Métis residential school Survivors foster healing and connection at Métis Crossing

Press Release

Oct 17, 2023

Métis residential school Survivors foster healing and connection at Métis Crossing
A Land-Based Healing Retreat was hosted by the Otipemisiwak Métis Government from October 13-15

[Smoky Lake, AB] — To help foster healing and connection with the land, the Otipemisiwak Métis Government of the Métis Nation within Alberta hosted 30 Métis residential school Survivors at Métis Crossing from October 13-15 for a Land-Based Healing Retreat. This first-of-its-kind program provided an opportunity for participants to deeply engage with Métis heritage and culture through guided cultural art sessions, the use of traditional medicine and live entertainment.

“Over the weekend, Métis Survivors came together in a spirit of resilience and unity,” said Otipemisiwak Métis Government Truth and Reconciliation Director, Lorna Dancey. “This collective journey at Métis Crossing is a powerful testament to the indomitable spirit of Survivors and vibrant Métis community and culture. It is through moments like these that Métis heritage is preserved and Survivors find healing.”

Participants were engaged in a weekend of language-based learning, meet and greets, nourishing meals and captivating entertainment. Elder Doreen Bergum led a Métis sharing circle and Otipemisiwak Métis Government President Andrea Sandmaier, Métis Elder and residential school Survivor Angie Crerar and Psychologist Melanie Palmier delivered remarks.

On Saturday, the Otipemisiwak Métis Government gifted orange Survivor sashes to the 30 attending Survivors, providing a symbol of compassion and solidarity for Survivors and the children who never returned home. “These sashes were conceived by the Otipemisiwak Métis Government’s Survivor Advisory Committee, comprised of individuals with firsthand experience of residential school trauma. Actions like this mark another step towards healing and Reconciliation,” said Dancey.

Highlights from the weekend also include a variety of land-based activities, such as outdoor art therapy sessions and wildlife tours. A closing circle on Sunday provided a space for reflection and togetherness.

“Uniting Survivors from shared residential and day school experiences is a monumental step towards healing. For too long, they bore their burdens in isolation, believing their pain was theirs alone because it remained unspoken,” said Dancey.

“Now, they come together to share, listen and realize they are not alone. With Survivors spanning generations from their 50s to late 80s, this underscores the enduring impact of this trauma. For example, a plea from one of the survivors, Melvin Whitford, to connect with someone who understands his pain serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of this endeavour.”

Truth and Reconciliation Director, Lorna Dancey and Métis Elder and residential school Survivor, Angie Crerar are available for interviews upon request. Additionally, please find a folder of images from the weekend here for media use.

Quotes from Survivors:

“I want to tell my story for those who can no longer speak.” – Louis Bellrose, Residential School Survivor, St. Bernard, Grouard, Alberta.

“As I learn to talk about the truth of what I went through, I know I will not be silenced anymore.” – Melvin Whitford, Residential School Survivor, St. Bernard, Grouard, Alberta.

“We are not Victims, we are Survivors.” – Angie Crerar, Residential School Survivor, Fort Resolution, NWT.

About the Otipemisiwak Métis Government:

The Otipemisiwak Métis Government of the Métis Nation within Alberta is the oldest continuous Métis government in Canada. It was originally established in 1928, and has been built by Alberta Métis over generations. The Otipemisiwak Métis Government delivers programs and services to Métis Citizens living throughout Alberta through its governance structures and affiliates including Rupertsland InstituteApeetogosan (Métis) Development Inc.Métis Crossing as well as its Métis Housing Corporations.

Currently, the Otipemisiwak Métis Government has over 64,000 registered Citizens, residing in every part of Alberta, and maintains the only objectively verifiable registry that identifies Métis Citizens and rights-holders living in Alberta. The 2021 Census reported the Otipemisiwak Métis Government has the largest membership of any federally-recognized Métis government in Canada.

About Métis Crossing:

Métis Crossing is a major initiative of the Métis Nation within Alberta. It is the premier destination for Alberta Métis cultural interpretation, education, gatherings, and business development. Our 688-acre site is designed to engage and excite visitors. Our programming encourages active participation of visitors in activities promoting an appreciation of our people, customs, and celebrations.

Media contact:

Victoria Belton
Senior Consultant, Media Profile


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