Each year on November 16 Canadians celebrate Louis Riel, a remarkable historical figure who devoted his life and ultimately sacrificed it fighting for the rights of Métis people. In addition to this day of remembrance, which takes place on the day of his untimely death, the Métis Nation of Alberta has declared the week surrounding November 16 as “Métis Week.”
On November 19, in recognition of this celebration, the St. Mary’s community came together to pay tribute to the Right Honourable Louis Riel. The ceremony, led by Métis Elder on Campus Edmee Comstock, recognized the sacrifices of not only Riel, but also of the Métis people who continue to strive towards rights and recognition as a distinct Nation.
The celebration was also marked by the presentation of a Métis sash to Steven Showalter, a recent graduate of St. Mary’s University. Steven, who was unable to attend the First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) graduation ceremony in the spring of 2015, was presented with his Métis sash by Edmee. Since graduating with his Bachelor of Arts, Steven has entered into the Bachelor of Education program at St. Mary’s. Steven expressed his appreciation for Edmee and the ceremony saying “thank you to you all, especially you [Edmee] for making today possible.”
After a traditional Métis prayer, led by Edmee, attendees enjoyed customary Métis music, homemade bannock and jam, and the opportunity to speak to Edmee about Métis history. With its FNMI Partnership officially launched in March of 2015 St. Mary’s University is striving towards creating a culturally safe campus for FNMI learners. Michelle Scott, FNMI Liaison at St. Mary’s, explained that the university plans to host a variety of events throughout Métis Week in 2016 to commemorate Riel and to bring increased awareness of the Métis culture to campus.