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New Métis documentary has Lloydminster connection

Forgotten People, a film about Métis experiences of Residential Schools in Alberta is fully booked for its debut tonight at the Edmonton Public Library.

With Métis Week wrapping up and Louis Riel Day having been observed on November 16th, a Lloydminster resident is sharing her connection to the new film.

Maxine Desjarlais who has lived in the area for two decades is proud of her Métis heritage and is sustained in her references to Louis Riel as she faces current societal challenges.

“He said,’You got to be brave and have courage. Believe in yourself because that is the first thing to success is to believe in yourself.’ So I really believe that addresses today that we have to be brave and we have to be courageous in spite of all our circumstances that are going on in our world.”

Desjarlais says Riel made that statement as he fought for Métis recognition and lands.

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The Canadian Encyclopedia credits Riel as the founder of Manitoba and the central figure in the Red River and North-west resistances. Riel was charged with high treason and executed for his role in the 1885 resistance to Canadian encroachment on Métis lands.

Desjarlais was interviewed this past Summer for the new documentary as her mother was a survivor of the St. Barnabas Residential School in Onion Lake.

She says the impact caused her mother to close off emotionally, to not show affection or empathy and resulted in her children now having to learn to process their emotions.

“One of the things my mom would always say is,’Don’t say anything. Kīyām. Don’t say anything. Kīyām means don’t say anything in Cree. So we weren’t allowed to say anything. If things would happen in the home or things would take place, we were not allowed to say anything. So that’s one of the things that went with the Residential Schools is the silence.”

In Cree, the word Kīyām means never mind, let it be, forget about it or don’t bother.

Desjarlais sees the importance of ongoing education for the future advancement of their heritage.

“One of the greatest things we can do is educate children on Métis culture and how it played a large role here in Canada. Moving forward; bringing that pride back once again. I’m just going to do that quote from Louis Riel, ‘My people shall sleep for 100 years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.”

She credits artistic expressions like dancing, beadwork, embroidery and knowledge on how Métis people adapted to the environment as ways to deepen pride in their history.

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