Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Métis in the Mountains Asihâwak Festival a success

Ed Desjardins and his horse Fancy gave rides on a Red River Cart
Donna Bruder photos
Toni Lucas

The Métis in the Mountains Asihâwak Festival was held June 26-29, 2014 at the Castle River Rodeo Grounds. Organizer Roxanne Debroux was very excited to have this chance to share the Métis culture and music with people. "Some people are under the misconception, even though it was marked on the posters and in the media that it was open to the public, that some people didn't come because they thought that it was just still Métis. This was a sharing of cultures. Everybody's welcome. The Métis people are a blended people and they welcome everybody as family and so everybody is welcome."

Kikino Northern Lights Junior Dancers give jigging lessons

Debroux explained the name of the festival, "The reason we chose the word Asihâwak is it describes geese that fly in formation. So, you're flying together. You have one side that's European, one side that's Aboriginal joining, and you're flying together as one culture." Debroux saw that growing up there was a lot of misunderstanding about the Métis culture feels that festvals like this are a way share the culture. "It is. I just got so tired of people asking, 'what is that? Isn't that Indian and white people mixed?' But it's not. It's all about the culture."

Daniel Gervais, Clint Pelletier and Phil Lethbridge performance
This was an opportunity to immerse into the Métis culture. In addition to traditional music and dance some of the workshops and activities included learning how to throw a tomahawk, shoot a slingshot, and use a bow. There were voyageur canoe Red River cart rides. Other activities included loom beading, weaving a sash bracelet, making an capote or blanket bag. "My personal highlight was seeing all the crafters and everything just come in- it just happened to go so smoothly."

Daniel Gervais 2011 Fiddle Champion
"It went over really well. The Lions Club was phenomenal, giving us space for it. They all enjoyed themselves, we have nothing but rave reviews from everybody who gave us feedback, and the entertainment was awesome." She felt that the performances done by Wally Garrioch were exceptional. "Not only the singing but great enactment from the excerpt from the trials of Louis Riel," she explained that whose who watched were very moved and gave a standing ovation for his performance. "He dresses in period costume, comes out with a ball and chain. And he puts on that broken French accent and he knows it word for word and he's very powerful."

Gail McLenaghan in handcrafted capote
"Funding permitted, the festival should go on every year," said Debroux.  "If we have our way it will always be held the last weekend in June at the same location. It turned out well and we honestly feel that in order for it to grow we need to keep it stable in the same location, same time."

Kikino Dancers
Some of the things that Debroux would like to see in future festivals would be showcase more dancers, and possibly people who did animal calls that they use when trapping that she has seen performing at other venues. "That sort of part of the culture that's still living in parts of Canada, I would like to incorporate down here so people can see that too."
Bannock making workshop

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