President's Message - March 01, 2023

March 1, 2023

We've had several opportunities to celebrate our heritage, history, and traditions in recent weeks.

I was delighted to attend the 76th Annual Northern Manitoba Trappers' Festival in The Pas. I was proud to see the Red River Métis competitors in the dog sled and Queen and Junior Trapper competitions, as well as the beautiful Red River Métis beading and leatherwork, and other items for sale through the craft show. The MMF's role in the festival as sponsors and community participants is well-led by Vice-President Judy Mayer, Minister Joan Ledoux, and Minister Darrel Ferland, supported by The Pas Local and its Chair, Jolene Mayer.

I have always said I will never forget the North. I haven't, and I travel to visit whenever I can. There is something about northern hospitality that cannot be matched anywhere else in the world. The warm welcome received by all the visitors to the event is genuine, and locals are proud to share their community spirit and provide a platform for the skills and practices of the people who call it home.

Make no mistake, the skills you see on display in the competitive events are learned the hard way - by direct experience. The people of the North still practice many of the traditional skills of trappers, including fire making, trap setting, and snowshoeing. All of the competitions take strength, endurance, and specialized skills, and it is great to see Youth entering the competitions after learning their skills from parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. It didn't matter if they were competing in the King, Queen, or Junior Trapper competitions; every individual is practicing the same skills - packing canoes, setting traps, making tea, and cooking bannock over fires. This makes sense, because in our culture, men and women worked together as partners in every endeavour, including the running of trap lines.

Supporting our Citizens as they practice these traditional skills is one of the reasons why we started the Red River Métis Fur Company, which had a strong presence at the Trappers' Festival. Reviving fur trapping not only helps create more economic opportunities for our Citizens, it also helps ensure that the lands and wildlife of our Homeland remain in balance. Our Elders have taught us that nature will always correct the imbalances left by humans, but nature is vicious when it makes those corrections. Responsible harvesting from the land promotes a healthy ecosystem.

Because fur has been devalued so much over the years, trappers have been making very little income for the sheer amount of work and skill involved in the practice. That's why the Red River Métis Fur Company offers Citizens an above market value for the furs. I know that the trappers I spoke to in The Pas, including Lawrence Genaille, were very happy with the price they got for their efforts, and appreciated that they received the money in hand as they left their furs with us. 

Equally important is ensuring that we make good use of these furs and hides. A visitor to the Trappers' Festival only needed to visit the craft sale to see the beautiful work that can be done with furs and hides. That's why our Red River Métis artisans have first access to hides and furs harvested by our trappers. In many ways, this mimics the way things were traditionally done, when trappers and artists would harvest the animals, tan the hides, and produce the clothing and beadwork - all within the same family. Your Métis Government is working on creating a holistic program that supports full use of the furs and hides, while supporting our artisans as they make beautiful wearable art that will be passed down from generation to generation.

This is one of the reasons why the Trappers' Festival is so important, and deserves to be celebrated. While promoting our traditional economy, it also honours our traditions and helps to keep them alive by celebrating the skills and abilities of the people who do the work.

Of course, there is more to the festival than the great skills of competitors. For the Red River Métis, the peak event of Trappers' Festival is Métis Family Nite at the Métis Hall in The Pas. The event is hosted by The Pas Region, and that team works hard to make the event memorable and enjoyable for all. In another example of the cooperation and community spirit that help the North continue to thrive, the event is also supported by the neighbouring Northwest Region, with Vice-President Frances Chartrand and team on site to help out. Family Nite saw a packed hall, with lots of friends and family gathering to eat, listen to music, and enjoy each other's company.

Your Métis Government will always support events that celebrate our culture and traditions. Too often, the mainstream media fails to accurately tell our stories or highlight our traditions. That's why I was proud to send a film crew to the Trappers' Festival, to help our Citizens who could not attend feel like a part of it, even virtually. I heard from many Citizens who told me they appreciated the coverage, and that watching it made them proud of our Nation and our Ancestors who led the fur trade.

I congratulate and thank all the volunteers who work so hard to make the Trappers' Festival such a successful event. It's hard to believe, but everything that happens over the course of the festival is entirely done by volunteers. The amount of work to organize such a complex series of events cannot be understated, but all who attend the festivities can see the volunteers run the events with great energy and enthusiasm. I look forward to attending again next year!

Of course, hot on the heels of the Trappers' Festival, Manitobans got to enjoy Louis Riel Day. This was an important day to celebrate Louis Riel as a father of confederation, founder of Manitoba, and the province's first premier. The MMF is the National Government of the Red River Métis, the inheritor of our Ancestors' mandate to Lous Riel's provisional government. Carrying this inheritance is our great responsibility, as well as our great honour. We have never given up on the inclusive vision Riel had for our Homeland - what was once known as the Northwest - and we never will.

There were many Louis Riel Day events taking place across Manitoba, hosted by our Locals and Regions, and I know they were well attended and well received. I took some time to visit the festivities in Winnipeg at the St. Boniface Museum. Our longstanding partnership with the team at the museum for Louis Riel Day events is one of great respect and cooperation. As always, I appreciate their ongoing efforts to highlight the contributions of the Red River Métis to this, the province we helped create. The event was a great success, thanks to this partnership and the efforts of both the museum and our MMF staff.

Many of you will have heard that I will be in your Region to discuss some history-making events taking place for our Nation, as we continue to advance ourselves and find our place in Canada's confederation. I look forward to meeting with you all and discussing these important matters.

Until we meet, I offer my prayers to all our Citizens, friends, and neighbours, and my deepest condolences to those who have been caused to grieve.



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