Prince Albert Voice
It has been suggested education is the new White Buffalo. Perhaps education is held in such high esteem because, like the Buffalo, Aboriginal people lived with the Buffalo as their main source of life. The hides, the intestines and veins, everything was used and nothing went to waste where the Buffalo was concerned. And when a White Buffalo was born, it was a blessing and a truly miraculous occasion for so many reasons.
Imagine attending a conference celebrating the success of Métis education in Saskatchewan, where not only the success of an educational institute is celebrated but those of people who helped forge the strong educational foundation of others was also rewarded. I had the chance to attend such a conference this past weekend and it was amazing! Forty years ago, Gabriel Dumont Institute was established as a way for Métis people to be able to gain their education while focusing on culture. Since Gabriel Dumont Institute was established, the educational component has widened into Dumont Technical Institute, which focuses on Level 1 and 2 (Literacy), Level 3 (Grades 5-10) and Level 4 (Grade 12) and Gabriel Dumont College, which partners programs through the University of Regina, the University of Saskatchewan and colleges within the community where programs will be offered. As an example, Gabriel Dumont College, in partnership with the University of Regina will be offering a third Justice Studies program this fall in Prince Albert. As for Dumont Technical Institute, when learners graduate from the Level 4 program, they write the same departmental exam as every other Grade 12 High School student does in the province, and the transcript is issued through the Saskatchewan Department of Education. Gabriel Dumont Institute has truly been instrumental in changing the success of education amongst Métis and Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan. A few years ago, the Gabriel Dumont College broadened their reach even further by establishing a Masters of Education program in partnership with the University of Regina. This program continues to inspire and move educators to reach out and challenge themselves to earn their Master’s degree through this program. So, as you can imagine, this past weekend’s celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Gabriel Dumont Institute was joyful, full of pride and quite emotional.
I’ve just returned from a very interesting conference this past weekend in Saskatoon. Many of us don’t think of child care or the education of our children unless it directly affects us. For me, education is a priority due to my chosen field of being a teacher and also being a Mom to five wonderful children, one of which is also a teacher. It makes my heart happy to be immersed in the field of education and to be a part of the innovative discussions currently taking place to accommodate and focus on children and help make their learning more relevant to them, as an individual.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a Métis sash in person so if you ever have the chance to see one up close, take a look and you’ll understand my fascination with it. The fringe on either side of the sash is the beginning and end strands of the beautiful belt and they add more than a decorative element to the overall design and usefulness of the sash. Interestingly, if you were to tug too tightly on any of the slender threads, you could overstretch them or break them. Alone, each strand is vulnerable. However, woven together, thousands of strands of thread become a strong piece of material that represents a people whose origins are deeply entrenched in the fur trade of Canada, especially in the prairies. In 1885, Louis Riel looked back on the resistance the Métis displayed as they established their unique identity in this country and he was moved to give these encouraging words, “My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.” As a Métis person, I have struggled with a sense of identity as an Indigenous person, as a woman, a mother, a daughter, an Aunt, a sister and even as a writer. I often find myself thinking of Riel’s words and wondering how he could be so optimistic, just weeks from being tried and executed for treason. Somehow I think he knew what his fate would be when his prophetic words of wisdom were written down for posterity to take strength from in the future. And when I think of artists who are helping reawaken Métis people, several come to mind. However, John Arcand is an artist who often is at the very top of the list for me.
Gwen Hardy Munro hales from Holbein, Saskatchewan. She’s the daughter of Jeff and Terry Hardy, wife to Mark and their blended family of three girls, a son and five grandchildren whom Gwen and Mark dote upon. As a Métis woman, Gwen has aspired to put her best foot forward, always. She leads a traditional lifestyle which enables her to live a very holistic way of living that allows her to find balance spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. She has found a way to live life that is meaningful to her and if she inspires someone else, she is further inspired to continue to do her best.