Mt. Baker Secondary School in Cranbrook observed Louis Riel Day on Nov. 16 with a flag raising ceremony.
Teachers, students, and representatives from the Métis community, Ktunaxa First Nation and School District Five gathered in front of the school to witness the raising of the official flag of the Métis National Council.
Rocky Mountain Métis Association president Jeff Crozier, Aq’am nasuʔkin (chief) Joe Pierre and Ktunaxa Nation chairperson Kathryn Teneese were among those who addressed the crowd and spoke of the importance of the event.
The crowd joined in singing the Métis anthem and Duncan McGillivray performed traditional Métis fiddle music.
Nov. 16 marks the 138th anniversary of Louis Riel’s death when he was hanged for treason. Riel was a Métis political leader who advocated for rights for his people. He played a central role in the Red River and North-West Resistances that opposed government encroachment on Métis land and sought a solution to the starvation that occurred after the buffalo herds collapsed. The government ultimately turned on Riel and Prime Minister John A. Macdonald ordered that he be hanged for high treason.
“We take this day to remember what Louis Riel did for us and what he started and how he championed us,” Crozier told the Cranbrook Townsman.
Attendees expressed appreciation at being able to celebrate their culture.
“It makes me feel proud. We’re able to recognize the Métis Nation and who we are, play the anthem, gather together without fear,” said indigenous education support worker Marie Dawson, who attended the event.
Dawson explained that when she was young, her family did not practice their Métis culture openly due to fear of discrimination. Events like these, she added, ensure Métis youth have a different experience today.
“It’s just really important for students to have that sense of pride. I didn’t grow up with that, but I’m instilling it in my own children. We are instilling it in students, to be proud of whatever nation they’re from,” she said.
School District five trustee Doug McPhee said that recognizing Louis Riel Day is part of a broader push to make schools more culturally inclusive.
“We honour inclusion in the school district. It’s important to recognize all peoples and students with all backgrounds,” he said.