The Qu’AppelleValley Rendezvous (2009)
This first ever Qu’AppelleValley Rendezvous was an attempt to recreate the special celebration of the getting together with Family and Friends after a long period of being apart.
In the past, the Métis travelers traversed the country by cart, canoe and on horseback. Journeys often took many months, and upon arrival at the rendezvous point there were plenty of reasons for a good celebration. It was time to share food, drink and stories, a time for music, dance and laughter.
Although we didn’t plan it that way, it turned out to be a gathering with a distinct Scottish flavour!
This is not surprising, considering that we were celebrating the families that originated in Grantown, not the Grantown-on-Spey, but Grantown, Manitoba, Canada, now known as St. Francois Xavier. The town was founded by Cuthbert Grant, Jr., son of Cuthbert Grant of Cromdale, Scotland, a NorthWest Company Fur Trader, who had an aboriginal wife, two sons and five (?) daughters.
The Gathering in Lebret took place in the Lebret Rec Centre, which was beautifully decorated with Métis Flags, blue and white balloons, streamers and vases with wild flowers on tables covered with blue and white table cloths.
We welcomed one descendant of Cuthbert Sr.’s son, James, numerous descendants of his daughter, Marie (Grant) Morin/ Perreault, and some descendants of Marie (Grant) Falcon. The largest group, however, were the descendants of Cuthbert Grant Jr., Founder of St. Francois Xavier, First Leader of the new Métis Nation, Warden of the Plains, and Captain of many Buffalo Hunts. Cuthbert Jr. was born in 1793 at a fort near what is now Kamsack, Saskatchewan. He died in 1854 at St. Francois Xavier, now Manitoba, also known at that time as Grantown or Grant’s Village.
Cuthbert Jr. had fifteen children. Descendants of his sons, James and Charles Cuthbert, his daughters, Maria (Breland), Marie Rose (Gardippy) and Julie (Desjarlais) gathered at Lebret on August 6 to 9, 2009. Rendezvous participants came from as far as Dijon, France, Alaska, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and of course from Saskatchewan. Eighty percent were Grant Family members, the rest were their spouses and friends.
As much as it was a celebration in honour of the Grant Family and the families of Grantown, it was a celebration of Métis Culture!
We enjoyed a traditional Métis Lunch on Thursday, Aug. 6. It had been wonderfully prepared by
Dorothy Fayant and the Lebret Métis Local. We also had a welcoming address by Lebret Mayor, Carl Olson, and a visit from Clement Chartier, President of the Métis National Council of Canada. President Chartier pointed out the importance of community-, family- and cultural gatherings such as the Qu’Appelle Valley Rendezvous.
The first evening ended with a candle light prayer walk through the Sacred Heart Cemetery in honour of our deceased relatives. Julie (Grant) Desjarlais, her brother, James Grant, and many of their numerous descendants are buried in Lebret.
Cuthbert, the First Leader of the Métis, was also respected for his medical knowledge, which he passed on to his children, no doubt. For certain, one of his grandsons, Pierre Desjarlais, who lived many years in Lebret, died and was buried here, was a recognized “medical practitioner” and herbalist. To commemorate that fact, we were fortunate to have some traditional healers with us.
Friday’s delicious lunch was prepared by Mel Fisher and helpers, courtesy of the Eagle Moon Health office, which also provided information on diabetes prevention and healthy living.
A fun part and full body exercise was the “jigging lesson” provided by a young, energetic educator, Derek Racette. He sure got our old bones moving to the rhythm of the irresistible “Red River Jig”.
That was followed by the Red River Cart demonstration. George Fayant, who, together with some of his siblings, actually builds Red River Carts in the traditional Métis style, did this very informative presentation. He pointed out that the carts were fashioned after the ox carts, used in the Orkney Islands of Scotland.
The Métis people of Grantown/ St. Francois Xavier, under the direction of their Chief, Cuthbert Grant, Jr., manufactured Red River Carts and perfected the design to make the carts more suitable for long journeys across the North American plains. The carts were and still are made of wood and contain no metal parts. All parts, when broken or worn, could be replaced along the journey.
