Bluewater District School Board

Bluewater's Hepworth Central Students Celebrate Métis Week page

Hepworth Central Students Celebrate Métis Week

Hepworth Central Students Celebrate Métis Week
Posted on 11/23/2022
To celebrate Métis Week, Hepworth Central Public School invited two guests from the Great Lakes Métis Council in Owen Sound to visit and talk about their shared histories and lived experiences on November 17, 2022.

Councillor James Coture and Knowledge Holder Jim Stranks (also a former Hepworth Hawk who attended the first year the school opened in 1969) brought pelts, artifacts, and terrific grab bags for the students.  The school's Métis students were given a front row seat.

As a French Immersion school, students were particularly interested in the relationship between the French and Michif languages.  The Michif workbooks created great excitement among the Grade 4 students as they explored the pages in their classroom.

Jim Stranks provided a detailed account of Métis history, including a mention of how Métis in the Hepworth area were present long before the days of Louis Riel.  As commercial tradespeople, the fur trade was their livelihood in the late 1700s.  Known for their feats of physical strength, they blended in, adapted, and continued to work as independent traders as time moved on.

When a student asked as to the whereabouts of the Métis today, Jim explained that “they are here, they are everywhere.”  Since the Métis never lived on a land reserve (when asked by the Canadian government to choose whether they were Indigenous or European, the Métis declined to join either group), they were mostly ignored and dispersed to wherever there was employment.  They worked as industrious tradespeople, canoe builders, crafters, bead-makers, and seamstresses.  The Métis wore whatever would keep them warm and make for light travel.  The multicoloured scarves worn around their mid-sections were often an identifiable feature.  Now ceremonial in nature, the scarves were at one time used to play a tug-of-war game, for lower back support during heavy lifting, and to hold the blankets they wore during the winter firmly in place.

Students also heard the story of a Métis man who needed a block of salt.  When the grocer told him he could have the salt for free if he was able to carry it home, the Métis man promptly picked up the 100-pound block, hoisted it on top of his shoulder, and walked the three miles home.

At the end of the presentation, students tried out traditional hand-crafted games, felt the weights of different animal pelts, were shown how to shear skins with traditional tools, and chose from a variety of giveaways, including flowerpots, lunch boxes, colouring books depicting Métis history, and head scarves.

James Coture shared with the students a detailed list containing the last names of known Métis families in the Hepworth and Owen Sound areas.  It was suggested that anyone with these names likely had Métis ancestry.  Students were encouraged to ask at home, as many may not know they have Métis in their backgrounds or great-grandparents.  In the past, grandparents were discouraged from revealing that side of the family for fear of reprisal from the Canadian government.

Hepworth Central was very grateful for the opportunity to learn the stories of the Métis, whom we do not often hear much about given there were no signed treaties with the government.  The school looks forward to continuing to foster this connection with its Métis students and the broader community in the spring when James and Jim return to share about canoe building.

Student holding Métis items in gymnasium Presenters in from of stage speaking to students
Students feel different peltsTable display in gymnasium with pelts and other items; students in background
Bluewater District School Board is located on the traditional land of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, which is represented by the communities of Saugeen First Nation and Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation.
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