a difficult time in Canadian history and was largely responsible for Manitoba becoming part of Confederation.
Riel wasn’t perfect, but his love for his people and deep spiritual beliefs gave him strength to protect the distinct Métis way of life. He was instrumental in forming the Métis provisional government in Manitoba and Saskatchewan that became the contemporary governing bodies at national, regional, and local levels in existence today.
The Métis Nation of Alberta, originated in 1928. It is the Métis Government for Alberta Métis people of whom approximately 30,000 are currently registered with another 10,000 plus applicants in the process of review.
The MNA is governed through a provincial council which is made up of an elected provincial president and vice president and six regional Presidents and Vice Presidents, each elected by their regions. Métis Local #492, Red Deer and Stettler is located in Region 3 and meets the third Sunday of every month. If you are interested in joining the Métis Local please president, Raye St. Denys at 403-346-9794
National Métis Awareness Week is being celebrated November 14 to 18, and the Metis Local is providing a Métis Traditional dinner with the Penhold Optimist Club on November 16. Contact Verna for tickets 403-357-7259.
Tanya Ward-Schur is the Asooahum Crossing Director.