Most people should be familiar with the Saskawanderer who wanders Saskatchewan from the deep south to the far north and everywhere in between recognizing and celebrating the people, businesses, experiences, and events that make Saskatchewan so special. However, that may not be true of Métis Nation-SK’s The Wandering Métis. Jason Mckay is The Wandering Métis, driving to Métis events and communities in all corners of the province and in between to depict and document the Métis way of life. Jason started his wandering journey in 2022 at Back to Batoche and can be seen on the province’s highways and byways in his decorated blue Ford Bronco and he was there in Bellevue documenting Batoche Homeland Métis Local #51’s first annual Kitchen Party.
Tickets for the kitchen party sold out and the tables in Bellevue Community Hall were filled with citizens of the Métis Nation, their friends and their neighbours, including CAO of the Wakaw and the RM of Fish Creek, Melissa Dieno and Councillor of Wakaw Chad Parenteau.
After a tasty buffalo stew, biscuits and bannock supper, President Victor Guillet prepared to introduce the evening’s entertainment. However, before he did, he had some special tasks to carry out first. Guillet thanked everyone for packing the Bellevue Community Hall and guaranteeing the success of their first-ever Kitchen Party. Batoche Homeland Métis Local #51 is located on Treaty 6 Territory and Chief Tricia Sutherland of One Arrow First Nation was a special invited guest. Chief Sutherland was presented with a Métis Sash by Local #51 President Victor Guillet and Vice-President Harv Britton. When accepting the gift sash, Chief Sutherland spoke to the fact that although they have always been neighbours, it is only recently that they have begun working together, a positive change that both groups are pleased to celebrate, and that it was time to walk the path of reconciliation together.
After introducing fiddler Jason Lepine and sharing that on April 30, 2023, Lepine is to be inducted into the Manitoba Fiddle Association’s Hall of Fame, Guillet announced that Lepine would play a special melody in celebration of the life of Métis Elder Denise Parenteau who passed in late February. Lepine played “The Teardrop Waltz” while a reverent hush filled the hall.
Jason and Ben Page played a couple of tunes before the Creeland Dancers joined them on stage. In the 40 years since the formation of the troupe, over 170 dancers have been part of the group with many First Nations and Métis alumni in the audience that evening. Formed by Therese Seesequasis and her late husband Ken, it was a way to promote the culture and create opportunities for youth. The blend of Métis and First Nations dance cultures is an observance and celebration of the heritage of grandparents Therese and Ken where both cultures existed. The energy of the dancers left many in the audience feeling out of breath as they watched. As the evening wore on, an increasing number of guests took to the dance floor in between the Creeland Dancers’ sets, from the very young to the not-so-young, but it was during the second set when the Dancers helped to teach, those interested in learning, the dance commonly known as “The Drops of Brandy” that every part of the dance floor and the stage were filled with a community of dancers.
Draws were held during the intermissions between sets for three prizes of various packages of meat, and the grand prize of $1000 cash. As well the winner of the Bannock contest was announced. The judges of the contest were President St. Louis Local #28, Lucille Tetarenko, Rosalyn Smith Métis Nation-SK, Carla Hope Kinistino Local #43, and Michelle LeClair, Vice-President of Métis Nation-SK. Against all the competition, the winner of the Bannock Tasting Contest was 11-year-old Rylee Mercredi from St. Louis.
The evening was a good time for all and the consensus was that another kitchen party needed to be held next year too. In the long months of winter, it is good to have occasions such as this that bring people together for an event such as this where the music gets one’s toes tapping and blood pumping.
By: Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder