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Local students learn about and celebrate Métis Week

From language to local heroes, honouring the Métis people

ATHABASCA – Grade 4 is where students generally learn about the Métis people, but during the past week, all grades across the Aspen View Public Schools (AVPS) gained some knowledge as they celebrated the annual Métis Week.

One of the things students learned was the four languages of the Métis — Michif, Cree, English, and French. Michif is a “contact language” developed exclusively by the Métis out of the joining of settlers and Indigenous people when new communities were formed, and the communities developed the unique language.  

“We went through that, and the kids did some jigging,” said AVPS First Nations, Métis, and Inuit family school liaison Alma Swan. “The kids had a blast.” 

Swan focused on teaching students at Landing Trail Intermediate School (LTIS) but other schools across the division also incorporated the teachings, like they did at Boyle School, where they coloured paper sashes and learned about the intricate bead work Métis artists incorporate into their designs. 

“There are so many students that declare that they are Métis, and quite proudly, which is really nice,” said Swan. “And I'm guessing that there's some kids who aren't even Métis but think that the culture is so unique and cool I think they want to be Métis.” 

At LTIS, Swan showed the students how to finger weave, the traditional method for making the Métis sash, an important part of the culture where the individual threads woven together represent the strength of the Métis people. 

“I did a draw in each class for a sash,” she said. “The kids were so proud to have a Métis sash.” 

Swan has also noticed over the years, attitudes have been changing. 

“We've come a long way for Truth and Reconciliation,” she said. "The students are so interested in learning more and it makes me very happy.” 

Some famous Métis people like Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, who both led rebellions and championed Métis causes and recognition, are also discussed.

“And also talking about the famous Métis people in Athabasca being Bertha Clark-Jones and what she did,” said Swan. “And, of course, Captain Shot.” 

Clark-Jones, who passed away in 2014, lived in Treaty 6 territory and was a Cree-Métis activist fighting for the rights of women and children while Louison “Captain Shot” Fosseneuve, who died in 1914, was known for successfully navigating the grand rapids on the Athabasca River. Fosseneauve is buried at the Athabasca cemetery and there is a statue commemorating him on the south side of Highway 55 near the Athabasca County administration office. 

“They get to know there's actually famous Métis people from our own community,” she said. “And because the kids have been to the spray park (at Riverfront Park) and have seen the mural, it's something that they can relate to.” 

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