By Clint Buehler
Hundreds of Saskatchewan Metis gathered in Saskatoon during Métis Week to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI), created in 1980 to promote renewal and development of Metis culture through research, collection, and educational programs. Celebration activities included cultural workshops, musical performances, and the presentation of awards recognizing achievements and contributions of outstanding Metis.
The event opened with a keynote address by Maria Campbell, Saskatchewan author, playwright, film producer, and Métis activist whose honours include the Molson Prize for Literary Achievement, a National Aboriginal Achievement Award, and appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada. Cultural workshops included sessions on beadwork, finger weaving, Métis clothing and art, genealogy, traditional medicine, and jigging. Featured among the performers were singer/songwriter/actor/playwright Andrea Menard, singer/songwriter/musician Donny Parenteau, and Métis hypnotist Scott Ward.
The GDI presents the Order of Gabriel Dumont Gold Medal to recognize those who have distinguished themselves with outstanding service to the Metis, based on lifetime achievement and service. This Year of the Metis there were two recipients: Clarence Campeau and Guy Bouvier. The Order of Gabriel Dumont Silver Medal is awarded to those who have made a significant contribution to the Metis. This year’s recipients are Rose Fleury, Elie Fleury, and Sheila Pocha.
Clarence Campeau passed away unexpectedly at the age of 50, but not before he had laid the foundations for numerous initiatives benefitting Saskatchewan Metis. Growing up as a “road allowance Indian,” Clarence became actively involved in Metis initiatives at an early age. Believing that Métis are great business people, Clarence stressed the importance of creating economic opportunities for Metis people. He designed programs and formed a construction crew to build homes for Sask Housing, and he engaged in cabinet making and other ventures. Clarence believed in grassroots power, and he built his vision on what the people wanted, moving beyond project-based economic initiatives to work for broad-based economic development, integration, and participation for Metis people. Clarence also worked for social and educational development in the Metis community. The Clarence Campeau Development Fund is named in his honour.
Guy Bouvier has worked since 1973 on behalf of the Metis people, promoting the Métis agenda on education, employment, entrepreneurship, health care, culture, and housing. Always willing to help others, he is described as dedicated, hardworking, caring, honest, knowledgeable, and understanding. His contributions over many years of involvement and leadership are wide-ranging and significant. Guy is also a proud Métis father and grandfather who loves his horses, the traditional Metis way of life, and sharing his stories. He changes the lives of people who know him—always for the good. A man of his word, Guy has dedicated his life to serving others.
Métis Elder Rose Fleury has promoted the importance of being Métis for decades. To her, this means knowing your roots, living a Metis life, and promoting Metis culture (past, present, and future). She has been a valuable asset as a traditional knowledge keeper at the Batoche National Historic Site and has never hesitated to share her traditional and contemporary knowledge. Elie Fleury has spent 50 years as an educator. He began his career as a teacher but has spent most of his life making post-secondary education accessible for Métis and Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan. Through the years, he has developed extensive knowledge in planning and policy development, paving the way for Métis students, their families, and their communities. Sheila Pocha has been a deeply committed and respected advocate for Metis and First Nations rights for nearly 30 years. Her unfailing energy, optimism, and real concern for the welfare of others make her a uniquely effective Metis advocate in education and community service. Sheila has been an exceptional leader and is always willing to volunteer her services.
GDI is the official educational arm of the Metis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S), offering a variety of accredited educational, vocational, and skills training opportunities for the province’s Metis in partnership with the University of Regina, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology, and the province’s regional colleges, as well as Métis Employment and Training of Saskatchewan Inc. A completely Directed-directed educational and cultural identity, GDI is unique in Canada. At its inception, GDI focused on education through cultural research to renew and strengthen the heritage of Saskatchewan’s Metis. In order to fully serve the multifaceted needs of Saskatchewan’s Métis community, the institute began training Aboriginal teachers and developing Specific-specific curriculum and historical publications. One of their best-known projects was the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP), training Métis and First Nations teachers to meet the needs of the province’s Aboriginal students in the K-12 system. SUNTEP serves as a model for Aboriginal adult education programs cross Canada. GDI, through its Publishing and Curriculum Department, has recently opened a museum and archive, and has launched the Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture [www.metismuseum.ca].
The GDI Museum Collection contains Specific-specific historical artifacts and a large collection of contemporary and traditional art, as well as an extensive archival collection of oral history records, photographs, and textual records, including more than 700 interviews with Metis elders. GDI’s decorative arts collection includes numerous examples of traditional beadwork, silk embroidery, moose hair tufting, and porcupine quill embroidery. The decorative arts collection is predominately historical (with some contemporary pieces) and includes examples of clothing, accessories, and household items in addition to costumes, furniture, musical instruments, textiles, and tapestries. The museum’s fine art collection is distributed throughout GDI centres in Prince Albert, Saskatoon, and Regina. It includes work by Metis and First Nations artists from across Canada. GDI information centre and library also offers research services for Métis genealogy and Metis-specific topics.