Kristin Catherwood, Director of Living Heritage

Heritage Saskatchewan is proud and excited to announce a new collaboration with the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) at the University of Regina and the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research on our latest living heritage project. The project will document narratives of the living heritage of Road Allowance People - the story of Métis communities in the Qu’Appelle Valley. Students in Russell Fayant’s Métis Culture and History course and Brenna Pacholko’s Introduction to Arts Education course are the main contributors to the project. Russell’s students have worked throughout the semester to connect with members of the Métis community, conduct oral narrative interviews with them, and then interpret these narratives in written form. Brenna’s students then identified themes which emerged from the narratives and created artistic interpretations. Their work will be combined in a booklet which will be published by the Gabriel Dumont Institute in the new year.

This exciting project grew out of the relationship I developed with Russell which resulted in our first (and by far one of the most popular!) video to recognize the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. Here is a condensed version of a previous blog post which describes this:

"I first met Russell Fayant during Heritage Week in February, 2017 at the event Finding Home in Story: Métis Concepts of Home and Kinship at the Regina Public Library.  Russell spoke eloquently and passionately about Métis cultural heritage as reflected in the art of Sherry Farrell Racette. His good humour and ability to articulate the history and contemporary issues of Métis people in western Canada was incredibly impressive. lf. Russell can speak both as an academic and as a proud Métis person with strong family roots and a deep understanding of his people’s cultural heritage. " - From "I Don't Feel Like I'm Half Anything" published July 1, 2017, Heritage Saskatchewan.

I  was moved by Russell's passionate and masterful telling of Métis history, and so decided to reach out to him about participating in our Canada 150 video series. I was honoured to travel with Russell to his family’s road allowance homestead in the Qu’Appelle Valley. in May, 2017 to shoot the video and to learn about this important part of our province's past. Please watch our video Road Allowance People to understand more about the historical context of this new living heritage project. I also recommend that you take the time to watch Russell’s full interview.

Throughout the process of making the video and getting to know Russell, I realized how little I knew personally about the diverse living heritage of Métis communities in the province.  I also understood that this important part of our province’s history and living heritage is not well known. For many reasons, this heritage has been historically hidden (see the above videos to learn some of the reasons why this is the case). Following our video collaboration, I was also privileged to present a guest lecture to Russell’s students last fall about documenting living heritage. The success of this lecture, and the excitement it generated with students, contributed to the foundation of this brand new living heritage project. We are proud to collaborate with SUNTEP and the Gabriel Dumont Institute to bring the project to life and to provide a platform for Métis people to safely share their stories. My huge, personal thanks to Russell and Brenna and their students for their hard work throughout this semester!

A soft launch will be held at the Gabriel Dumont Institute Library at the University of Regina in early December (by invitation only) to bring the students together to celebrate the project and  to thank the community. A public event will be held later in the winter to officially launch the publication that will result from this project. Watch this space to learn more about the project in the new year!