George also added a short lesson about the Métis Sash, which was an important item of every Métis traveler’s wardrobe. It was used as a belt, a rope, a scarf, a towel, a body support when carrying heavy loads, a tool belt and a brightly coloured, showy, hand crafted piece of clothing. Métis Sashes, whether full sized or miniature, are to this day a symbol of Métis pride.
We were very honoured to welcome, Maria Campbell, a well-known Métis story teller and author. Maria had just returned from a visit to Scotland. She shared with us her experiences and adventures.
Maria had visited the home area of Cuthbert Grant Sr., had taken photos of Castle Grant, walked in the highlands, met the people and loved it. Her stories were so inspiring, that they made us wish for the highlands as well. Maria went on with some good and funny Métis stories. No one tells a story like Maria Campbell! We were so grateful that she found the time to be with us.
Margaret Harrison, a traditional Métis crafts woman, showed some young participants how to hook rugs and embroider. These young people were quite talented. They also enjoyed mini sash weaving the following day.
Nancy and Ken Fluto, from Grant’s Old Mill in Winnipeg, had a wonderful display of “Mill Souvenirs” and the Grant Family Tree which already contains over 1000 names.
Grant’s Old Mill is located right on Portage Ave. and Booth, by the Grace Hospital. It’s a great place to visit, especially when the mill is open for tours from May until September.
Nancy was also the lucky winner of the Hudson Bay coat, which had been hand crafted and donated by Joanna Potyondi, a descendent of Marie Rose (Grant) Gardippy.
The Friday concluded with a Karaoke Night, presented by Andrew Blondeau. It was enjoyed by all, especially by the children. They had so much fun singing their little hearts out!
One of Saturday’s highlights was the floating Red River Cart on the shores of Mission Lake which was organized by George and Richard Fayant. It also included an unscheduled swim for the very brave member of our Provincial Métis Leadership, Allan Morin, who had volunteered to be part of the experiment!
The second highlight was the parade with flags and bagpipes. We were honoured to have our Provincial Métis Leader, Robert Doucette, who carried the Saskatchewan Métis Flag. Ken Fluto, from Grant’s Old Mill, carried the old traditional Métis Flag. In the centre walked respected elder, Mike Laboucane, a descendant of Maria Grant Breland.
By the way, Cuthbert Grant Jr. is believed to have designed the original Métis Flag. Not surprising! Cuthbert knew the St. Andrew’s Cross, which is at the heart of the Métis flag. He was also familiar with the importance of the circle of life and unity in First Nations’ cultures. Being a well educated man, he was aware of the significance of the infinity sign as well. So, we can say that the Métis flag symbolizes two cultures, coming together to create a new nation, which will last forever. The flag was first flown in our Qu’ Appelle Valley, almost 200 years ago!
The third and most important highlight was a message from Sir James Grant, 33 rd Chief of the Clan Grant. Everyone in attendance listened reverently when the message was proclaimed. We are very grateful to Sir James Grant for his message to the descendants of Cuthbert Grant, and to Reverend and Mrs. McLean for creating a lovely “Scottish Atmosphere” that made this moment so very special for all!
Finally there was a hearty, tasty supper with plenty of food and good fellowship waiting for us.
Grace before the meal was said in Michif by Dorothy Fayant and in English by Rev. McLean.
The evening ended with a dance. Music was provided by the “Ramblers”.
A good number of participants attended Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Church, which was especially dedicated to Cuthbert Grant, Marie McGillis and all their descendants living and deceased.
The parish’s Social Outreach Committee offered an outdoor BBQ lunch in front of the church. Thanks to Sheila Pelletier, Dawn Desjarlais and families for a job very well done!
It was a nice ending to the Qu’ Appelle Valley Rendezvous. Good for body and soul.
Even the sun cooperated!
A great big “Thank You” to everyone who participated and volunteered.
Hopefully we’ll have another Rendezvous in the not so distant future