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National Aboriginal History Month kicks off with Métis music and dance

CAMH is taking the month to honour and celebrate Canada’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis populations. The Aboriginal Caucus at CAMH has organized a series of celebratory events, the first of which was a Métis music and dance workshop held at the Russell Street courtyard.

Leading the morning’s music, dance, and cultural teachings were members of the Métis Nation of Ontario’s Summer Youth Cultural Program: Alicia Blore, Joanna Burt, and Simone Blais.

“For me it’s especially important for our youth to be here taking part in this event,” said host Tera Beaulieu, Psychology Intern in the Women’s Program and Psychological Trauma Program at CAMH. “It’s meaningful for them to be sharing our cultural practices and to be leading this community gathering.”

Event hosts and members of Summer Youth Cultural Program
(L to R) Hosts Bonnie Dack and Tera Beaulieu with members of the Summer Youth Cultural Program: Simone Blais, Joanna Burt, and Alicia Blore.

To begin, attendees gathered in a circle to introduce one another and to take part in Smudging, a traditional practice that involves burning herbs for emotional and spiritual purification.

Attendee draws smoke towards her ears
One attendee draws the smoke towards her ears. According to Métis tradition, this helps one to hear purely.   

Next, the audience was introduced to Métis -style fiddle music and dance. It was explained that Scottish fur traders introduced this style of music to the Métis in the early 1800s.

Metis dance
Simone demonstrates a form of Métis dance as Alicia plays the fiddle, Joanna wooden musical spoons. 

Rabbit Dance
The group was all business as it took part in The Rabbit Dance.

To conclude, the group discussed Métis culture over a bowl of fresh berries. “Berries should be offered before any Métis gathering,” said Bonnie Dack, Administrative Assistant at CAMH’s Aboriginal Engagement and Outreach. “They are a symbol of nature and living off of the land.”

Fresh berries
A bowl of fresh berries.

Significance of Metis Sashes
Joanna discusses cultural and historical significance of Métis Sashes.

Simone models one of her Sashes
Simone models one of her own Sashes, which she says have been gifted to her at different milestone moments in her life.

Mukluks boots
Mukluks are a soft boot originally worn by Artic Aboriginal Peoples.

Please consider attending the Traditional Outdoor Powwow held at Fork York on Sunday June 21st. 

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