Saturday, June 23, 2018

Métis solstice climb of Mount Albert

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On June 21st, starting at 4 am, a group of 21 began the ascent up Mount Albert, the tallest peak in Beauvais Lake Provincial Park for the summer solstice. There were four members representing the Métis Nation and the many Métis who had settled on the land within and the surrounding areas of what is now the park. Remnants of their homesteads are still present.

The climb was also in memory of Malcolm Horsfall, who had a love of studying history and was inspirational to many projects within the park. The solstice climb had been his idea and plans were in the works when he suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in early December. It was a fitting tribute to a man who spent many times at his cabin within the park, embarked on the climb up Mount Albert on a regular basis, compiled history on Métis trapper and scout; James Whitford; and rounded up a group of volunteers to restore James’ grave to former grandeur near Scott's Point.

Joe Pimlott conducting a smudge in honor of  Malcolm Horsfall

The climb began with introductions and formed friendships along the way. Once at the top, Klaus Exner, the head of the cottage association said a few words about Malcolm. Joe Pimlott; a representative from Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3; conducted a smudging in honor of Malcolm's life as well as his role of inspiring others to learn more about the Métis who resided in the area. Everyone took their turn and Malcolm's wife Shirley found it to be a show of great respect for a man who gave much of himself for others.

Joe along with help from Laverine Riviere raised the Métis flag to greet the sun. The summer solstice has been an important day to celebrate since the late Neolithic age throughout all cultures in the northern hemisphere. The indigenous peoples of Canada place so much importance on this longest day of the year, June 21st is nationally known as Indigenous people’s day and celebrations take place all across the country. While climbing Mount Albert was a special tribute to Malcolm, it also paid homage to the indigenous belief that the longest day of the year reminds us how precious each day is and to appreciate the rewards of summer. This group of 21 celebrated in this way, while others chose to gather in other areas to watch the sunrise and continue celebrating by attending indigenous events held in nearby communities.

Special thanks to Klaus Exner, Roxanne Debroux and Alberta Parks staff for making the climb shift from a suggestion to reality, and Joe Pimlott for representing the Métis Nation. To the many who chose to lose a good night’s sleep to exert themselves to reach the top, the caterers for cooking a wonderful breakfast for everyone afterward, and especially to Shirley Horsfall for sharing her husband with all of us, and giving us all a chance to wish him a safe journey towards his next adventure.

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